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4

THE GADGET LOVER

Narcissus as Narcosis

The Greek myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with a fact of human experience, as the word Narcissus indicates. It is from the Greek word narcosis, or numbness. The youth Narcissus mistook his own reflection in the water for another person. This extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image. The nymph Echo tried to win his love with fragments of his own speech, but in vain. He was numb. He had adapted to his extension of himself and had become a closed system.

Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves. There have been cynics who insisted that men fall deepest in love with women who give them back their own image.

Be that as it may, the wisdom of the Narcissus myth does not convey any idea that Narcissus fell in

love with anything he regarded as himself. Obviously he would have had very different feelings about the image had he known it was an extension or repetition of himself. It is, perhaps, indicative of the bias of our intensely technological and, therefore, narcotic culture that we have long interpreted the Narcissus story to mean that he fell in love with himself, that he imagined the reflection to be Narcissus!

Physiologically there are abundant reasons for an extension of ourselves involving us in a state of numbness. Medical researchers like Hans Selye and Adolphe Jonas hold that all extensions of ourselves, in sickness or in health, are attempts to maintain equilibrium. Any extension of ourselves they regard as

"autoamputation," and they find that the autoamputative power or strategy is resorted to by the body when the perceptual power cannot locate or avoid the cause of irritation. Our language has many expressions that indicate this self-amputation that is imposed by various pressures. We speak of "wanting to jump out of my skin"

or of "going out of my mind," being "driven batty" or "flipping my lid."

And we often create artificial situations that rival the irritations and stresses of real life under controlled conditions of sport and play.

While it was no part of the intention of Jonas and Selye to provide an explanation of human invention and technology, they have given us a theory of disease (discomfort) that goes far to explain why man is impelled to extend various parts of his body by a kind of autoamputation. In the physical stress of superstimulation of various kinds, the central nervous system acts to protect itself by a strategy of amputation or isolation of the offending organ, sense, or function.

Thus, the stimulus to new invention is the stress of acceleration of pace and increase of load. For example, in the case of the wheel as an extension of the toot, the pressure of new burdens resulting from the acceleration of exchange by written and monetary media was the immediate occasion of the extension or "amputation" of this function from

our bodies. The wheel as a counter-irritant to increased burdens, in turn, brings about a new intensity of action by its amplification of a separate or isolated function (the feet in rotation). Such amplification is bearable by the nervous system only through numbness or blocking of perception. This is the sense of the Narcissus myth. The young man's image is a self-amputation or extension induced by irritating pressures. As counter-irritant, the image produces a generalized numbness or shock that declines recognition.

Self-amputation forbids self-recognition.

The principle of self-amputation as an immediate relief of strain on the central nervous system applies very readily to the origin of the media of communication from speech to computer.

Physiologically, the central nervous system, that electric network that coordinates the various media of our senses, plays the chief role. Whatever threatens its function must be contained, localized, or cut off, even to the total removal of the offending organ. The function of the body, as a group of sustaining and protective organs for the central nervous system, is to act as buffers against sudden variations of stimulus in the physical and social environment.

Sudden social failure or shame is a shock that some may "take to heart" or that may cause muscular disturbance in general, signaling for the person to withdraw from the threatening situation.

Therapy, whether physical or social, is a counter-irritant that aids in that equilibrium of the physical organs which protect the central nervous system. Whereas pleasure is a counter-irritant (e.g., sports, entertainment, and alcohol), comfort is the removal of irritants. Both pleasure and comfort are strategies of equilibrium for the central nervous system.

With the arrival of electric technology, man extended, or set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system itself. To the degree that this is so, it is a development that suggests a desperate and suicidal autoamputation, as if the central nervous system could no longer depend on the physical organs to be protective buffers against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism. It could well be that the successive mechanizations of the various physical organs since the invention of printing have made too violent and superstimulated a social experience for the central nervous system to endure.

In relation to that only too plausible cause of such development, we can return to the Narcissus theme. For if Narcissus is numbed by his self-amputated image, there is a very good reason for the numbness.

There is a close parallel of response between the patterns of physical and psychic trauma or shock. A person suddenly deprived of loved ones and a person who drops a few feet unexpectedly will both register shock. Both the loss of family and a physical fall are extreme instances of amputations of the self. Shock induces a generalized numbness or an increased threshold to all types of perception. The victim seems immune to pain or sense.

Battle shock created by violent noise has been adapted for dental use in the device known as audiac. The patient puts on headphones and turns a dial raising the noise level to the point that he feels no pain from the drill. The selection of a single sense for intense stimulus, or of a single extended, isolated, or "amputated" sense in technology, is in part the reason for the numbing effect that technology as such has on its makers and users. For the central nervous system rallies a response of general numbness to the challenge of specialized irritation.

The person who falls suddenly experiences immunity to all pain or sensory stimuli because the central nervous system has to be protected from any intense thrust of sensation. Only gradually does he regain normal sensitivity to sights and sounds, at which time he may begin to tremble and perspire and to react as he would have done if the central nervous system had been prepared in advance for the fall that occurred unexpectedly. Depending on which sense or faculty is extended

technologically, or "autoamputated," the "closure" or equilibrium-seeking among the other senses is fairly predictable. It is with the senses as it is with color. Sensation is always 100 per cent, and a color is always 100 per cent color. But the ratio among the components in the sensation or the color can differ infinitely. Yet if sound, for example, is intensified, touch and taste and sight are affected at once. The effect of radio on literate or visual man was to reawaken his tribal memories, and the effect of sound added to motion pictures was to diminish the role of mime, tactility, and kinesthesis. Similarly, when nomadic man turned to sedentary and specialist ways, the senses specialized too. The development of writing and the visual organization of life made possible the discovery of individualism, introspection and so on. Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among the other organs and extensions of the body. There is, for example, no way of refusing to comply with the new sense ratios or sense "closure" evoked by the TV image. But the effect of the entry of the TV image will vary from culture to culture in accordance with the existing sense ratios in each culture. In audile-tactile Europe TV

has intensified the visual sense, spurring them toward American styles of packaging and dressing. In America, the intensely visual culture, TV has opened the doors of audile-tactile perception to the non-visual world of spoken languages and food and the plastic arts.

As an extension and expediter of the sense life, any medium at once affects the entire field of the senses, as the Psalmist explained long ago in the 113th Psalm:

Their idols are silver and gold,

The work of men's hands.

They have mouths, but they speak not;

Eyes they have, but they see not;

They have ears, but they hear not;

Noses have they, but they smell not;

They have hands, but they handle not;

Feet have they, but they walk not;

Neither speak they through their throat.

They that make them shall be like unto them;

Yea, every one that trusteth in them.

The concept of "idol" for the Hebrew Psalmist is much like that of Narcissus for the Greek mythmaker. And the Psalmist i insists that the beholding of idols, or the use of technology, conforms men to them. "They that make them shall be like unto them." This is a simple fact of sense "closure." The poet Blake! developed the Psalmist's ideas into an entire theory of communication and social change, It is in his long poem of Jerusalem that he explains why men have become what they have beheld What they have, says Blake, is "the spectre of the Reasoning Power in Man" that has become fragmented and "separated from Imagination and enclosing itself as in steel." Blake, in a word, sees man as fragmented by his technologies. But he insists that these technologies are self-amputations of our own organs. When so amputated, each organ becomes a closed system of great new intensity that hurls man into "martyrdoms and wars." Moreover, Blake announces as his theme in Jerusalem the organs of perception:

If Perceptive Organs vary, Objects of Perception seem to vary: If Perceptive Organs close, their Objects seem to close also.

To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in tech-nological form is necessarily to embrace it. To listen to radio or to read the primed page is to accept these extensions of ourselves into our personal system and to undergo the "closure" or displacement of perception that follows automatically. It is this continuous embrace of our own technology in daily use that puts us in the Narcissus role of subliminal awareness and numbness in relation to these images of ourselves. By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servo-mechanisms.

That is why we must, to use them at all, serve these objects, these extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions. An Indian is the servo-mechanism of his canoe, as the cowboy of his horse or the executive of his clock.

Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. The machine world reciprocates man's love by expediting his wishes and desires, namely, in providing him with wealth. One of the merits of motivation research has been the revelation of man's sex relation to the motorcar.

Socially, it is the accumulation of group pressures and irritations that prompt invention and innovation as counter-irritants. War and the fear of war have always been considered the main incentives to technological extension of our bodies. Indeed, Lewis Mumford, in his The City in History, considers the walled city itself an extension of our skins, as much as housing and clothing. More even than the preparation for war, the aftermath of invasion is a rich technological period; because the subject culture has to adjust all its sense ratios to accommodate the impact of the invading culture. It is from such intensive hybrid exchange and strife of ideas and forms that the greatest social energies are released, and from which arise the greatest technologies. Buckminster Fuller estimates that since 1910

the governments of the world have spent 31/2 trillion dollars on airplanes. That is 62 times the existing gold supply of the world.

The principle of numbness comes into play with electric technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die.

Thus the age of anxiety and of electric media is also the age of the unconscious and of apathy. But it is strikingly the age of consciousness of the unconscious, in addition. With our central nervous system strategically numbed, the tasks of conscious awareness and order are transferred to the physical life of man, so that for the first time he has become aware of technology as an extension of his physical body. Apparently this could not have happened before the electric age gave us the means of instant, total field-awareness. With such awareness, the subliminal life, private and social, has been hoicked up into full view, with the result that we have "social consciousness" presented to us as a cause of guilt-feelings. Existentialism offers a philosophy of structures, rather than categories, and of total social involvement instead of the bourgeois spirit of individual separateness or points of view. In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin.

5

HYBRID ENERGY

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

"For most of our lifetime civil war has been raging in the world of art and entertainment. . . . Moving pictures, gramophone records, radio, talking pictures. ..." This is the view of Donald McWhinnie, analyst of the radio medium. Most of this civil war affects us in the depths of our psychic lives, as well, since the war is conducted by forces that are extensions and amplifications of our own beings. Indeed, the interplay among media is only another name for this civil war" that rages in our society and our psyches alike. "To the blind all things are sudden," it has been said. The crossings or hybridizations of the media release great new force and energy as by fission or fusion.

There need be no blindness in these matters once we have been notified that there is anything to observe.

It has now been explained that media, or the extensions of man, are

"make happen" agents, but not "make aware" agents.

The hybridizing or compounding of these agents offers an especially favorable opportunity to notice their structural components and properties. "As the silent film cried out for sound so does the sound film cry out for color," wrote Sergei Eisenstein in his Notes of a Film Director. This type of observation can be extended systematically to all media: "As the printing press cried out for nationalism, so did the radio cry out for tribalism" These media, being extensions of ourselves, also depend upon us for their interplay and their evolution.

The fact that they do interact and spawn new progeny has been a source of wonder over the ages. It need baffle us no longer if we trouble to scrutinize their action. We can, if we choose, think things out before we put them out.

Plato, in all his striving to imagine an ideal training school, failed to notice that Athens was a greater school than any university even he could dream up. In other words, the greatest school had been put out for human use before it has been thought out. Now, this is especially true of our media. They are put out long before they are thought out. In fact, their being put outside us tends to cancel the possibility of their being thought of at all.

Everybody notices how coal and steel and cars affect the arrangements of daily existence. In our time, study has finally turned to the medium of language itself as shaping the arrangements of daily life, so that society begins to look like a linguistic echo or repeat of language norms, a fact that has disturbed the Russian Communist party very deeply. Wedded as they are to nineteenth-century industrial technology as the basis of class liberation, nothing could be more subversive of the Marxian dialectic than the idea that linguistic media shape social development, as much as do the means of production.

In fact, of all the great hybrid unions that breed furious release of energy and change, there is none to surpass the meeting of literate and oral cultures. The giving to man of an eye for an ear by phonetic literacy is, socially and politically, probably the most radical explosion mat can occur in any social structure. This explosion of the eye, frequently repeated in "backward areas," we call Westernization. With literacy now about to hybridize the cultures of the Chinese, the Indians, and the Africans, we are about to experience such a release of human power and aggressive violence as makes the previous history of phonetic alphabet technology seem quite tame.

That is only the East side story, for the electric implosion now brings oral and tribal ear-culture to the literate West. Not only does the visual, specialist, and fragmented Westerner have now to live in closest daily association with all the ancient oral cultures of the earth, but his own electric technology now begins to translate the visual or eye man back into the tribal and oral pattern with its seamless web of kinship and interdependence.

We know from our own past the kind of energy that is released, as by fission, when literacy explodes the tribal or family unit. What do we know about the social and psychic energies that develop by electric fusion or implosion when literate individuals are suddenly gripped by an electromagnetic field, such as occurs in the new Common Market pressure in Europe? Make no mistake, the fusion of people who have known individualism and nationalism is not the same process as the fission of "backward" and oral cultures that are just coming to individualism and nationalism. It is the difference between the "A" bomb and the "H" bomb. The latter is more violent, by far. Moreover, the products of electric fusion are immensely complex, while the products of fission are simple. Literacy creates very much simpler kinds of people than those that develop in the complex web of ordinary tribal and oral societies. For the fragmented man creates the homogenized Western world, while oral societies are made up of people differentiated, not by their specialist skills or visible marks, but by their unique emotional mixes. The oral man's inner world is a tangle of complex emotions and feelings that the Western practical man has long ago eroded or sup-pressed within himself in the interest of efficiency and practicality.

The immediate prospect for literate, fragmented Western man encountering the electric implosion within his own culture is his steady and rapid transformation into a complex and depth-structured person emotionally aware of his total interdependence with the rest of human society. Representatives of the older Western individualism are even now assuming the appearance, for good or ill, of Al Capp's General Bull Moose or of the John Birchers, tribally dedicated to opposing the tribal. Fragmented, literate, and visual individualism is not possible in an electrically patterned and imploded society. So what is to be done? Do we dare to confront such facts at the conscious level, or is it best to becloud and repress such matters until some violence releases us from the entire burden?

For the fate of implosion and interdependence is more terrible for Western man than the fate of explosion and independence for tribal man. It may be merely temperament in my own case, but I find some easing of the burden in just understanding and clarifying the issues.

On the other hand, since consciousness and awareness seem to be a human privilege, may it not be desirable to extend this condition to our hidden conflicts, both private and social?

The present book, in seeking to understand many media, the conflicts from which they spring, and the even greater conflicts to which they give rise, holds out the promise of reducing these conflicts by an increase of human autonomy. Let us now note a few of the effects of media hybrids, or of the interpenetration of one medium by another.

Life at the Pentagon has been greatly complicated by jet travel, or example. Every few minutes an assembly gong rings to summon many specialists from their desks to hear a personal report from an expert from some remote part of the world Meantime, the undone paper work mounts on each desk. And

each department daily dispatches personnel by jet to remote areas for more data and reports. Such is the speed of this process of the meeting of the jet plane, the oral report, and the typewriter that those going forth to the ends of the earth often arrive unable to spell the name of the spot to which they have been sent as experts. Lewis Carroll pointed out that as large-scale maps got more and more detailed and extensive, they would tend to blanket agriculture and rouse the protest of farmers. So why not use the actual earth as a map of itself? We have reached a similar point of data gathering when each stick of chewing gum we reach for is acutely noted by some computer that translates our least gesture into a new probability curve or some parameter of social science. Our private and corporate lives have become information processes just because we have put our central nervous systems outside us in electric technology. That is the key to Professor Boorstin's bewilderment in The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream.

The electric light ended the regime of night and day, of indoors and out-of-doors. But it is when the light encounters already existing patterns of human organization mat the hybrid energy is released.

Cars can travel all night, ball players can play all night, and windows can be left out of buildings. In a word, the message of the electric light is total change. It is pure information without any content to restrict its transforming and informing power.

If the student of media will but meditate on the power of this medium of electric light to transform every structure of time and space and work and society that it penetrates or contacts, he will have the key to the form of the power that is in all media to reshape any lives that they touch. Except for light, all other media come in pairs, with one acting as the "content" of the other, obscuring the operation of both.

It is a peculiar bias of those who operate media for the owners that they be concerned about the program content of radio, or press, or film. The owners themselves are concerned more about the media as such, and are not inclined to go beyond "what the public wants" or some vague formula. Owners are aware of the media as power, and they know that this power has little to do with

"content" or the media within the media.

When the press opened up the "human interest" keyboard after the telegraph had restructured the press medium, the newspaper killed the theater, just as TV hit the movies and the night dubs very hard.

George Bernard Shaw had the wit and imagination to fight back. He put the press into the theater,! taking over the controversies and the human interest world of the press for the stage, as Dickens had done for the novel. The movie took over the novel and the newspaper and the stage, all at once. Then TV pervaded the movie and gave the theater-in-the-round back to the public.

What I am saying is that media as extensions of our senses institute new ratios, not only among our private senses, but among themselves, when they interact among themselves. Radio changed the form of the news story as much as it altered the film image in the talkies. TV caused drastic changes in radio programming, and in the form of the thing or documentary novel. It is the poets and painters who react instantly to a new medium like radio or TV. Radio and gramophone and tape recorder gave us back the poet's voice as an important dimension of the poetic experience. Words became a kind of painting with light, again. But TV, with its deep-participation mode, caused young poets suddenly to present their poems in cafes, in public parks, anywhere. After TV, they suddenly felt the need for personal contact with their public. (In print-oriented Toronto, poetry-reading in the public parks is a public offense. Religion Pities are permitted, but not poetry as many young poets recently discovered.)

John O'Hara, the novelist, wrote in The New York Times Boot Review of November 27, 1955.

You get a great satisfaction from a book. You know your reader is captive inside those covers, but as novelist you have to imagine the satisfaction he's getting. Now, in the theater well, I used to drop in during both productions of Pal Joey and watch, not imagine, the people enjoy it. I'd willingly start my next novel-- about a small town--right now, but I need the diversion of a play.

In our age artists are able to mix their media diet as easily as their book diet. A poet like Yeats made the fullest use of oral peasant culture in creating his literary effects. Quite early, Eliot made a great impact by the careful use of jazz and film form. The Love Song of J .

Alfred Prufrock gets much of its power from an inter-penetration of film form and jazz idiom. But this mix reached its greatest power in The Waste Land and Sweeney Agonistes. Prufrock uses not only film form but the film theme of Charlie Chaplin, as did James Joyce in Ulysses. Joyce's Bloom is a deliberate takeover from Chaplin ("Chorney Choplain," as he called him in Finnegans Wake). And Chaplin, just as Chopin had adapted the pianoforte to the style of the ballet, hit upon the wondrous media mix of ballet and film in developing his Pavlova-like alternation of ecstasy and waddle. He adopted the classical steps of ballet to a movie mime that converged exactly the right blend of the lyric and the ironic that is found also in Prufrock and Ulysses. Artists in various fields are always the first to discover how to enable one medium to use or to release the power of another. In a simpler form, it is the technique employed by Charles Boyer in his kind of French-English blend of urbane, throaty delirium.

The printed book had encouraged artists to reduce all forms of expression as much as possible to the single descriptive and narrative plane of the printed word. The advent of electric media released art from this straitjacket at once, creating the world of Paul Klee, Picasso, Braque, Eisenstein, the Marx Brothers, and James Joyce.

A headline in The New York Times Rook Review (September 16.

1962) trills: There's Nothing Like a Best Seller to Set Hollywood a-Tingle.

Of course, nowadays, movie stars can only be lured from the beaches or science-fiction or some self-improvement course by the cultural lure of a role in a famous book. That is the way that the interplay of media now affects many in the movie colony. They have no more understanding of their media problems than does Madison Avenue. But from the point of view of the owners of the film and related media, the best seller is a form of insurance that some massive new gestalt or pattern has been isolated in the public psyche. It is an oil strike or a gold mine that can be depended on to yield a fair amount of boodle to the careful and canny processer.

Hollywood bankers, that is, are smarter than literary historians, for the latter despise popular taste except when it has been filtered down from lecture course to literary handbook.

Lillian Ross in Picture wrote a snide account of the filming of The Red Bodge of Courage. She got a good deal of easy kudos for a foolish book about a great film by simply assuming the superiority of the literary medium to the film medium. Her book got much attention as a hybrid.

Agatha Christie wrote far above her usual good level in a group of twelve short stories about Hercule Poirot, called The Labours of Hercules. By adjusting the classical themes to make reasonable modern parallels, she was able to lift the detective form to extraordinary intensity.

Such was, also, the method of James Joyce in Dubliners and Ulysses, when the precise classical parallels created the true hybrid energy. Baudelaire, said Mr. Eliot, "taught us how to raise the imagery of common life to first intensity." It is done, not by any direct heave-ho of poetic strength, but by a simple adjustment of situations from one culture in hybrid form with those of mother. It is precisely in this way that during wars and

migrations new cultural mix is the norm of ordinary daily life.

Operations Research programs the hybrid principle as a technique of creative discovery.

When the movie scenario or picture story was applied to the idea article, the magazine world had discovered a hybrid that ended the supremacy of the short story. When wheels were put in tandem form, the wheel principle combined with the lineal typographic principle to create aerodynamic balance. The wheel crossed with industrial, lineal form released the new form of the airplane.

The hybrid or the meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revelation from which new form is born. For the parallel between two media holds us on the frontiers between forms that snap us out of the Narcissus-narcosis. The moment of the meeting of media is a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance and numbness imposed by them on our senses.



6

MEDIA AS TRANSLATORS

The tendency of neurotic children to lose neurotic traits when telephoning has been a puzzle to psychiatrists. Some stutterers lose their stutter when they switch to a foreign language. That technologies are ways of translating one kind of knowledge into another mode has been expressed by Lyman Bryson in the phrase

"technology is explicitness." Translation is thus a 'spelling-out"

of forms of knowing. What we call "mechanization ' is a translation of nature, and of our own natures, into amplified and specialized forms.

Thus the quip in Finnegans Wake, “What bird has done yesterday man may do next year," is a strictly literal observation of the courses of technology. The Power of technology as dependent on alternately grasping and letting go in order to enlarge the scope of action has been observed as the power of the higher arboreal apes as compared with those that are on the ground. Elias Canetti made the proper association of this power of the higher apes to grasp and let go, with the strategy of the stock market speculators. It is all capsulated in the popular variant on Robert Browning: "A man's reach

must exceed his grasp or what's a metaphor." All media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms.

The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way. Words are a kind of information retrieval that can range over the total environment and experience at high speed. Words are complex systems of metaphors and symbols that translate experience into our uttered or outered senses. They are a technology of explicitness.

By means of translation of immediate sense experience into vocal symbols the entire world can be evoked and retrieved at any instant.

In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness. That is what is meant when we say that we daily know more and more about man. We mean that we can translate more and more of ourselves into other forms of expression that exceed ourselves. Man is a form of expression who is traditionally expected to repeat himself and to echo the praise of his Creator. "Prayer," said George Herbert, "is reversed thunder." Man has the power to reverberate the Divine thunder, by verbal translation.

By putting our physical bodies inside our extended nervous systems, by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies that are mere extensions of hands and feet and teeth and bodily heat-controls--all such extensions of our bodies, including cities--will be translated into information systems.

Electromagnetic technology requires utter human docility and quiescence of meditation such as befits an organism that now wears its brain outside its skull and its nerves outside its hide. Man must serve his electric technology with the same servo-mechanistic fidelity with which he served his coracle, his canoe, his typography, and all other extensions of his physical organs. But there is this difference, that previous technologies were partial and fragmentary, and the electric is

total and inclusive. An external consensus or conscience is now as necessary as private consciousness. With the new media, however, it is also possible to store and to translate everything; and, as for speed, that is no problem. No further acceleration is possible this side of the light barrier.

Just as when information levels rise in physics and chemistry, it is possible to use anything for fuel or fabric or building material, so with electric technology all solid goods can be summoned to appear as solid commodities by means of information circuits set up in the organic patterns that we call "automation" and information retrieval.

Under electric technology the entire business of man becomes learning and knowing. In terms of what we still consider an

"economy" (the Greek word for a household), this means that all forms of employment become "paid learning," and all forms of wealth result from the movement of information. The problem of discovering occupations or employment may prove as difficult as wealth is easy.

The long revolution by which men have sought to translate nature into art we have long referred to as "applied knowledge." "Applied"

means translated or carried across from one kind of material form into another. For those who care to consider this amazing process of applied knowledge in Western civilization, Shakespeare's As You Like It provides a good deal to think about. His forest of Arden is just such a golden world of translated benefits and joblessness as we are now entering via the gate of electric automation.

It is no more than one would expect that Shakespeare should nave understood the Forest of Arden as an advance model of the age of automation when all things are translatable into anything else that is desired:

And this our life, exempt from public haunt

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

I would not change it.

AMIENS!

Happy is your Grace,

That can translate the stubbornness of fortune

Into so quiet and so sweet a style.



(As You Like It, II, i. 15-21)

Shakespeare speaks of a world into which, by programming, as it were one can play back the materials of the natural world in a variety of levels and intensities of style. We are close to doing just this on a massive scale at the present time electronically. Here is the image of the golden age as one of complete metamorphoses or translations of nature into human art, that stands ready of access to our electric age. The poet Stephane Mallarme thought "the world exists to end in a book." We are now in a position to go beyond that and to transfer the entire show to the memory of a computer. For man, as Julian Huxley observes, unlike merely biological creatures, possesses an apparatus of transmission and transformation based on his power to store experience. And his power to store, as in a language itself, is also a means of transformation of experience:

"Those pearls that were his eyes."

Our dilemma may become like that of the listener who phoned the radio station: "Are you the station that gives twice as much weather?

Well, turn it off. I'm drowning." Or we might return to the state of tribal man, for whom magic rituals are his means of "applied knowledge." Instead of translating nature into art, the native nonliterate attempts to invest nature with spiritual energy.

Perhaps there is a key to some of these problems in the Freudian idea that when we fail to translate some natural event or experience into conscious art we "repress" it. It is ^ mechanism that also serves to numb us in the presence of those extensions of ourselves that are the media studied in this book. For just as a metaphor transforms and transmits experience, so do the media.

When we say, "I'll take a rain-check on that," We translate a social invitation into a sporting event, stepping up the conventional regret to an image of spontaneous disappointment: "Your invitation is not just one of those casual gestures that 1 must brush off. It makes me feel all the frustration of an interrupted ball game that I can't get with it." As in all metaphors, there are complex ratios among four parts:

"Your invitation is to ordinary invitations as ball games are to conventional social life. It is in this way that by seeing one set of relations through another set that we store and amplify experience in such forms as money. For money is also a metaphor. And all media as extensions of ourselves serve to provide new transforming vision and awareness. "It is an excellent invention," Bacon says, "that Pan or the world is said to make choice of Echo only (above all other speeches or voices) for his wife, for that alone is true philosophy which doth faithfully render the very words of the world ..."

Today Mark II stands by to render the masterpieces of literature from any language into any other language, giving as follows, the words of a Russian critic of Tolstoy about "War and World (peace…But nonetheless culture not stands) costs on

place. Something translate. Something print." (Boorstin, 141) Our very word "grasp" or "apprehension" points to the process of getting at one thing through another, of handling and sensing many facets at a time through more than one sense at a time. It begins to be evident that "touch" is not skin but the interplay of the senses, and the “keep in touch” and “getting in touch” is a matter of fruitful meeting of senses, of sight translated into sound and sound into movement, and taste and smell. The “common sense” was for many centuries held to be the peculiar human power of translating one kind of experience

of one sense into all the senses, and presenting the result nntinuously as a unified image to the mind. In fact, this image of a unified ratio among the senses was long held to be the mark four rationality, and may in the computer age easily become so again For it is now possible to program ratios among the senses that approach the condition of consciousness. Yet such a condition would necessarily be an extension of our own consciousness as much as wheel is an extension of feet in rotation. Having extended or translated our central nervous system into the electromagnetic technology, it is but a further stage to transfer our consciousness to the computer world as well. Then, at least, we shall be able to program consciousness in such wise that it cannot be numbed nor distracted by the Narcissus illusions of the entertainment world that beset mankind when he encounters himself extended in his own gimmickry.

If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into die spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?

7

CHALLENGE AND COLLAPSE

The Nemesis of Creativity

It was Bertrand Russell who declared that the great discovery of the twentieth century was the technique of the suspended judgment. A.

N. Whitehead, on the other hand, explained how the great discovery of the nineteenth century was the discovery of the technique of discovery. Namely, the technique of starting with the thing to be discovered and working back, step by step, as on an assembly line, to the point at which it is necessary to start in order to reach the desired object. In the arts this meant starting with the effect and then inventing a poem, painting, or building that would have just that effect and no other.

But the "technique of the suspended judgment" goes further. It anticipates the effect of, say, an unhappy childhood on an adult, and offsets the effect before it happens. In psychiatry, it is the technique of total permissiveness extended as an anesthetic

for the mind, while various adhesions and moral effects of false judgments are systematically eliminated.

This is a very different thing from the numbing or narcotic effect of new technology that lulls attention while the new form slams the gates of judgment and perception. For massive social surgery is needed to insert new technology into the group mind, and this is achieved by the built-in numbing apparatus discussed earlier Now the "technique of the suspended judgment" presents the possibility of rejecting the narcotic and of postponing indefinitely the operation of inserting the new technology in the social psyche. A new stasis is in prospect.

Werner Heisenberg, in The Physicist's Conception of Nature, is an example of the new quantum physicist whose over-all awareness of forms suggests to him that we would do well to stand aside from most of them. He points out that technical change alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation, citing with approval the outlook of the Chinese sage:

AsTzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager.

Tzu-Gung said, "There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?"

Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, "And what would that be?"

Tsu-Gung replied, "You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well."

Then anger rose up in the old man's face, and he said, "I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul.

Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them."

Perhaps the most interesting point about this anecdote is that it appeals to a modern physicist. It would not have appealed to Newton or to Adam Smith, for they were great experts and advo-cates of the fragmentary and the specialist approaches. It is by means quite in accord with the outlook of the Chinese sage that Hans Selye works at his "stress" idea of illness. In the 1920s he had been baffled at why physicians always seemed to concentrate on the recognition of individual diseases and specific remedies for such isolated causes, while never paying any attention to the "syndrome of just being sick." Those who are concerned with the program

"content" of media and not with the medium proper, appear to be in the position of physicians who ignore the "syndrome of just being sick." Hans Selye, in tackling a total, inclusive approach to the field of sickness, began what Adolphe Jonas has continued in Irritation and Counter-Irritation; namely, a quest for the response to injury as such, or to novel impact of any kind. Today we have anesthetics that enable us to perform the most frightful physical operations on one another.

The new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves constitute huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete disregard for antiseptics. If the operations are needed, the inevitability of infecting the whole system during the operation has to be considered. For in operating on society with a new technology, it is not the incised area that is most affected. The area of impact and incision is numb. It is the entire system that is changed. The effect of radio is visual.

fleet of the photo is auditory. Each new impact shifts the ratios among all the senses. What we seek today is either a means of controlling these shifts in the sense-ratios of the psychic and social outlook, or a means of avoiding them altogether. To have a disease without its symptoms is to be immune. No society has ever

known enough about its actions to have developed immunity to its new extensions or technologies. Today we have begunto sense that art may be able to provide such immunity.

In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs. He, then, builds models or Noah's arks for facing the change that is at hand. "The war of 1870 need never have been fought had people read my Sentimental Education," said Gustave Flaubert.

It is this aspect of new art that Kenneth Galbraith recommends to the careful study of businessmen who want to stay in business. For in the electric age there is no longer any sense in talking about the artist's being ahead of his time. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time, if we reckon by the ability to recognize it for what it is. To prevent undue wreckage in society, the artist tends now to move from the ivory tower to the control tower of society. Just as higher education is no longer a frill or luxury but a stark need of production and operational design in the electric age, so the artist is indispensable in the shaping and analysis and understanding of the life of forms, and structures created by electric technology.

The percussed victims of the new technology have invariably muttered cliches about the impracticality of artists and their fanciful preferences. But in the past century it has come generally acknowledged that, in the words of Wyndham Lewis. "The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present."

Knowledge of this simple fact is now needed for human survival. The ability of the artist to sidestep the bully blow of new technology of any age, and to parry such violence with full awareness, is age-old.

Equally age-old is the inability of the percussed victims, who cannot sidestep the new violence, to recognize their need of the artist. To reward and to make celebrities of artists can, also, be a way of ignoring their prophetic work, and preventing its timely use for survival. The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.

The artist can correct the sense ratios before the blow of new technology has numbed conscious procedures. He can correct diem before numbness and subliminal groping and reaction begin. If this is true, how is it possible to present the matter to those who are in a position to do something about it? If there were even a remote likelihood of this analysis being true, it would warrant a global armistice and period of stock-taking. If it is true that the artist possesses the means of anticipating and avoiding the

consequences of technological trauma, then what are we to think of the world and bureaucracy of "art appreciation"? Would it not seem suddenly to be a conspiracy to make die artist a frill, a fribble, or a MUltown? If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists?

Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigation charts? 1 am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one's psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties. Would we, then, cease to look at works of art as an explorer might regard the gold and gems used as the ornaments of simple nonliterates?

At any rate, in experimental art, men are given the exact specifications of 'coming violence to their own psyches from their own counter-irritants or technology. For those parts of ourselves that we thrust out in the form of new invention are attempts to counter or neutralize collective pressures and irritations. But the counter-irritant usually proves a greater plague than the initial irritant, like a drug habit. And it is here that the artist can show us how to "ride with the punch," instead of "taking it on the chin " It can only be repeated that human history is a record of "taking it on the chin."

Emile Durkheim long ago expressed the idea that the specialized task always escaped the action of the social conscience. In this regard, it would appear that the artist is the social conscience and is treated accordingly! "We have no art," say the Balinese; "we do everything as well as possible."

The modern metropolis is now sprawling helplessly after the impact of the motorcar. As a response to the challenge of railway speeds die suburb and the garden city arrived too late, or just in time to become a motorcar disaster. For an arrangement of functions adjusted to one set of intensities becomes unbearable at another intensity. And a technological extension of our bodies designed to alleviate physical stress can bring on psychic stress that may be much worse. Western specialist technology transferred to the Arab world in late Roman times released a furious discharge of tribal energy.

The somewhat devious means of diagnosis that have to be used to pin down the actual form and impact of a new medium are not unlike those indicated in detective fiction by Peter Cheyney.

In You Cant's Keep the Change (Collins, London, 1956) he wrote: A case to Callaghan was merely a collection of people, some of whom -- all of whom -- were giving incorrect information, or telling lies, because circumstances either forced them or led them into the process.

But the fact that they had to tell lies; had to give false impres-sions, necessitated a reorientation of their own viewpoints and their own lives. Sooner or later they became exhausted or careless. Then, and not until then, was an investigator able to put his finger on the one fact that would lead him to a possible logical solution.

It is interesting to note that success in keeping up a respectable front of customary kind can only be done by a frantic scramble back of the facade. After the crime, after the blow has fallen, the facade of custom can only be held up by swift rearrangement of the props. So it is in our social lives when a new technology strikes, or in our private life when some intense and, therefore, indigestible experience occurs, and the censor acts at once to numb us from the blow and to ready the faculties to assimilate the intruder. Peter Cheyney's observations of a mode of detective fiction is another instance of a popular form of entertainment functioning as mimic model of the real thing.

Perhaps the most obvious "closure" or psychic consequence of any new technology is just the demand for it. Nobody wants a motorcar till there are motorcars, and nobody is interested in TV until there are TV programs. This power of technology to create its own world of demand is not independent of technology being first an extension of our own bodies and senses. When we are deprived of our sense of sight, the other senses take up the role of sight in some degree. But the need to use the senses that are available is as insistent as breathing--a fact that makes sense of the urge to keep radio and TV

going more or less continuously. The urge to continuous use is quite independent of the content" of public programs or of the private sense life, being testimony to the fact that technology is part of our bodies. Electric technology is directly related to our central nervous systems, so it is ridiculous to talk of "what the public wants" played over its own nerves. This question would be like asking people what sort of sights and sounds they would prefer around them in an urban metropolis! Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. Something like this has already happened with outer space, for the same reasons that we have leased our central nervous systems to various corporations. As long as we adopt the Narcissus attitude of regarding the extensions of our own bodies as really out there and really independent of us, we will meet all technological challenges with the same sort of banana-skin pirouette and collapse.

Archimedes once said, "Give me a place to stand and I will move the world." Today he would have pointed to our electric media and said,

"I will stand on your eyes, your ears, your nerves, and your brain, and the world will move in any tempo or pattern I choose." We have leased these "places to stand" to private corporations.

Arnold Toynbee has devoted much of his A Study of History to analyzing the kinds of challenge faced by a variety of cultures during many centuries. Highly relevant to Western man is Toynbee's explanation of how the lame and the crippled respond to their handicaps in a society of active warriors. They become specialists like Vulcan, the smith and armorer. And how do whole communities act when conquered and enslaved? The same strategy serves them as it does the lame individual in a society of warriors. They specialize and become indispensable to their masters. It is probably the long human history of enslavement, and the collapse into specialism as a counter-irritant, that have put the stigma of servitude and pusillanimity on the figure

of the specialist, even in modern times. The capitulation of Western man to his technology, with its crescendo of specialized demands, has always appeared to many observers of our world as a kind of enslavement. But the resulting fragmentation has been voluntary and enthusiastic, unlike the conscious strategy of specialism on the part of the captives of military conquest.

It is plain that fragmentation or specialism as a technique of achieving security under tyranny and oppression of any kind has an attendant danger. Perfect adaptation to any environment is achieved by a total channeling of energies and vital force that amounts to a kind of static terminus for a creature. Even slight changes in the environment of the very well adjusted find them without any resource to meet new challenge. Such is the plight of the representatives of

"conventional wisdom" in any society. Their entire stake of security and status is in a single form of acquired knowledge, so that innovation is for them not novelty but annihilation.

A related form of challenge that has always faced cultures is the simple fact of a frontier or a wall, on the other side of which exists another kind of society. Mere existence side by side of any two forms of organization generates a great deal of tension. Such, indeed, has been the principle of symbolist artistic structures in the past century. Toynbee observes that the challenge of a civilization set side by side with a tribal society has over and over demonstrated that the simpler society finds its integral economy and institutions

"disintegrated by a rain of psychic energy generated by the civilization" of the more complex culture. When two societies exist side by side, the psychic challenge of the more complex one acts as an explosive release of energy in the simpler one. For prolific evidence of this kind of problem it is not necessary to look beyond the life of the teenager lived daily in the midst of a complex urban center As the barbarian was driven to furious restlessness by the civilized contact, collapsing into mass migration, so the teenager, compelled to share the life of a city that cannot accept him as an adult, collapses into "rebellion without a cause." Earlier the adolescent had been

provided with a rain check. He was prepared to wait it out. But since TV the drive to participation has ended adolescence, and every American home has its Berlin wall.

Toynbee is very generous in providing examples of widely varied challenge and collapse, and is especially apt in pointing to the frequent and futile resort to futurism and archaism as strategies of encountering radical change. But to point back to the day of the horse or to look forward to the coming of antigravitational vehicles is not an adequate response to the challenge of the motorcar. Yet these two uniform ways of backward and forward looking are habitual ways of avoiding the discontinuities of present experience with their demand for sensitive inspection and appraisal. Only the dedicated artist seems to have the power for encountering the present actuality.

Toynbee urges again and again the cultural strategy of the imitation of the example of great men. This, of course, is to locate cultural safety in the power of the will, rather than in the power of adequate perception of situations. Anybody could quip that this is the British trust in character as opposed to intellect. In view of the endless power of men to hypnotize themselves into unawareness in the presence of challenge, it may be argued that willpower is as useful as intelligence for survival. Today we need also the will to be exceedingly informed and aware.

Arnold Toynbee gives an example of Renaissance technology being effectively encountered and creatively controlled when he shows how the revival of the decentralized medieval parliament saved English society from the monopoly of centralism that seized the continent. Lewis Mumford in The City in History tells the strange tale of how the New England town was able to carry out the pattern of the medieval ideal city because it was able to dispense with walls and to mix town and country. When the technology of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction, wisdom may well call for a countervailing thrust. The implosion of electric energy in our century cannot be met by explosion or

expansion, but it can be met by decentralism and the flexibility of multiple small centers. For example, the rush of students into our universities is not explosion but implosion. And the needful strategy to encounter this force is not to enlarge the university but to create numerous groups of autonomous colleges in place of our centralized university plant that grew up on the lines of European government and nineteenth-century industry.

In the same way the excessive tactile effects of the TV image cannot be met by mere program changes. Imaginative strategy based on adequate diagnosis would prescribe a corresponding depth or structural approach to the existing literary and visual world. If we persist in a conventional approach to these developments our traditional culture will be swept aside as scholasticism was in the sixteenth century. Had the Schoolmen with their complex oral culture understood the Gutenberg technology, they could have created a new synthesis of written and oral education, instead of bowing out of the picture and allowing the merely visual page to take over the educational enterprise. The oral Schoolmen did not meet the new visual challenge of print, and the resulting expansion or explosion of Gutenberg technology was in many respects an impoverishment of the culture, as historians like Mumford are now beginning to explain. Arnold Toynbee, in A Study of History, in considering "the nature of growths of civilizations," not only abandons the concept of enlargement as a criterion of real growth of society, but states: More often geographical expansion is a concomitant of real decline and coincides with a 'time of troubles' or a universal state--both of them stages of decline and disintegration."

Toynbee expounds the principle that times of trouble or rapid change produce militarism, and it is militarism that produces empire and expansion. The old Greek myth which taught that the alphabet produced militarism ("King Cadmus sowed the dragon s teeth, and they sprang up armed men") really goes much deeper than Toynbee's story. In fact, "militarism" is just vague description, not analysis of causality at all. Militarism is a kind of visual organization of social energies that is both specialist and explosive, so that it is merely repetitive to say, as Toynbee does that it both creates large empires and causes social breakdown. But militarism is a form of industrialism or the concentration of large amounts of homogenized energies into a few kinds of production.

The Roman soldier was a man with a spade. He was an expert workman and builder who processed and packaged the resources of many societies and sent them home. Before machinery, the only massive work forces available for processing material were soldiers or slaves. As the Greek myth of Cadmus points out, the phonetic alphabet was the greatest processer of men for homogenized military life that was known to antiquity. The age of Greek society that Herodotus acknowledges to have been "overwhelmed by more troubles than in the twenty preceding generations" was the time that to our literary retrospect appears as one of the greatest of human centuries. It was Macaulay who remarked that it was not pleasant to live in times about which it was exciting to read. The succeeding age of Alexander saw Hellenism expand into Asia and prepare the course of the later Roman expansion. These, however, were the very centuries in which Greek civilization obviously fell apart.

Toynbee points to the strange falsification of history by archeology, insofar as the survival of many material objects of the past does not indicate the quality of ordinary life and experience at my particular time. Continuous technical improvement in the means of warfare occurs over the entire period of Hellenic and Roman decline.

Toynbee checks out his hypothesis by testing it with the developments in Greek agriculture. When the enterprise of Solon weaned the Greeks from mixed farming to a program of specialized products for export, there were happy consequences and a glorious manifestation of energy in Greek life. When the next phase of the same specialist stress involved much reliance on slave labor, there was spectacular increase of

production. But the armies of technologically specialized slave working the land blighted the social existence of the independent yeomen and small farmers, and led to the strange world of the Roman towns and cities crowded with rootless parasites To a much greater degree than Roman slavery, the specialism of mechanized industry and market organization has faced Western man with the challenge of manufacture by mono-fracture, or the tackling of all things and operations one-bit-at-a-time. This is the challenge that has permeated all aspects of our" lives and enabled us to expand so triumphantly in all directions and in all spheres.



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