Flusser Studies 06 - May 2008 / Special Issue: Vilém Flusser and Marshall McLuhan
Théorie de la communication
McLuhan’s Pedagogical Art
This essay argues that Marshall McLuhan’s most important ideas on the media are to be found in the early writings of the 1940s and 1950s. McLuhan’s work did not provide policy makers with concrete recommendations, nor did he leave communication scholars with a theory of the media; but he developed new methodological ‘probes’ for thinking through the effects of a variety of media on environments and bodies in the newly mediated context of North America in the post-WWII period. His approach to media technology was aesthetic, interdisciplinary, transnational, phenomenological and driven by a commitment to pedagogy. His work was prophetic in terms of recognizing that electronic media would transform experiences of space and time, and the interrelation between global and local cultures.
Marshall McLuhan & Vilém Flusser: The New Model Artists
Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) and Vilém Flusser (1920 - 1991) were primarily media communication theorists and new media philosophers. Both thinkers were deeply concerned with electronic and digital technologies and the impact of technology on human society. Likewise, both thinkers were critical and probably cynical about these developments, however, they believed in the notion that one has to fully understand technology to be able to use and discuss positive models of these new technologies for a better future. Independently, McLuhan and Flusser became interested in the role of the artist in this new digital society, and Flusser in particular elaborated on the means of artistic production. Both theorists delved into collaborative projects with artists; and they produced films and other artistic output over their lifetimes. In our essay we highlight this particular interest and focus on the artist and modes of artistic perception.
McLuhan’s understanding of the artist as society’s safety antenna was, indeed, personified by both men.
Die zweite Unschuld: Heilsgeschichtliche und eschatologische Perspektiven im Werk Vilém Flussers und Marshall McLuhans
This paper deals with the possible relevance of eschatological and messianic perspectives in Vilém Flusser’s and Marshall McLuhan’s media theories. Both authors postulate a first stage from which media evolution sets out and a last stage to be reached with the development of new media such as television, film, and photography. McLuhan describes the global village as the result of a process of totalizing re-tribalization: it returns us to a ‘second orality’ under the auspices of the integrating forces of tactility. Flusser, on the other hand, conceives of the telematic society of the future as an attempt at synthesizing Jewish and Greek traditions: it reaches back to a previous unity by moving beyond it.
McLuhan, Flusser, and the Mediatic Approach to Mind
The following text aims at reconstructing and comparing two paramount theories of the mind as historical product of the increasing predominance of media. Marshall McLuhan and Vilém Flusser both develop a theory of media, setting out, however, from very different points of departure. McLuhan tends to stress media in general, whereas Flusser insists on the importance of the predominant codes of communication. In spite of this, their theories show striking similarities. The deeper coincidence between McLuhan and Flusser lies in conceiving of existence and consciousness as formed or determined by the media. Another salient similarity can be detected in the definition of three great ages of human history, brought about by significant transformations in communication.
Language, Translation and the Telematic City
Drawing inspiration from Vilém Flusser’s writings on translation and on city space, this paper locates language and translation as material elements of city life. I begin by outlining the ways in which language is implicated in the form and operations of cities. I extend this discussion to the
metaphorics of translation employed by Marshall McLuhan in building his theory of media and the global village, and Jacques Derrida’s approach to translation and linguistic variability. These positions allow us to consider the implications of computer technology for universal language and machine translation, each of which have been wrapped up in discourses about the city. I finally connect this discussion to Flusser’s writings on the city and his concept of the telematic society, which will have profound implications for the future of the city.
A cidade como um medium em McLuhan e Flusser / The City as a Medium in McLuhan and Flusser
The interlacements between McLuhan and Flusser present the city in its fluidity as a complex topology enabled by communicative structures. For the network city and the device city and their transformations the location of the being is insignificant. An updated reading of Flusser’s text Die Stadt als Wellental in der Bilderflut encourages us to take into account the vocation for connectivity of this new form of urbanity.
Human Consciousness and the Construct of Meaning in the Communication Theories of Marshall McLuhan and Vilém Flusser
Two of the most original and influential communication theorists of the past century, Canadian Marshall McLuhan and the German-Jewish-Czech born Brazilian Vilém Flusser, expounded the view that the dimensions and perceptions of consciousness are recurrently modified through the adoption of new forms of media intervention to acts of human communication. For these two theorists, then, communication acts play the decisive role in the formation of identity. In this respect they are both electronic age versions of classical rhetorical theorists who, far from simply writing primers on persuasion, brought to their task an entire social ontology of human consciousness. By contrasting their evaluations of the communication theory by criteria and opinions, coming across most pronouncedly is their common belief that the communication process is an adjunct to human experience; one which nonetheless has the ability to shape the self-constructing perceptions of our consciousness and construct meaning in the world.
Ancestral Irrepressible: Marshall McLuhan and the Future of the Archive in Derrida’s Archive Fever
McLuhan’s status as the patriarch of Canadian media studies is explored as a troublesome nomological principle in light of Derrida’s Archive Fever. The trouble with archives, for Derrida, is the trouble of the original source. Linking McLuhan’s exploration of typographical and electronic communication systems to Derrida’s deconstruction of the archive as a technology of exteriorization, this paper investigates the nature of subjectivity and objectivity in Western epistemology. Can the archive, conceived of as a medium, allow for an escape from the specters of the past? Derrida’s proposed ‘archive of the future’ is theorized in terms of McLuhan’s sense of acoustic space and Foucault’s non-subjective discourse, and as a spatial and cultural construct reflecting the technological uncertainty in an age of mixed-media.
Communication Technologies as Grammars: Medium, Content and Message in Marshall McLuhan's work
This paper aims at exploring some classic concepts in the field of Communication Studies such as medium, content, and message, inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s thought. The paper will also recover a perspective which is still considered useful to the understanding of digital media: the idea that each technology of communication must be recognized as a kind of grammar capable of creating and shaping new modes of communication. Therefore, the dictum ‘the medium is the message’ will be analyzed by re-evaluating the different meanings that the ideas of medium and content assume throughout McLuhan’s work.