Friday, May 26, 2006

Voices of Electronic Identi-Theft: An Intelligent Mor(t)ality

I was just now reading this blog of J.R.'s on the development of his upcoming research paper on the media and technology, and was very intrigued by some of the explroations in which I found myself engulfed. I recently read McLuhan's the medium is the massage. In reading this link that J.R. provided, I found myself coming to terms with my electronic environment. I was being given a language to say a world that I inhabit. At the same time, however, as this article was reconciling me to our contemporary virtual-village, I had this background conversation going on about this article's naivite toward electric man's disembodiement, and of course the identity issues that follow after that like a horse chasing a carrot being dangled in front. So, later in J.R.'s post, I came to widipedia's link on Marshall McLuhan, there finding vent for my background conversation.

I wanted here to let my fellow villagers in on my conversation with my world-village. All of the following quotes are from the wikipedia site, and belong to McLuhan, unless otherwise noted. They also give dis-contented voices to the ones in my head as I was reading the "web 2.0" article.

"What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man, disembodies him. Turns him into software." (1971) - This is what the "web 2.0" article, in its reporting of the web platform/software news, seems to have naively and/or conveniently (or destructively) forgotten. A Gnostic Identi-Theft at the hands of Cyber-Man (that's our selves extended)!

" ... as we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self and what remains of community will disappear." (1980) - An intelligent technical production of a new world at the expense of a Real Communion for which we all long.

"This is one of the areas of Web 2.0 where we expect to see some of the greatest change, as more and more devices are connected to the new platform. What applications become possible when our phones and our cars are not consuming data but reporting it? Real time traffic monitoring, flash mobs, and citizen journalism are only a few of the early warning signs of the capabilities of the new platform." - again, from here, referenced above. This is the kind of production talk that begins to bring me to terms with the "consumerist" world in which I live. Where everything isn't for the consumption of a hidden beurocratic machine operator (a Platonic unmoved mover), but is appropriately the production of a new appearance in the world.

New appearances in the world, however make a new world. In this world of electro-virtual media, what exactly is it that's being produced? Again, "What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man, disembodies him. Turns him into software." An identity carried by a disembodied man longingly wanders in serch for a re-membering. The disembodiment leads to the wandering. Wandering is blind, and blindness leads to moral pitfalls.

"Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence." (1976) We live in a world seemlingly surrounded in violence. Is this violence, however, a result simply of an ignorant kind of stupidity, of a moral darkness of the soul? What is the dynamics of the relationship between the two?

"Print is the technology of individualism. If men decided to modify this visual technology by an electric technology, individualism would also be modified. To raise a moral complaint about this is like cussing a buzz-saw for lopping off fingers. 'But,' someone says, 'we didn't know it would happen.' Yet even witlessness is not a moral issue. It is a problem, but not a moral problem; and it would be nice to clear away some of the moral fogs that surround our technologies. It would be good for morality. (Galaxy p. 158)"

"Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity." (1967) - Originally, it seems, this quote was part of McLuhan's effort to in an appropriate way separate technology and morality. In light of the earlier quote on identity and violence (very much a moral issue), and also in the context of virtual media's massaging of our being (angelization and disembodiment), this quote for me serves as a Talmudic commentary on the alliances between "conservative" politicians and "conservative" TV Evangelists that lead to this "stupid" (or "bad"?) war in Iraq.

In light of a conversation about the constant production of a new world that happens to be the basic nature of our current electronic village, what exactly does this word "conservative" mean? What is being conserved? "We will fight for our freedom and way of life!" - Bush, in a speech given in the wake of 9/11, before the outbreak of the War in Iraq. In light of McLuhan's discussion of the massaging of our being by external appearances that leads to precepts (as opposed to concepts), are we fighting to conserve our mis-pre-conceptions of our changing virtuo-world? It seems McLuhan was right in saying that the Global Village would once again be a world governed by a basic and primal terror!

“The future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb.” (1969) So, in the context of the appropraite kind of separtion between morality and technology, the opposite of the instinctual outcries of the unthinking "conservatives", themselves already long-immersed in our electro-virtual world, why are a bunch of loving Christians killing a bunch of old-world Iraqis? Is it because of a lack of wits enabling one to keep up with the world he or she lives in (I'm not bothering to question the lack our of wits needed to keep up with the third-world we've long past), or is it due to the greed and power-lust in one's heart?

"The artist is the only person; his antennae pick up these messages before anybody. So he is always thought of as being way ahead of his time because he lives in the present." (1970) Anyone with any foresight could have seen while the War was still popular, that it's popularity wouldn't last. But that foresight comes through a certain attunement of the heart.

Another example of an intelligent bent on a moral issue taken by McLuhan: "Money is the poor man's credit card." (1964). The Bible warns against debt. With this morality quote comes an intelligent perspective and knowledge on the history of humanity and value.

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