Educational comics about comics in education
McLuhan has a kind of optimism about “electric media” that might have seemed right-on in 1967, but today feels hopelessly misguided.
On pages 55-56 of “The Media is the Massage,” he argues that since the Renaissance, when techniques for using visually depicting realistic 3-D perspective were developed, symmetry and visual resemblance have dominated Western consciousness.
He says it doesn’t have to be this way: “primitive and pre-alphabet people integrate time and space as one and live in an acoustic, horizonless, olfactory space, rather than a visual space. Their graphic presentation is like an x-ray. They put in everything they know, rather than what they see. A drawing of a man hunting a seal on an ice floe will show not only what is in top if the ice, but what is under it as well.”
Aside from the fact that this is a rather horribly naive and paternalistic portrait of “primitive” art, that manages to paint huge, huge stretches of history and culture with the same “x-ray art” brush, McLuhan stumbles ever further when goes on to claim:
"Electric circuitry is recreating in us the multidimensional space orientation of the ‘primitive.’"
(Surely this must have sounded ridiculously utopian even in ‘67!)
If our technology is really helping us reclaim this lost, “boundless, olfactory space?”, then why when I close my eyes to go to sleep, do I only see windows and screens and layer upon layer of places to “click to comment?”
Of painting SPEECH and speaking to the eyes?
That we by tracing lines are taught,
How to embody, and to colour THOUGHT?
Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Massage,” 1967, pg 48.
He’s being a bit too cute here, but I appreciate like the emphasis on “teaching” and “tracing” here … Language gains power only through repetition, and his affected Olde Style English here has the effect of reminding the reader that what they are retracing has a history and is not simply spontaneous or unencumbered.