The Modern Cyborg: McLuhan Today

Cyborg is derived from the 2 English words cyber and organism. Google describes a cyborg as “a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.” When I was growing up, Cyborg was my favorite team member of the Teen Titans, and I always wondered how long would it take for society to be able to make me a cyborg so I could be just like him. According to McLuhan, we’re already there and we’ve been there for a while now. I don’t mean that in medieval Europe, people were running around with half their bodies made out of technology. However, since then, and maybe even before that, technology has been evolving human ability from the way we talk, to the way we work, cook, sleep, and everything in between.

Bandura taught us that our aptitude for technology, like most things, is created through social cognitive theory. We learn through observation and we  improve self-efficacy by doing over and over again. McLuhan looks at media/technology as the main component of our evolving society. McLuhan shows us that technology has been the driving factor in the development of human ability and interaction. Technology isn’t just a machine we use, it becomes a part of us, and extension of ourselves, integrating itself into every aspect of our life and changing what traditional looks at. For proof of this, you can look at things like radio and tv which are late 19th century/early 20th century inventions that completely revolutionized how we see and hear the world. However, those born and raised in the late 20th century/early 21st century will be raised in a world where radio and tv are relatively prehistoric and the seeing and hearing experience has been propelled into high definition music and video streaming applications that fit cozily on a mobile phone.

Yes, in Today’s society, we have redefined the harmony between technology and human beings. What was once a fantismal concept of a majority robot and part human being, is now a normal human being with the ability to enhance their sensory input/output through technology in their lives that have become second nature. In today’s society, it’s important to note that technology has become the buffer for traditional communication, and according to McLuhan, this is the new traditional. Having a cellphone was just the start, and for the fact, so was texting. Now popular social media platforms have become the primary means of communication between multitudes of individuals. Your profile is no longer a hobby, but has evolved into your social media presence. Instagram and Twitter accounts are being asked for during job interviews. You don’t have to talk on the phone to order food anymore, instead technology has evolved so much that you can have door to door grocery and meal delivery with just the push of a couple buttons.

The ability to live and survive is being compacted into these tiny  devices that we grab off of our side tables and dressers without even thinking of. When my generation were hitting their early teens, we were heckled for being so attached to our mobile devices, but now, members of society who don’t own one are closer to off the grid than on.  Continuing to hound “millennials” about excessive technology use is futile because the next generation is inherently plugged into the world with the amount of technology in society now. What’s normal and traditional will continue to be revolutionized by new technological advances and we, as a society, will continue to be the new Cyborgs.

Advertisements

Twitter Is Bigger Than 140 Characters

The United States 2016 Presidential election was a mess. No matter what side of the isle voters were on, there were more reasons to not vote for that party’s candidate than ones that reassured the best outcome. Obviously in hindsight, the outcome was one that has yielded very little universal success or minimal praise. It (in my opinion) will go down in history as a defining election that will frame all campaigns in the future, especially the implementation of online tools and their abilities to reach the American public.

In the article Audience, Scale, and the Political Power of Social Media, there are many references to the influences of shared information through online mediums. One particular point that fit very well within our recent election was the distinction between activists (activism) and social media activists (“slacktivists.”) This point is made to first show a negative of social media as it relates to activism, and then proves that it is also a positive when used correctly. The negative is pretty obvious, those who are looking for causes and support social change, but don’t want to give much effort, can just “support” all they want through pages and posts (and feel some satisfaction from it.) This “slacktivism” is what much of the left participated in leading up to the election, gaining satisfaction and attributing effort to only being active online. This was a major fault, and one that was learned quickly. The positive of using social media for activism is the efficient and easy-to-use features of these sites that allow for the organization of events and meetings. Now that much of the adult population is connected online (especially by smartphones), it is now much easier to carry out demonstrations or other activist events with little planning or resources. After the election, the same left, that had been most active online, began to assemble and demonstrate in huge numbers. I think that if these people had been able to see the difference between the two types of activism, this election may have turned out much differently.

In the article Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign, there is a unique quote about the shift in Twitter’s role in political campaigns. “Twitter is where that central conversation is taking place. It’s not that Twitter is where you’re discussing the news. So much of it is actually happening on Twitter. It was just the central stream of the conversation for everyone.” This quote by Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith really demonstrates the power of Twitter for news outlets. The article discusses how major networks will now browse Twitter before going on air, simply to find more for a story, or to find a new one. This is a scary new reality for journalists who are not comfortable with this shift, but after this election, looks to be the future of how we get information. Trump fits this idea especially well because of his constant involvement on Twitter, creating stories from each thread or tweet. This can eliminate the need for journalists who would have broken whatever information Trump is now sharing, but it does allow journalists to quote him in a way that was never before possible. Twitter has become the news, no longer just a news sourse.

The importance of focusing on social media and traditional news media as separate focuses is supported by findings from the article Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat. In their conclusion on the mapping of news media and Twitter, they found that even in overlap, both entities do cover areas that are virtually untouched by the other. When keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that both are important mediums to focus on when reaching consumers, and should be still equally used. This dynamic may change in the future, as it is clear that there continues to be a shift in how United States residents receive their news.

Now that social media (especially Twitter) has been established as a major factor into how information is shared and how people communicate online, what are its limits? Will election campaigns just be focused online and will those in opposition continue to organize through social media? What does the future of journalism look like when those who were once being written about are now the ones writing themselves?

Media Technology: Better, Stronger, Faster…and Beyond

“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” (McLuhan, p. 77).  McLuhan was ‘the artist’, because of his ability to “pick up the message of technological and cultural progress” ahead of its time and before it’s transformational impact occurs in society.   Continue reading “Media Technology: Better, Stronger, Faster…and Beyond”

Extensions, Perceptions & McLuhan

Extensions,Perceptions and McLuhan

Perceptions and Extensions are fundamental to what the Visionary, Marshall McLuhan refers to when speaking about “the new electronic interdependence that recreates the World in the image of the global village” and “The medium is the message (McLuhan,1964).” What is Art then? McLuhan views, “Art is anything you can get away with (McLuhan, 1964).” So, in creating Art you need to see, discover and explore.  Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. Human beings are visual receptors with a set for sensory communication. Seeing establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, our language of communication, verbal, visual as we are sensory beings. We can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by an ever-pulsating HeArt, the World, since the time of McLuhan that HeArt has begun to pulsate even faster as technology advances and we as a Global Cultural Evolution(GCE) within this paradigm. The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe/perceive. I would say we are always looking at the relationship between things and ourselves. The reciprocal nature of vision is more fundamental than that of spoken dialogue.

“Media as extensions of ourselves, Understanding Media the Extensions of Man, “It is the persistent theme of this book that all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed” and “Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex. Some of the principal extensions, together with some of their psychic and social consequences, are studied in this book(McLuhan,1964).” These statements made me ponder how our World functions and my part within it. We as human beings are always moving forward as time never stands still but pushes us forward onto the new day. How we move through space and time and how every human being plays a role in this vast Universe, on planet Earth. The visual image that sparks an image in my mind are those images of time lapsed photography where you can view the movement of our world day in and day out the lines of energy traced and viewed from the satellites above are all proof of our interconnectedness. A key concern for McLuhan and one of mine too, what will the implications of this evolution towards the extension of the collective human consciousness be that is facilitated by electronic media? Will we remain humanly interested in others or do we just speed on through this technological fury? Do we need to slow down or push faster? Exploration and discovery are two components that we as human beings have utilized throughout history it is the lymph of humanity, the key is how to keep that ball rolling in a world of instant gratification and speed and stay focused?

Works Cited

Gordon, W. Terrance. ” Critical Reception to Understanding Media.” Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, Critical Edition. Ed. W. Terrance Gordon. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2003. 545-558.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

McLuhan: A Man of the Past and Present

ipad-820272_1280.jpgWhile some of McLuhan’s theories were seen as controversial, they still hold relevance in today’s modern society.  Since the 1960’s our world has expanded vastly in terms of technology.  During the time that McLuhan published “Understanding Media,” the world was fascinated with their television sets, telephones, and radios.  Since that time, our world has progressed largely, specifically in the world of the internet.  McLuhan covers so much fascinating material in his book and in his interview, that it can be difficult to encapsulate which theories can relate most closely to our media-filled world today.  

One particular phrase that comes to mind when referencing Marshall McLuhan is “The medium in the message.”  When it comes to any sort of service, I automatically focus on just that, paying little attention to where the service actually comes from. McLuhan (1994) explains that, “because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (p. 9).  A good example would be the internet. Since the internet has been around for over twenty years, we oftentimes forget that this platform is indeed the ‘medium’ to many of the things we search on a daily basis.  Without a second thought, we search Facebook on the internet, peruse the next tattoo we want to get on Pinterest, and look at the latest memes of Donald Trump.  The internet has vastly changed the speed in which we can receive information; something we continue to take for granted since we grew up in the age of the internet.  McLuhan further explains this theory by using the examples of an electric light, major companies like General Electric, and speech writing.  He states “For the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs” (McLuhan, 1994, p. 8).  In other words, the medium is the basis for conveying a message to the public.  The internet changed the way we receive information. Not only did it improve the speed of information, but it provided a variety of it in one singular place.  Instead of going to the library and searching through thousands of books, we have access to an array of information with one click of a mouse.  

Another theory that I found to be quite fascinating in terms of our society today was Narcissus. McLuhan relates this method to Greek mythology and how man is fascinated with extensions of himself.  McLuhan states “the point of this myth is the fact that man at once become fascinated with any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves” (p. 41).  This is something that we can quite literally see in any social media platform.  It is strange to me how quickly we all embraced the idea of incorporating social media into our lives.  It almost seems like overnight we accumulated four additional social media platforms that we are now fascinated with.  First it was MySpace, then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest.  It has becomes a normalcy to not just have one of these social media accounts, but all of them.  “To behold, use, or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it” (McLuhan, p. 46).  In McLuhan’s time, we saw this embracing behavior in the radio and the newspaper.  Now, we see the main culprit being social media.  We have become fascinated by the number of likes, views, and feedback we can receive from posting one photo to our Facebook page.  While humans have always longed to seek validation from others, is it now too much?  Is it possible that these social media accounts, although beneficial in some respects, are attributing to a more depressed and anxious culture  simply because we are making ourselves more vulnerable to other people’s thoughts and actions on a daily basis?

McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Society vs. Self-Efficacy: The Box Theory

Okay, so the first disclaimer is that I’m not a psychologist, but naming my opinion on how Society limits our view of Self-Efficacy in relation to Social Cognitive Theory “The Box Theory” makes me feel pretty great. This is definitely a thought piece on the relationship between our environment set by pop culture, the US Government, the current political climate, etc. and our ability to recognize our potential and strive for greater heights.

 

Let’s start with the basics. As an African-American male, I’ve been taught growing up that no matter what happens to me, where I come from, who tries to bring me down, I always have to be better than my environment to improve my environment. As an individual, I observed the actions of my parents: I watched my mom hold my family together and strive towards higher levels of education to increase her ability to provide for her family and in turn herself. I watched my father make many mistakes and completely turn his life around to become reliable and a provider for our family, while following the example of my mother, achieve higher education, and level up in his profession. This was the behavior I observed, imitated, and are currently in the process of executing.

 

I am not ashamed to be labeled a millennial but I am a huge advocate for labels no being the equivalent to stereotypes. I view the term “millennial” as a classification, not necessarily as a way of life.  I am more apt to technology than most, I text quickly, I use google for everything, but none of these things hinder my growth as  a human being or limit my ability to grow beyond what the media has tried to limit me to. There you have it. I said it. I believe today’s society tries to limit our Self-Efficacy to fit the labels they’ve created. This is my box theory.

 

As I continue, I understand that this is starting to feel a little conspiracy-theory-ish, but stick with me. Social Cognitive Theory informs us that human behavior is learned and can be changed through cognitive observation, empowered models, beneficial environments, etc. Well in today’s society, our models are starting to evolve into similar people. Our celebrities and politicians, once very separate fields, have merged. Our environment is evolving, and the dreams we are being sold are evolving too. Labels are becoming more relevant than ever and are starting to seriously limit the mind’s scope of what we as individuals can and cannot do. In other words, Self-Efficacy is there but is still limited to our labels. Society is putting us in boxes, and telling us to dream inside of them.

 

Sticking with my own experiences, representation in popular culture, media, politics, government occupations, etc. is very important to me. As an African American Male, I want to be able to see myself in movies, but also be able to see myself running the country. It was important to have models like Barack Obama flourish and never falter to society’s negativity, while also seeing the likes of Mahershala Ali, Jordan Peele, Drake, etc. take the media by storm, succeeding in their perspective areas. While black people have been fighting the good fight of representation for a very long time, we are still fighting, alongside latinos, asians, the LGBT community, women, and so many others. My issue lies in the fact that I now see a trend that media is limiting the popularization of certain models in certain areas that allow us to dream, but only in a certain direction/lane, thus emphasizing a box we’re to stay in.

 

I believe an even smaller box is being enforced on younger generations. Even if the representation is there, my generation, and the generations that follow see these things, begin to work for them, and then get stuck in a vicious cycle surrounding money. We see people drop everything to succeed but are faced with the reality that without money, there’s no way you’ll make it. So we work and go after occupations that we have to struggle in before we can rise and make the big bucks, but society sells us the dream big, go big, risk everything, and succeed model. Still confused? Let me break it down for you.

 

I went to a Creative and Performing Arts middle and high school. They were public schools with arts magnet programs, allowing students to have regular academics coupled with rigorous studies in an art form of their choosing. I studied musical theater in middle school and vocal/voice in high school. I’ve always dreamed of making it big, whether that be on a big stage selling out concerts, or on broadway, selling out shows. The school advocated for self-efficacy. We practiced day and night, went to audition after audition, built repertoires that spanned from german to latin to italian to spanish to hebrew, and we believed in ourselves and each other. When I left my Pittsburgh CAPA, I was told by so many people in “Real-World Jobs” that my dreams just weren’t realistic. My environment shifted and I tried to become a lawyer. That was a failed dream (although now I feel like I’m going after a real world occupations I love.) We as a society have brilliant artists all over the world, but we are limiting our future by forcing younger generations to conform and aim their hardwork and dedication, their self-efficacy in a direction.

 

After typing this, I thought to myself, “can the box be broken?” The answer is an obvious yes. People do it every day. Ashton Sanders, 21 dropped out of school to film an independent movie and that movie went on to win an Oscar for best picture while his costar, Jharrel Jerome, was only 17 at the beginning of filming. But these instances are becoming more rare, because, also, as a society we are putting way too much emphasis on money. If we continue to go down this road, Money will become the biggest influencer on our cognitive ability to believe we are able to succeed. Many would argue we are already too far gone. I believe that there is still a possibility to end this cycle, and that a generation will stand up for dreams and hard-work coexisting hand in hand.

 

To IPhone or not to IPhone, That is the Question

images

Chad44

The title of this blog pays homage to Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be”.  With the rapid development of technology in the last 50 years, new gadgets are rising and falling every day.  As consumers we have a choice whether to adopt this new technology or not.  We either choose to purchase, or to stay with existing products.  Different telephone communication comes out every year with a new model.  Laptops are becoming more powerful and smaller as the years pass.  Flat screen televisions are becoming affordable to different classes in society.  A tablet from the local electronic store can replace a library’s inventory.  The wireless communicator (cell phone) has become a staple into the American society.  The smart phone is basically a hand held computer that can do everything from check the local whether, listen to your favorite music station, and use social networking.  This comes a long way from the cell phone that simply could connect you through voice calling and that’s it.  The connection that I want to make is that between this new technology and the choice that we have to “buy” into these gadgets.  Also, it is important to note the wireless company’s strategy to continue loyalty of the user.  In the present, consumers are looking for the next “new” and improved thing.  The consumer has a choice, and in this case the question is To IPhone or not to IPhone.

These users have bought into the products that they buy and one of the most common examples would be the IPhone and the wireless companies marketing strategies.  IPhone is an Apple product that gives endless opportunity for telephone communication.  The product line comes out with a “better” product every year, sometimes multiple products come out, just a different variation.  These companies are smart because they know that they have the users bought into their product.  The craze is to get the newest product available to the public.  These companies know that the consumer will make the choice to purchase the newest product even though they may not have done their research. For example, a model may have the same operating power as the previous model, but it came out with a new series of colors.  Same phone, different color.  Another way that these companies are gaining revenue by simply coming out with a better looking product.

Another marketing tool that these companies are using for this type of technology is the use of trade in.  Different companies have alternate names for this procedure, but ultimately the user pays an additional price on their bill to always receive the newest product available.  This is a fairly new concept that the wireless companies have adapted, but one can only fathom the amount of revenue that is generated by this form of marketing.  Again, going back to technology being a choice, it is up to the user to decide whether this new technology is right for them.

A final marketing strategy that this technology assists the choice of its users is different payment plans.  These wireless companies are spanning every class in society.  Most expensive plans offer unlimited data, calling, and texting.  This is more expensive for the service, but leaves unlimited opportunity for discovery.  For lower income families that simply cannot afford these services, limited data, calling minutes, and number of text messages per period offer an opportunity for users to make a choice.  There was a time where cell phone use had to be monitored, but that time is passing.

Overall, just a little insight of the choice that users have the choice to buy these new products.  Marketing strategies by the wireless companies have made it easier on the consumer to make the choice to purchase, ultimately leading to increased revenue for the company itself.  Unfortunately in American society the choice is easy because the consumers want the newest product available rather than functionality.  This post does not present a question, rather to think about the choice that one makes when purchasing these new products.