Norman Mailer & Marshall McLuhan Debate the Electronic Age

Dan Colman, Open Culture, Jan 18, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"When you step up the environment to those speeds, you create the psychedelic thrill. The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic. And you go inward, by the way. It's an inner trip, not an outer trip." these words could only emanate from Marshall McLuhan (and it's interesting to contrast them with Sherry Turkle's Alone Together, reviewed recently by David Weinberger). The clip is from a discussion between McLuhan and Norman Mailer (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or the whole 28 minute video). It's fun to see McLuhan define an environment as information, while Mailer struggles along with the idea of an environment as (mere) physical reality. "The present is the enemy," says McLuhan. "The present is only faced by the artist." The rest of us, meanwhile, live in an environment consisting of unreal (and inaccessible) histories, myths and projections. "The artist, when he encounters the present, is always seeking new patterns, new pattern recognition, which is his task... he alone has the sensory awareness to tell us what our world is made of. He's more important than the scientist."
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