Understanding Media

Marshall McLuhan
[1911 - 1980]

McLuhan's most widely known work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), is also a pioneering study in media ecology. Popularly quoted as "the medium is the message," McLuhan's theory was that media affects the society; it plays a role not by the content delivered, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. Controversially, he postulated that content had little effect on society –- in other words, it did not matter if television broadcasts children's shows or violent programming, to illustrate one example -– the effect of television on society would be identical. He noted that all media have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways; for instance, a passage in a book could be reread at will, but a movie had to be screened again in its entirety to study any individual part of it.

McLuhan claims that different media invite different degrees of participation on the part of a person who chooses to consume a medium. Some media, like the movies, enhance one single sense, in this case vision, in such a manner that a person does not need to exert much effort in filling in the details of a movie image. McLuhan contrasted this with TV, which he claimed requires more effort on the part of viewer to determine meaning, and comics, which due to their minimal presentation of visual detail require a high degree of effort to fill in details. A movie is thus said by McLuhan to be hot, intensifying one single sense "high definition", demanding a viewer's attention, and a comic book to be "cool" and "low definition", requiring much more conscious participation by the reader to extract value.

McLuhan's theories about "The medium is the message", link culture and society. The Internet, and the advent of the World Wide Web, are examples of what McLuhan would classify as hot media.
Each new form of media, according to the analysis of McLuhan, shapes messages differently thereby requiring new filters to be engaged in the experience of viewing and listening to those messages.

When terrorism is the medium the underlying message is
"I must be right because I'm willing to die for it"

Anatomical Basis of Facial Expressions


Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is a system originally developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in 1976, to taxonomize every conceivable human facial expression. It is the most popular standard currently used to systematically categorize the physical expression of emotions, and it has proven useful both to psychologists and to animators. FACS and its action units are based on the book of Carl-Herman Hjortsjö "Man's Face and Mimic Language". It defines expressions as one of 46 "Action Units" (AUs), which are a contraction or relaxation of one or more muscles.

Although the labeling of expressions currently requires trained experts, researchers have had some success in using computers to automatically identify FACS codes, and thus quickly identify emotions.
Computer graphical face models, such as CANDIDE or Artnatomy, allow expressions to be artificially posed by setting the desired action units. Wikipedia

Hyperreality of Jean Bauldrillard

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth-
-it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.


The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image Salvador Dali

Jean Baudrillard was a social theorist best known for his analyses of modes of mediation and technological communication, although the scope of his writing spreads across more diverse subjects — from consumerism, to gender relations, to the social understanding of history through to more journalistic commentaries on AIDS, cloning, the Rushdie affair, the (first) Gulf War and the attacks on the World Trade Center. He had affinities with post-structuralism in that his arguments consistently drew on the notion that systems of signification and meaning are only understandable in terms of their interrelation. In contrast to Foucault however, of whom he was sharply critical, Baudrillard developed theories based, not on power and knowledge, but around the notions of seduction, simulation, and, the term with which he is most associated, hyperreality. Baudrillard uses this principle to argue that in our present 'global' society, wherein technological communication has created an excessive proliferation of meaning, meaning's self-referentiality has prompted, not a McLuhan-style 'global village', but a world where meaning has been effaced and society has been reduced to an opaque mass, where the 'real' has been reduced to the self-referential signs of its existence. Wikipedia

The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.

Jean Baudrillard [1929 - 2007]

Brave New World

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1932. Set in London in 2540, the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering, and sleep-learning that combine to change society.

All citizens are expected to be involved socially; spending time alone is discouraged and sexual promiscuity is norm. Recreational drug use has become a pillar of society and all citizens regularly swallow tablets of soma, a ecstacy like tranquilizer that makes users mindlessly happy.

ebook: Aldus Huxley's Brave New World

audiobook: Part.1 Part.2

In Brave New World Revisited Huxley considers whether the world has moved towards or away from his frightening vision of the future. He concludes that the world was becoming much more like Brave New World much faster than he thought.

Over-Population Over-Organization

Propaganda Democracy Dictatorship

Drugs Brainwashing Hypnosis

Quantity Quality Morality

ebook: Brave New World Revisted

Tractus Logico-Philosophicus

by Ludwig Wittgenstein

The slim volume (fewer than eighty pages) comprises a system of short, oracular utterances, numbered 1, 1.1, 1.11, 1.12, etc., through to 7, so that 1.1 is a comment on or elaboration of 1, 1.11 and 1.12 comment on 1.1, and so forth, to demonstrate their nested interrelations. (Though Wittgenstein does not always number them according to his system.) It sets forth on an ambitious project to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of philosophy by articulating “…the conditions for a logically perfect language.” (Russell, p. 8 in the C. K. Ogden Translation) The goal was a philosophical system that would complete Bertrand Russell's early philosophy of "logical atomism."

Wittgenstein's work on Logik began to take on an ethical and religious significance. With this new concern with the ethical, combined with his earlier interest in logical analysis, and with key insights developed during the war (such as the so-called "picture theory" of propositions), Wittgenstein's work from Cambridge and Norway was transfigured into the material that eventually became the Tractatus. In 1918, toward the end of the war, Wittgenstein was promoted to reserve officer (lieutenant) and sent to northern Italy as part of an artillery regiment. On leave in the summer of 1918, he received a letter from David Pinsent's mother telling Wittgenstein that her son had been killed in an airplane accident. Suicidal, Wittgenstein went to stay with his uncle Paul, and completed the Tractatus, which was dedicated to Pinsent.

'The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.'

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