Rhetoric Is The Medium
Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian communications theorist and educator. He taught in Canada and the U.S. He gained fame in the 1960s with his proposal that the electric media had a greater influence on the people than the information itself. This man who examined the electronic media, and the emergence of a Global village, was also the man who spent most of his life studying the power of rhetoric in relation to those ideas. Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born on July 21, 1911. He is a figure in twentieth century history that has influenced the minds of many. His work included the idea of the world creating a global village where we are going back to our tribal senses, the ones that the printing press abridged us from.
Marshall McLuhan's studies included his classifications of the media into hot and cool divisions, where the medium of communication has different type of interactions with its audience. He implied that the medium of communication had a negative effect on society, and said that we must be careful with the new technologies that the world has come up with. Our lives have came from tribal societies, and then transformed into societies where sight was more important than verbal abilities. We are, however, gradually going back tribal ideals with the invention of new media.
McLuhan has defined existence into four eras. His first era, the Pre-Literate Tribal Society was a face-to-face (lecture 4/14) medium of communication. There was a greater balance of the senses, and because there was no phonetic alphabet, an emphasis was put on hearing and speech. This society required more local forms of communication, which were spontaneous and inconstant. This was because the medium of those forms of communication had nothing written down. There was no keeping a consistent form of interpretation if the medium was always changing. McLuhan believed this tribal state of life to be the normal human condition
With the development of the phonetic alphabet and written down manuals, McLuhan developed a new stage for the world, the Manuscript era. According to McLuhan only a few had access to manuscripts, but more and more people were learning the alphabet, and the medium of communication was changing from ear to eye. As one sense gains supremacy, the other is de-emphasized.
The development of the printing press lead the world into a new era. This era, The Gutenberg Galaxy was the time where the eye basically cut all the other senses off. McLuhan states, …the Western world has become devoted to a visual orientation of reality. (Marchand 155.) Principles of rhetoric were de-emphasized in this era. Rhetoric relies on speech and hearing to get its point across. As those senses disappear, so does the value of rhetoric, and McLuhan was deeply concerned with this. McLuhan describes his concern in his, A McLuhan Mosaic, as an …upheaval [that] generates great pain and identity loss, which can be ameliorated only through a conscious awareness of its dynamics. If we understand the revolutionary transformation caused by new media, we can anticipate and control them; but if we continue in our self-inducing subliminal trance, we will be their slaves. (Sanderson and Macdonald 1).
McLuhan developed his Masters thesis about the study of rhetoric and was intrigued with the subject. Although the majority of his life was spent trying to convince the world of the changing media of society, he was also fascinated with this affect on rhetoric. The emergence of the Gutenberg Galaxy emphasized a group system because the printing press had untied the people, logic was a result of this. He says that because people now had the ability to read at leisure, and scanning lines of print affected thought processes. People don't actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath. (http://www.mcluhanmedia.com/index.html).
McLuhan also believed that nations could not exist until this era. Print adapted a sense of uniformity and individualism. Individualism because books gave feelings of privacy and emotion that helped form a sense a self. Uniformity because nations could get ideas across to its citizens, print allowed everyone to have access to materials of world and national issues.
The Electronic Era changed this world system completely. The actual message of idea