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worldwide synesthesia


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Feb 16, 2024
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Marshall McLuhan has influenced much of my work and I have used the tetrad from the Laws of Media many times to understand emerging technologies. A recent article in The Free Press by Benjamin Carlson was a refreshing read by someone who had just discovered McLuhan. I started reading McLuhan’s work in 1995.

I first stumbled upon Marshall McLuhan a year ago on YouTube. Within a minute or two of watching a clip, I was amazed: here was a man who, in 1977, seemed to be describing the dislocating experience of living in 2023, and he did so with more insight than people living today. That the words were coming from a craggy, mustachioed man in a rumpled suit only enhanced the eerie feeling. Here was a professor-as-prophet. McLuhan says, in part, to his TV host … I shared the clip on Twitter and it went viral with more than 6 million views —The Prophets 2024-03-02

Carlson quotes an extract of a media tetrad.

To take one example from Marshall McLuhan’s last book, The Global Village (unfinished before his death, and completed by a collaborator), McLuhan thus analyzed the effects of global networking of media:

What does it enhance? “Instantaneous diverse media transmission on a global basis.”
What does it obsolesce? “Erodes human ability to decode in real time.”
What does it retrieve? “Brings back Tower of Babel: group voice in ether.”
What does it reverse? “Reverses into loss of specialism: worldwide synesthesia.”
The Prophets 2024-03-02

Below is this tetrad as an image. Note that synesthesia is, “is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. For instance, people with synesthesia may experience colors when listening to music, see shapes when smelling certain scents, or perceive tastes when looking at words.” This aptly describes our current digital media surround.

Understanding media and fake news are some of the activities in my PKM online workshop, much of it informed by the work of Marshall and Eric McLuhan.

McLuhan on Global Networking of Media every medium - extends a human property, obsolesces the previous medium & often makes it a luxury, retrieves a much older medium, & reverses its properties when pushed to its limits
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