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Some Ideas on Politics and Media


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The commonly accepted point at which television arrived as the political medium of record in America is the Nixon - Kennedy debate of 1960. The airwaves were at that time a protected monopoly. With only 3 networks, and limited bandwidth serving millions of homes, television was a license to print money. The model at that time was the 'broadcasting' model, referring to the transmission of airwaves over a wide area.

'Broadcasting' in another sense means the fact that, since there were only 3 networks serving the entire US, it prevented the ability from marginal views to be accommodated. After all, network time was expensive. Entertainment, news and politics all had to be homogenized to ensure the largest possible "broad" audience.

When cable television arrived and started to flourish in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a medium that had as its content television AND satellite transmission. Producers could now get as many channels as they wanted into the consumer's home. This meant that the transmission model eventually could move from 'broadcasting' to 'narrowcasting' as the number of channels multiplied, and multiplied again, and the audiences grew smaller and smaller. The remote control became an indispensable appliance. By the 2000s, a Canadian cable channel could profit from a show garnering 10,000 viewers.

The collapse of audience sizes is evidenced by the list of most watched TV shows in the US. Except for live events, almost all of the shows are from the pre-cable era. For years, the #1 show was a run-of-the-mill episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, from 1964. With only 3 channels, there wasn't much else to do on a cold winter's night.

So with the arrival of cable TV, the landscape changed. Content producers had to find audiences by identifying smaller groups that they could provide programming for. MTV arrived exactly as top-40 teenager-focused AM radio did in the 1950s when the old forms of radio died off in the wake of television's arrival, and grabbed a new demographic that nobody had cared about before.

Cable news arrived in the US. Ted Turner launched CNN in 1980, with observers asking how they would ever find enough news to fill a 24 hour cycle. Turner had already countered skepticism when he launched the first satellite superstations a few years earlier, and proved that he had it right again: the popularity of the channel prompted him to launch CNN2 (later renamed Headline News) just two years later.

With the wild west of cable taking off, the US was under pressure to to abandon the Fairness Doctrine. That act, born of a much different age, sought to check the political power of the very few corporations who held absolute power over the TV airwaves. By 1987, there were more players in the game and the government wasn't as interested in holding back corporations as it once was. Ronald Reagan vetoed an attempt to enforce the Fairness Doctrine in law, and we ended up with the cable news landscape we have today.

MSNBC, CNN, Headline News, Fox News, Bloomberg, CNBC, and in Canada - CBC and CTV's news networks and local 24 hour news channel like CP 24 provide sensational, and eye-grabbing pieces for viewers who watch TV with the remote control in their hands.

This doesn't even include other parts of the news that have their own channels and shows: entertainment news, sports and weather. The newspaper exploded, and I'm wondering why we don't yet have Astrology, Crossword, or Sudoku channels yet.

In any case, today it's important to understand another aspect of the fairness doctrine - the idea that media serves a common good and as such should be required to operate in the public interest.

There was a cartoon in McLuhan's "The Medium is the Massage" with the caption:

"Given TV's awesome power to educate, aren't you glad that it doesn't?"

That point was taken up by Neil Postman, in "Amusing Ourselves to Death", in which he depicted the media landscape of the 1980s as a Huxley "Brave New World" that delighted its citizens as democracy fell apart. 25 years later, not much has changed and we aren't even able to tell if the ratings-grabbing news gloom is real or not. Are we indeed on the brink of collapse, as we seem to have been for decades now ?

News as entertainment has pervaded our culture to the point where a generation doesn't know anything different. If you want to see how much news has changed look at

and note the changes. There were more correspondents in the past, more investment in the idea that there was a responsibility to edify the television viewing public.

Now with news as entertainment, there isn't as much interest in policy as there is in campaigns, personalities and gotchas. As government has grown more complex, and more open to lobbying - there is less press attention than ever IMO.

The point of this is that electric television and print based government (which was never an easy relationship) have been drifting apart each other for 50 years now. There is, however, a natural fit between the institutions of western politics, and the internet. Politics on the internet is still a printed-word based medium. Posters and pundits can WRITE their opinions, and distribute them easily much like the pamphleteers of 18th century America.

I continue to look for ways in which new media can shine a light on how we govern ourselves. McLuhan explained how new media can rip through old institutions quickly, and upend them. Certainly we have seen that at plan in the Arab Spring revolutions this year.

When will our revolution arrive, and what will be the nature of it ?

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News as entertainment has pervaded our culture to the point where a generation doesn't know anything different. If you want to see how much news has changed look at old broadcast and note the changes. There were more correspondents in the past, more investment in the idea that there was a responsibility to edify the television viewing public.

This is a difficult concept to reconcile to what I see as the facts, as stated by yourself in your post.

The "old broadcast" sample you provide, the example when there "were more correspondents in the past" was from a pre-cable era where there were a limited number of broadcast news outlets on VHF. Thus, a limited amount of channels, with more correspondents. Also note that since broadcasters had other programming, the amount of time these correspondents had was also limited.

MSNBC, CNN, Headline News, Fox News, Bloomberg, CNBC, and in Canada - CBC and CTV's news networks and local 24 hour news channel like CP 24 provide sensational, and eye-grabbing pieces for viewers who watch TV with the remote control in their hands.

These are but a few of the 24 hour news channels in addition to many more cable and satellite channels that broadcast news to their audiences through various forms, newscasts, news magazines, documentaries, etc.

So the fact of the matter is, there are far more news correspondents now than there ever was in the past, as an aggregate, and I would even bet that there are far more correspondents with a particular station, especially those whose parent companies run the national 24 hour cable news programs.

I would bet the newsroom at CBLT in Toronto has many more actual correspondents than they did in 1974 and, because of the increased infrastructure, they have access to far more than they ever did.

The corollary here is that if they have more access, we do as well. And this is true from a larger perspective when you include all of the news sources as our disposal. The amount of television, print news is vast compared to 1974, now add the endless supply of the Internet.

I see what you are saying, that competition has lowered the standards to a form of infotainment and at a glance this appears true. But this is only a phenomenon of the availability of so many choices to so many more, combined with modern lifestyle. But is is appearances only.

I think in modern times we have far more good and serious correspondents than ever before, doing stories about life that simply was not available pre-cable. I believe there is a very healthy competition in this 'good and serious' modern news that urges correspondents and their broadcasters to not only delve deeper into an issue, filter through far more available research material, but to go to places that simply would not have mattered 40 years ago.

TL;DR: more and better news compared to pre-cable 40 years ago.

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This is a difficult concept to reconcile to what I see as the facts, as stated by yourself in your post.

The "old broadcast" sample you provide, the example when there "were more correspondents in the past" was from a pre-cable era where there were a limited number of broadcast news outlets on VHF. Thus, a limited amount of channels, with more correspondents. Also note that since broadcasters had other programming, the amount of time these correspondents had was also limited.

Yes, absolutely. Television news was taken much more seriously, in terms of its importance and the public duty that the networks had to inform the public. But there was less diversity of views expressed than today - so you couldn't have a right-wing news channel, or a left-wing channel even if the fairness doctrine had allowed it.

These are but a few of the 24 hour news channels in addition to many more cable and satellite channels that broadcast news to their audiences through various forms, newscasts, news magazines, documentaries, etc.

So the fact of the matter is, there are far more news correspondents now than there ever was in the past, as an aggregate, and I would even bet that there are far more correspondents with a particular station, especially those whose parent companies run the national 24 hour cable news programs.

You may indeed be right about that.

I would bet the newsroom at CBLT in Toronto has many more actual correspondents than they did in 1974 and, because of the increased infrastructure, they have access to far more than they ever did.

I'm not sure if either of those things are true. What I have read is that the press has less resources devoted to investigative news. Access may in your example mean instantaneous updates from around the globe - in other words speed but not depth or analysis.

The corollary here is that if they have more access, we do as well. And this is true from a larger perspective when you include all of the news sources as our disposal. The amount of television, print news is vast compared to 1974, now add the endless supply of the Internet.

"Given TV's awesome power to educate, aren't you glad that it doesn't?"

I see what you are saying, that competition has lowered the standards to a form of infotainment and at a glance this appears true. But this is only a phenomenon of the availability of so many choices to so many more, combined with modern lifestyle. But is is appearances only.

Actually, it speaks to the nature of the medium itself, which is McLuhan's thesis. I submit that he may not have given enough attention the "back end" nature of the medium in his analysis of the effect on the viewer. The pipes and network presenting the content matter as much as the screen facing the recipient of content.

I think in modern times we have far more good and serious correspondents than ever before, doing stories about life that simply was not available pre-cable. I believe there is a very healthy competition in this 'good and serious' modern news that urges correspondents and their broadcasters to not only delve deeper into an issue, filter through far more available research material, but to go to places that simply would not have mattered 40 years ago.

This negates Postman's thesis entirely. You really should read his book. If you're saying that our public is generally better informed and in touch with important matters then I disagree entirely.

The decline of newspapers, and of serious news coverage has been lamented for at least 25 years now. Coverage of election campaigns is now almost all of what politics is about on TV news. Legislation is complex and boring, and left in the hands of the lobbyists and legislators who don't even read the bills.

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This negates Postman's thesis entirely. You really should read his book. If you're saying that our public is generally better informed and in touch with important matters then I disagree entirely.

The decline of newspapers, and of serious news coverage has been lamented for at least 25 years now. Coverage of election campaigns is now almost all of what politics is about on TV news. Legislation is complex and boring, and left in the hands of the lobbyists and legislators who don't even read the bills.

Ah, you see, I never said that the "public is generally better informed" just that there is much more good-and-serious information available. This doesn't mean a better informed public, but it does mean that those who are interested, have far more sources available to them than ever before in human history. And I would say that in the modern age, it is much easier for someone to become informed if they wish, on most subjects.

You have to remember, the term "idiot box" comes from this mystical time that people now lament about. This term was familiar when I was growing up in the 60's. Just because there might have been more quality news, doesn't necessarily mean the public then was generally better informed or even accessed that content to any large degree.

Now, the problem with the mythical 50's & 60's, McLuhan's time, is that US legislators saw a requirement for the Fairness Doctrine, which should give you a hint right there. That is, why did they need to enact this in the first place? Did they enact a Fairness Doctrine for pamphleteers in the 18th & 19th centuries?

So while they can lament the "depth" of a particular topic, they were forced to present an alternative view. I would surmise that this "depth" was based on the social and political mores of a very few controlling interests. So the public might have been generally better informed on one perspective of an issue, but that does not transform them to be better informed overall.

Not so nowadays where an interested individual can gain information on a particular topic or issues from many perspectives up to, and including, information from other individuals who are directly involved in those topics or issues.

So I wouldn't necessarily agree that the modern public is generally better informed except to say that the modern public is generally better informed on how to get informed.

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Ah, you see, I never said that the "public is generally better informed" just that there is much more good-and-serious information available. This doesn't mean a better informed public, but it does mean that those who are interested, have far more sources available to them than ever before in human history. And I would say that in the modern age, it is much easier for someone to become informed if they wish, on most subjects.

Aha. Yes, although let's not call this the 'modern age' as that term is dated. A quibble.

I concur.

You have to remember, the term "idiot box" comes from this mystical time that people now lament about. This term was familiar when I was growing up in the 60's. Just because there might have been more quality news, doesn't necessarily mean the public then was generally better informed or even accessed that content to any large degree.

There were also newspapers in that age, and statistics show a large dropping off in circulation - down from about 30% of the population to about 13% was a stat I saw for the US.

Television being the new kid on the block followed conventions of newspapers more easily in those early years.

Now, the problem with the mythical 50's & 60's, McLuhan's time, is that US legislators saw a requirement for the Fairness Doctrine, which should give you a hint right there. That is, why did they need to enact this in the first place? Did they enact a Fairness Doctrine for pamphleteers in the 18th & 19th centuries?

It was inherited from radio legislation of the 1930s, a time when government was much more in the business of controlling corporate power. I expect that other factors, such as Hitler's effective use of radio for propaganda, also had a part in it.

So while they can lament the "depth" of a particular topic, they were forced to present an alternative view. I would surmise that this "depth" was based on the social and political mores of a very few controlling interests. So the public might have been generally better informed on one perspective of an issue, but that does not transform them to be better informed overall.

Here's a survey that we can discuss. It compares knowledge today to that of 5 years AFTER Postman wrote his book.

To my mind, it shows a continuing decline of knowledge of current affairs, especially among young people. I have some issues with the survey but it's something to chew on.

Not so nowadays where an interested individual can gain information on a particular topic or issues from many perspectives up to, and including, information from other individuals who are directly involved in those topics or issues.

So I wouldn't necessarily agree that the modern public is generally better informed except to say that the modern public is generally better informed on how to get informed.

Sure, but are they ? Do they care ? Civic mindedness is another area where there has been a decline, and the assumed responsibility of the citizen to be informed seems to lacking. That, coupled with the increased complexity of government, of legislation, and the inclination of news to entertain means to me we have passed a critical point of self-control. ( "We" here refers to the west, although I'm using American examples throughout. )

We need to either simplify government, or create a new press for the "interested" parties you refer to. Those parties would presumably have more influence, being more engaged and likely to vote.

Interestingly, there are movements afoot to make both of these options happen.

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Sure, but are they ? Do they care ? Civic mindedness is another area where there has been a decline, and the assumed responsibility of the citizen to be informed seems to lacking.

But now you have moved the topic into the domain of ethics which, to me, is what the question will always be about. (I suppose it also touches form/content as well.) People are ethically bound to inform themselves of several things (laws, mores, institutions, etc.) but what constitutes a successful level of being informed? The Fairness Doctrine was a culturally informed doctrine of ethics and, as we move more towards the global village, who's to dictate our ethics for us?

So why should someone go above and beyond the necessary requirements for information? As I have said, people in this post-modern age are better informed about how to get better informed. There isn't the necessary requirement of knowledge unless is suits an immediate practical purpose. Now, supposing this has always been so, we might be witnessing the effects of a kind of future shock in that there is less time for esoteric interests (i.e. in depth political knowledge of the world) because people are no longer working at a secure job for 30-40 years) That is, there are other immediate requirements for different kinds of information than just civics. People are still informing themselves, but about different things.

That, coupled with the increased complexity of government, of legislation, and the inclination of news to entertain means to me we have passed a critical point of self-control. ( "We" here refers to the west, although I'm using American examples throughout. )

I think the biggest symptom of this is the consumption of political rhetoric as truth and yes, this is a problem. But practically speaking, I don't see government any more complex than it was 30 years ago and government information is certainly more accessible than it ever was. (do you remember the racks upon racks of pamplets at the Unemployment Centres just 20 years ago?) And I think the more you know about the government, or the background behind some piece of legislation, the less complex it is. Like anything, really.

We need to either simplify government, or create a new press for the "interested" parties you refer to. Those parties would presumably have more influence, being more engaged and likely to vote.

Interestingly, there are movements afoot to make both of these options happen.

Back in McLuhan's day, and likely for a good portion for the both of us, the news was presented by participating 'experts'(well, dressed like they were experts)to a mostly passive audience. Even McLuhan, as great a historian as he was could not have envisioned the extent of social media and the participatory function of the audience in the creation and delivery of content. He saw this phenomenon when print arose as a medium and he used those societal struggles as analogy of our own when the television age came along. We are likely experiencing the same things with the new media now.

It seems that the next generation will gain important information in ways that we never imagined and I am not referring to the simple technological side of it. "News" may no longer be an apt word for it. This new media might include aspects of direct participation in the experiences of events, that is, the public become interested when they participate or have some sort of direct connection to the events in one way or another. (which reminds me of Orwell's 'feelies') Sort of like an immersion media.

But will that make them better informed or want to go out and vote? I dunno. Perhaps democracy is a means to an end we haven't expected yet.

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Michael, I have read your OP twice - and flipped through its responses. I still don't get your point.

Nowadays, people around the world can deal/talk with one another far more easily than 50 years ago. (While I rarely use a mobile phone, I happen to think that mobile phones are a great innovation.)

French guys skype women in Belarus, if not North Korea. I read blogs of Iranians.

----

Michael, how do cell/handy phones, for example, affect democracies?

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TV news media now is a bit damned for the format it is: quick, visual, and competing many other channels.

Anyone relying on TV news for their news will be info deficient. The strength of TV news is the video footage it brings of coverage of events unfolding, as well as things like interviews, press conferences etc. You still couldn't cover the day of 9/11 on the internet like you could on CNN or NBC etc.

But for real depth of info you have always needed to rely on print/text media, ie: newspapers or internet sites etc. Thankfully the internet is a very text-friendly medium. It's also free of so many restraints of TV broadcasting and (theoretically) allows billions of voices to be heard. The internet is Michael's media revolution.

Great post Michael.

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MH, this is a really great post. Is this an original idea or did you pick it up somewhere?

It is. This is one of the reasons that MLW is attractive despite the distractions of the loons on the fringe.

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Michael, I have read your OP twice - and flipped through its responses. I still don't get your point.

Nowadays, people around the world can deal/talk with one another far more easily than 50 years ago. (While I rarely use a mobile phone, I happen to think that mobile phones are a great innovation.)

French guys skype women in Belarus, if not North Korea. I read blogs of Iranians.

----

Michael, how do cell/handy phones, for example, affect democracies?

This is one the aspects I am getting at, i.e.the smartphone, that now allows TV, video, text, pictures and direct communications, in a small, mobile device and hints at an immersive, participatory experience. We often think of 'virtual reality' in terms of fiction, but we are seeing devices that allow us to construct virtual realities in a very realistic way, of almost being there.

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But now you have moved the topic into the domain of ethics which, to me, is what the question will always be about. (I suppose it also touches form/content as well.) People are ethically bound to inform themselves of several things (laws, mores, institutions, etc.) but what constitutes a successful level of being informed? The Fairness Doctrine was a culturally informed doctrine of ethics and, as we move more towards the global village, who's to dictate our ethics for us?

I don't think it's about ethics, but rather what works and doesn't work. Our system of democracy makes certain assumptions about an informed public, the role of the press and so on. If those assumptions don't hold, then the system is being used differently than what it was designed for.

So why should someone go above and beyond the necessary requirements for information? As I have said, people in this post-modern age are better informed about how to get better informed. There isn't the necessary requirement of knowledge unless is suits an immediate practical purpose. Now, supposing this has always been so, we might be witnessing the effects of a kind of future shock in that there is less time for esoteric interests (i.e. in depth political knowledge of the world) because people are no longer working at a secure job for 30-40 years) That is, there are other immediate requirements for different kinds of information than just civics. People are still informing themselves, but about different things.

Or, people are happy enough with the system that they don't see the need to bore themselves with such matters and would rather pursue their own interests.

Is that another way of saying what you said ?

I think the biggest symptom of this is the consumption of political rhetoric as truth and yes, this is a problem. But practically speaking, I don't see government any more complex than it was 30 years ago and government information is certainly more accessible than it ever was. (do you remember the racks upon racks of pamplets at the Unemployment Centres just 20 years ago?) And I think the more you know about the government, or the background behind some piece of legislation, the less complex it is. Like anything, really.

You don't see government as being more complex than it was 30 years ago ?

I do. There's always more legislation and more complex and nuanced programs to address a particular problem. We now have maternity leave, subsidized day care, and the list goes on.

Back in McLuhan's day, and likely for a good portion for the both of us, the news was presented by participating 'experts'(well, dressed like they were experts)to a mostly passive audience. Even McLuhan, as great a historian as he was could not have envisioned the extent of social media and the participatory function of the audience in the creation and delivery of content. He saw this phenomenon when print arose as a medium and he used those societal struggles as analogy of our own when the television age came along. We are likely experiencing the same things with the new media now.

I'm currently rereading 'Understanding Media', and yes he does envision the extent of social media and participation. That is his whole thesis, as he takes a very wide view of how content are consumed by new media.

He didn't make analogies between the arrival of print and of television, in fact he said that they had the opposite effects ("explosion" versus "implosion").

It seems that the next generation will gain important information in ways that we never imagined and I am not referring to the simple technological side of it. "News" may no longer be an apt word for it. This new media might include aspects of direct participation in the experiences of events, that is, the public become interested when they participate or have some sort of direct connection to the events in one way or another. (which reminds me of Orwell's 'feelies') Sort of like an immersion media.

This is actually what you and I are doing on this thread right now, alebeit at an utterly insignificant level. McLuhan predicted that these interactions would be externalized, and that our whims would be captured by corporate interests.

But will that make them better informed or want to go out and vote? I dunno. Perhaps democracy is a means to an end we haven't expected yet.

Voting itself may not survive this change. I dunno either. What is clear is that people will be used to having more and more input on things in general.

And now I will finalize my input by clicking the 'post' button. :P

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Michael, I have read your OP twice - and flipped through its responses. I still don't get your point.

Nowadays, people around the world can deal/talk with one another far more easily than 50 years ago. (While I rarely use a mobile phone, I happen to think that mobile phones are a great innovation.)

French guys skype women in Belarus, if not North Korea. I read blogs of Iranians.

----

Michael, how do cell/handy phones, for example, affect democracies?

The short answer is: I don't know how, but they do. We certainly have seen how they affect non-democracies in North Africa. But in fact, the events that took place there should have been foreseen, at least generally.

Large changes in communication patterns create schisms in society, and work against the old order - which is heavily invested and familiar with older forms of media.

You seem to feel that you are the master of technology. McLuhan quotes, and rejects General David Sarnoff's statement that

"We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way that they are used that determines their value."

Instead of believing that we have mastery over our technology, as the gods have mastery over men, we should look at the changes that have ripped through societies every time communication patterns have changed and realize that the medium itself is the message.

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MH, this is a really great post. Is this an original idea or did you pick it up somewhere?

Some of the ideas are mine, some are ideas that I have had based on readings and from McLuhan's writings which give you a new way to look at technology.

I recommend a wonderful graphic book called "The Medium is the Massage" as an entry point to these theories. It's very accessible as it was written for high school students.

The theories presented give you a different way to look at technology, as I say, for the purpose of discussion its effects. All technology are media, which are extensions of man. When man extends his senses then other senses are cut back. We are very unaware of the effects of these changes on ourselves, and our world. Technology is a trojan horse that brings hidden challenges within it.

The goal of McLuhan's work, as I said, is to give people the tools to discuss such changes as they happen, to have perception of what occurs when media change. He didn't make blunt predictions such as "computers will drive cars" or what have you.

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This is one the aspects I am getting at, i.e.the smartphone, that now allows TV, video, text, pictures and direct communications, in a small, mobile device and hints at an immersive, participatory experience. We often think of 'virtual reality' in terms of fiction, but we are seeing devices that allow us to construct virtual realities in a very realistic way, of almost being there.

Ok... in "Understanding Media" ALL electric media is seen as a projection of the central nervous system, and an externalization of the CNS. As such, our consciousness is being willingly exported to outside our bodies.

I carry an iPhone, with Wikipedia on it. So I no longer need to remember any general knowledge. I have my personal knowledge, and my wisdom in my brain still, at least at this point.

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And... some other points about MLW...

As a new medium (with web content) it has rediscovered the Socratic Method for those of us who like to discuss and learn.

Regular posters on here have exposure to many more opinions, having read both sides of the issues from multiple points. I suspect that they could even argue the positions of those television-watchers who disagree with them.

When I hear political conversation between a liberal and conservative at a party, it's rare when I hear a point brought out that hasn't been posted on here hundreds of times. In fact, it's rare when I hear an opinion (in the real world) that seems to have been actually challenged by someone with an opposing view. Maybe we're too polite nowadays...

In any case, my experience notwithstanding, debate and discussion is what Western (American) democracy was built on, so I do believe that political forums fit it like a glove. We just have to get the glove back on.

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I don't think it's about ethics, but rather what works and doesn't work. Our system of democracy makes certain assumptions about an informed public, the role of the press and so on. If those assumptions don't hold, then the system is being used differently than what it was designed for.

Our system of democracy is based on choice. That is, I have the franchise, but there is no compelling reason - like a law - for me to exercise it; and, if I do, to exercise it as I see fit. This is the element of design that over rides all other assumptions. So I can choose not to choose and this fact has been indicated in every single election held in Canada. Ethics is all about choice.

Or, people are happy enough with the system that they don't see the need to bore themselves with such matters and would rather pursue their own interests.

Is that another way of saying what you said ?

Pretty much, but I am not sure "happy" is the correct term. Perhaps satisfied that the choice they make is as effective as it will ever be and thus, for some of those that choose not to participate, a sense of acceptance of the status quo.

You don't see government as being more complex than it was 30 years ago ?

No, it is always relative.

I do. There's always more legislation and more complex and nuanced programs to address a particular problem. We now have maternity leave, subsidized day care, and the list goes on.

Sure we do, but we also have much better ways of accessing or addressing the government which reveals so much more than was possible before. There is more specificity, which can lead to the appearance of complexity, but appearances aren't always everything.

I'm currently rereading 'Understanding Media', and yes he does envision the extent of social media and participation. That is his whole thesis, as he takes a very wide view of how content are consumed by new media.

If I hand you a folded telegram, it is clearly a message from another. But what does it say?

He didn't make analogies between the arrival of print and of television, in fact he said that they had the opposite effects ("explosion" versus "implosion").

In 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' written two years before 'Understanding Media' McLuhan makes a clear and convincing comparative analogy between the periods in which the print and electronic ages arose. The effects of each had similar outcomes on the societies of their days and are worth noting. Like disturbances on the status quo.

This is actually what you and I are doing on this thread right now, alebeit at an utterly insignificant level. McLuhan predicted that these interactions would be externalized, and that our whims would be captured by corporate interests.

Then I shudder when the day comes when a corporation can immerse me in the goose-bump experience of a warm sunbeam coming through a window on a cold winter's day. It will be one hellva way to sell a Coke. :D

Voting itself may not survive this change. I dunno either. What is clear is that people will be used to having more and more input on things in general.

Don't we already though? Our individual ability to correspond with another, with governments and institutions, are already over-loading the latter's ability to respond according to their own rules. It is amazing to see how much the simple email has replaced such correspondence or the ability to create and message those others compared to 30 years ago. And not just for urbanites either, this phenomenon is extended to rural and remote areas. A prospector can communicate real time from the remotest places on earth.

"And now I will finalize my input by clicking the 'post' button."

Me too! Except I'll click the "Add Reply" button since my medium is more accurate than yours. B)

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It is. This is one of the reasons that MLW is attractive despite the distractions of the loons on the fringe.

Well, it's obvious the post is original, but I'm curious if he saw the argument somewhere else and decided to make a post about it.

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As such, our consciousness is being willingly exported to outside our bodies.

As this passage indicates. Willingness is just a barrier though, always has been. But note that I have edited the product of your consciousness to suite my purpose and this required no willingness at all on your part.

I carry an iPhone, with Wikipedia on it. So I no longer need to remember any general knowledge. I have my personal knowledge, and my wisdom in my brain still, at least at this point.

All of which can make for a dumbed down society on the first EMP.

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Some of the ideas are mine, some are ideas that I have had based on readings and from McLuhan's writings which give you a new way to look at technology.

I recommend a wonderful graphic book called "The Medium is the Massage" as an entry point to these theories. It's very accessible as it was written for high school students.

The theories presented give you a different way to look at technology, as I say, for the purpose of discussion its effects. All technology are media, which are extensions of man. When man extends his senses then other senses are cut back. We are very unaware of the effects of these changes on ourselves, and our world. Technology is a trojan horse that brings hidden challenges within it.

The goal of McLuhan's work, as I said, is to give people the tools to discuss such changes as they happen, to have perception of what occurs when media change. He didn't make blunt predictions such as "computers will drive cars" or what have you.

I'm only vaguely familiar with McLuhan's work. How you've applied it to contemporary issues is really interesting though. Great post.

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Ethics is all about choice.

That may be so, but there are other issues involving choices that don't involve ethics. For me, this is about what works and nothing else. The identity of the individual as an ethical being may play into it somehow but I'd have to think about that.

No, it is always relative.

Relative to ? Ok... is it more complex in an absolute sense then ?

Sure we do, but we also have much better ways of accessing or addressing the government which reveals so much more than was possible before. There is more specificity, which can lead to the appearance of complexity, but appearances aren't always everything.

You seem to be concurring that things are more complex today, but that we have ways of addressing it.

If I hand you a folded telegram, it is clearly a message from another. But what does it say?

I don't know what it says because it's folded over.

In 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' written two years before 'Understanding Media' McLuhan makes a clear and convincing comparative analogy between the periods in which the print and electronic ages arose. The effects of each had similar outcomes on the societies of their days and are worth noting. Like disturbances on the status quo.

Ok, I see now. Yes, absolutely - they have similar effects in that they disrupt the equilibrium that had evolved based on the media that were dominant in the previous age.

Don't we already though? Our individual ability to correspond with another, with governments and institutions, are already over-loading the latter's ability to respond according to their own rules.

Yes, "we" are overloading them according to "their" rules. They will have to change.

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