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>For the past 3500 years of the Western world, the effects of media–whether it’s speech, writing, printing, photography, radio or television–have been systematically overlooked by social observers. Even in today’s revolutionary electronic age, scholars evidence few signs of modifying this traditional stance of ostrich-like disregard.

>Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it. It’s a process rather like that which occurs to the body under shock or stress conditions, or to the mind in line with the Freudian concept of repression. I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.

>This problem is doubly acute today because man must, as a simple survival strategy, become aware of what is happening to him, despite the attendant pain of such comprehension. The fact that he has not done so in this age of electronics is what has made this also the age of anxiety, which in turn has been transformed into its Doppelganger–the therapeutically reactive age of anomie and apathy. But despite our self protective escape mechanisms, the total-field awareness engendered by electronic media is enabling us–indeed, compelling us–to grope toward a consciousness of the unconscious, toward a realization that technology is an extension of our own bodies.

-Marshall McLuhan




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