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Rhetoric Is The Medium

.. he process of consciousness itself, on a world scale, and without any verbalization whatever. Such a state of collective awareness may have been the preverbal condition of men ( The internet is bringing us back to our tribal life. McLuhan states, We are creating a planet of persona ( Although it is an electronic village, it is uniting the world, and will eventually draw us back to our roots in a tribal society. However, it would be an electronic tribal society. He also proclaimed, We look at the present through a rearview mirror.

We march backwards into the future. ( After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies into space. Today, after more than a century of electronic technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself into global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man-the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media -Marshall McLuhan. ( Marshall McLuhan’s analysis of the media correlated with the study of classical Ciceronian rhetoric. Rhetoric is a mode of establishing a medium between the material and the audience. Therefore, McLuhan felt that rhetoric directly applied to his study of the media.

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McLuhan states in a letter to author Tom Wolfe, Cicero in the Roman world kept alive and flourishing the idea of language as an inclusive traditional consciousness taught it [rhetoric] as a key to the mysteries of being and of power. (Molinero, McLuhan, and Toye 327.) In classical rhetoric, there are five parts: inventio (discovery), disposito (arrangement), memoria (memory), elocutio (embellishment), and pronunciato (delivery). Rhetoric is not as much concerned with the content of the material, but how it is presented. As a camera takes a picture, and freezes a moment of time on paper, a rhetorician takes a subject and discusses what they want the audience to see. Rhetoricians also placed great emphasis on the context of the message, with the main contextual concerns being the purpose of the message and the place in which it was to be heard or seen.

According to this design, the speaker acts as the originator or sender of a message (either spoken or written). To be effective, this message must be designed to suit a particular audience, a particular place, and a particular purpose. In the classical era, and even more so today, an important consideration in message design is where the communication will take place, and how it is given. Speakers need to know what sort of location they will be speaking in. Similarly, writers need to know where their message will be appearing: in a magazine? an academic journal? on a computer screen? The point is, the social and cultural context in which a message appears has an effect on its style, content, presentation, and perception.

Marshall McLuhan believed in technological determinism. If the content of the subject matter is changed by how it is presented, what we say is not as important as how we say it. Rhetoric is the medium. With the adaptation of technological advances into our society, rhetoric took on a new form. As people tried to use the media to manipulate their audience, the media can manipulate the source right back.

The message one might receive from a radio could be completely different from that of a television. Therefore, as the rhetorician might try to convey a certain message out of a theory, the medium in which one receives this message, could be different from what the rhetorician was initially trying to send. Rhetoric was extremely fascinating to Marshall McLuhan, in the beginning of his career, starting with his thesis paper for his Masters, and then again later in his life. He saw rhetoric in everything. The five-part division was everywhere. (Gordon 273). Marshall McLuhan saw the link between rhetoric and the media as a solution to the mystery that life seemed to inhabit.

He stated in a letter to his friend, professor of philosophy Thomas Langan, I am looking into the supposed context which have been attributed to the pre-Socratics, and I suspect that they are non-existent. ((Molinero, McLuhan, and Toye 451). McLuhan’s mind was always open to the existence of new awareness in his study of rhetoric. His unorthodox theories on communications came from his ideas that the electronic media (especially television) have an impact that is more important than the material communicated. He also stressed the need to be aware of the changes in society by these media. Although he felt that books would soon become extinct, he wrote several, including; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) and The Medium Is the Message: An Inventory of Effects (1967).

Marshall McLuhan argued that forms of communication such as writing, speech, printing, and broadcasting should not be viewed as neutral instruments carrying independent meaning. He actually proposed that these forms be considered technologies of the intellectual, active people in a process where the mind is formed, and after that, forms its own ideas out of that. His argument opened a new street of study which rephrased a large set of questions that had been in inquisition throughout history. Students of the arts were more likely to examine communication differently than that by social scientists. Art is usually correlated with one’s own distinct taste. McLuhan recognized that the new means available for producing and reproducing art would demand to create an entirely new way to analyze new art.

He sensed that society was operated not at a level of learned information or even circumstances. The media of communication affected society by changing the dominant instruments used in taste and feeling, by altering their forms into electronic devices. Marshall McLuhan is such an interesting figure of this century because he tried to explain the unexplainable. As he did this, he came up with new ideas that would influence human life for a long time. McLuhan’s philosophy can be summed up with his statement, For the historian of culture the matter of significance is not so much to determine the precise content of this teaching as to note how it functioned in the relation to the principles of grammar and rhetoric.

(Gordon 109) Philosophy.


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