Class 5: From Hammer to Pixel

March 14, 2019

Since our last class the first assessment has been completed and feedback posted to Brightspace for everyone who submitted. John reminded you to read both elements of the feedback carefully: your level for each criterion on the rubric and the general comment. If anyone would like individual feedback a tutorial can be arranged in SL.

We then had an interesting discussion on the value of Marshall McLuhan’s thinking for today’s society. John encouraged you to use voice rather than text so that you start getting some experience of speaking virtually. This is good practice for delivering the presentation of the Team Project and also allows for a quicker response and more dynamic interaction. However, it emerged that not everyone was in a position to use voice. Some of you were in a cafe, another didn’t have a functioning mic and others just didn’t want to! So we proceeded with a combination of talk and text.

The discussion began by considering the impact of different media on society. The shift from an oral to written culture, McLuhan suggested, had a very particular impact on people that was only beginning to be recognised in his era. He was interested in the impact resulting from the change to a visual culture. He argued that literacy as a form of awareness is objective. It supports the ability to stand back and observe situations objectively. The, at that time, new medium of television was introducing a visual awareness, one that is subjective, because it is so involving.

We tried to review the impact that the last 40 or so years of television has had on society, particularly in light of the emergence of the web and access-on-demand. This change from a mass medium that saw audiences numbered in the millions consuming the same programme at the same time to asynchronous viewing must surely impact on our awareness. The emergence of the ‘echo-chamber’ effect, where social media insulates us in a bubble of our peers seems to have made society vulnerable to detrimental manipulation as seen in the election of Trump and the result of the Brexit referendum.

We noticed how difficult it can be not to end up making value judgements and the impossibility of predicting how individuals and society will react. Referring to McLuhan’s concern that 20th century man was shuffling towards the 21st century in the shackles of the 19th century, we concluded that awareness is a key ability we need to nurture. By attempting to remain aware of the impact that technology is having on us we can at least minimise a blinkered descent into the unknown.

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