Processing of the human psyche

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ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I have just been reading a chapter of Marshal McLuhans Understanding Media, and somehow I cannot quite imagine what he could mean when he states that "much visual processing of the human psyche by alphabetical means will be needed before any appreciable degree of homogenized social organisation is possible" (p. 129-130 in the 2002 critical edition by Terrence Gordon). It was done by non-literate technologies in Assyria, he adds, but the phonetic alphabet "has no rival as a translator of man out of the closed tribal echo-chamber into the neutral visual world of lineal organisation".

It is more like a philosophical question, I am afraid, as the second quote is almost as obscure. I have been thinking of 'exploration', or rather 'development' (from isolation to integration into larger 'wholes' - but then: lineal ??? )...

Can you help ?
 
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  • Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    My interpretation is based solely on what you have provided by way of context above. In my opinion he is asserting that literacy is a precondition for the emergence of (what he would deem) recognizable societal structures. The 'lineal' point refers to the organisation of text into lines.

    So, "much visual processing of the human psyche by alphabetical means", I take to mean "(successive generations of) humans having plenty of reading".
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    That is not impossible, thanks. Still: processing normally (...) implies working on, using, dealing with, doesn't it? But how does one 'process' the human psyche? (I am sorry, but I cannot add more context, I even wonder if it would help; McLuhan is that compact, it seems to me, and maybe even new nowadays...)

    'Lineal': yes, that could well be the meaning - in contrast with the (chaotic or at least less structured) resonating oral traditions, and probably echoing vs lineal implies also less and more control.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    The way I read it, it's the psyche that's doing the processing (and not the psyche that's being processed). He's using psyche here to mean mind (and not soul).

    So, mind(s) working on bits of text causes a re-alignment of consciousness with massive cultural repercussions.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Good Lord, now I understand. What a stupid shortsightedness of mine! ;-) I have had the problem with his texts from time to time whereas I am fairly used to reading essays in English...
     
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