Clay Shirky, McLuhan, Enzensberger, and Nelson all have something to say about technology. Expressing technology as tools, which we communicate through. We have the potential of moving ourselves further were we to take part more within this new medium. The message within the medium changes depending on the container it is presented through. Yet can become skewed depending on how we choose to receive that message.
McLuhan’s article, Narcissus as Narcosis, labels these technologies as extensions of ourselves (McLuhan 72). When we use these technologies we form a need for them, in attempt to maintain equilibrium. McLuhan acknowledges the importance of these extensions to be helpful at times. Providing a way for us to avoid the irritations and stresses of real life (McLuhan 70). Yet, when we need them as an aid in handling the pace or load of work, we may become numb by the affects these tools have on us. A reliance built with these extensions can blind and isolate us from the need for other human contact.
From McLuhan’s extension of self concept, arrives Enzensberger’s distinction of division. Enzensberger describes a notion of mobilizing through the power of media. And declares a barrier to be evident between the receiver and transmitter. Additionally suggesting the political affects from this barrier. “That reflects the social division of labor into producers and consumers (Enzensberger 262).” It is by this division one group of individuals could gain control over another. Mass media of the 1970s had a control of consciousness through newspaper, radio, and television. Which excluded the chance for consumers, who watched, read, or listened, to have a voice. Enzensberger called this a “conciousness industry;” where producers of content determined what was important. Enzensberger explains the elemental and unavoidable processes of these producers are manipulation (Enzenseberger 265). To dissolve the division, everyone must become producers, or manipulators.
With Enzensberger’s description of mass media, and McLuhan’s concept to extensions of ourselves. Nelson presents the issue from an educational standpoint. Describing how the teacher provides the material in which the student is to learn and know. With this framework, the teacher has control over the knowledge. The teacher and institution both become counterparts in a control over the student. Information is received and re-stated by the student for the teacher’s approval. But, the interaction by the student with the material is never taken into consideration. Thus re-establishing the process over the individuals’ state of consciousness through a world of professionalism (Nelson 304–308). Nelson believes, a better way for students to learn is through their participation with computers. With computers, the student controls the material, interacting with it at their own pace.
Shirky refines the matter down to our nature of forming groups, and the new-technology that has allowed for new ways to form groups (Shirky 17). McLuhan considered during his time that technology, as an extension of self, could cause us to become numb and secluded. The tools in which McLuhan would consider to divide us, in Shirky’s eyes, is the inverse, and these extensions may be the tools that bring us together. Through phone, e-mails, webpages, discussions forums, and more currently, social media like Twitter or Facebook, we become the producers and active participants. This change in the way we communicate also creates a change in our society and it’s social structure (Shirky 17). By these means of forming groups there is no formal management required, and this breaks the institutional dilemma (Shirky 21). Producers and consumers become one, and we have things like Flickr for avid photographers, Vimeo and YouTube both for educational, social, and entertainment purposes, as well as Twitter, Medium, and Slack, which actively and collectively give everyone the potential to be producers.