Research and Development and the Soul

In today’s modern world, pornography is becoming a rampant social problem. As technologies and information is more readily accessible, porn is being viewed more frequently, for longer durations, and by more people than ever. Porn is a problem because it is extremely addictive, physically alters the brain, normalizes unhealthy behaviors, and leads to less satisfying human relationships.

According to Marshall McLuhan, “the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” He also states that the content of any medium is really another medium. Thus, the message of pornography is nested within many layers of medium. For example, screens are a medium that project porn as content. Porn is a medium that shows content about unhealthy or dangerous human behaviors. Watching unhealthy human behaviors normalizes those behaviors. So if the “medium is the message” and the message is “the scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”, the message in this case is that porn is exciting, natural, and acceptable — which is a problem.

Friedrich Kittler claimed that “we knew nothing about our senses until media provided models and metaphors.” In the case of pornography, it could be argued that society knew nothing about their “need” for instantly available sexual stimulation until computers became available in the home. As Marshall McLuhan put it, “people at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves.” Perhaps this is why porn has become so rampant. Those extensions of self have become more readily available in porn materials. Kittler also claims that art and media are fundamentally about the deception of sensory organs. He used an example of female pigeons and how their ovulation patterns change when they see a male pigeon as well as when they see a two-dimensional dummy. This idea relates to pornography use. Avid pornography users condition themselves to become aroused by screens while their ability to be aroused by real people deteriorates.

On the other hand, Raymond Williams argues that “new technologies are discovered, by an essentially internal process of research and development, which then sets the conditions for social change and progress. Progress, in particular, is the history of these inventions, which ‘created the modern world’. The effects of the technologies, whether direct or indirect, foreseen or unforeseen, are as it were the rest of history.” The computer, which is a common medium for porn use, has sculpted social change and progress. It has brought a myriad of information into the hands of millions of people. Like most things, information can be used in ways that can benefit or harm persons and societies. Everything has its opposites. Increased porn use is one of the negative results of new technologies and social progress.

The question is, is the normalization of rampant porn use a result of a human sense that couldn’t reveal itself until a technology provided an avenue for it? Or is the normalization of rampant porn use a down side that comes with progress and new technologies?