A Column Electrified

This bit from Hal Foster The Return of the Real: The Avant-garde at the End of the Century has been reproduced with line breaks set at intervals similar to a newspaper column.

Out of similar symptoms
McLuhan arrives at a different
diagnosis. As in the spectacle of
Debord, so in “the global village”
of McLuhan: distance, spatial as
well as critical, is eclipsed. But
rather than separation, McLuhan
sees “retribalization,” and rather
than criticality lost, he sees
distraction transvalued. Oblivious
to Benjamin, McLuhan develops
related ideas, often only to invert
them. For McLuhan new
technologies do not penetrate
the body “surgically” so much as
they extend it “electrically.” Yet
like Benjamin he sees this
operation as double: technology
is both an excessive stimulus, a
shock to the body, and a
protective shield against such
stimulus-shock, with the stimulus
converted into the shield (which
then invites more stimulus, and
so on). […] Mcluhan sees this
extension as an ecstatic body
become electric, wired to the
world, and sometimes as a
“suicidal auto-amputation, as if
the central nervous system could
no longer depend on the physical
organs to be protective buffers
against the slings and arrows of
outrageous mechanism.”

Hamlet be damned. Foster’s choice of verb (seeing) to describe McLuhan’s meditations on technology displays the latter’s occularcentrism and it is but a step to an analysis of phallologocentrism. Foster continues with brio:

With these contradictory tropes of extension and amputation, McLuhan remains with the logic of technology as prosthesis — as a divine supplement to the body that threatens a demonic mutilation, or a glorious phallicization of the body that presupposes an horrific castration. Operative in different modernisms, this logic presumes both a male body and a split subject, a subject in lack (indeed, in McLuhan the subject remains a Hamlet wounded by slings and arrows).

Foster goes on to question whether or not we have today exceeded such a logic. A question for 1996. And a question for now?

And so for day 1827

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