I am in the very beginning of what I hope will be a long a fruitful conversation with Justin Grow (leader of our Levittown Post-YA home fellowship–talk to me!). The topic is the nature of modern media and the effects it has on us–specifically, on humans as individuals and Christians as people who are both made in the image of God and redeemed by the death and life of Christ. For instance, here is one thing that seems worth exploring: We often focus our discussions of these things on content–is it sending good or bad messages, is it portraying immorality in a positive light, is it promoting a Godless agenda, etc.–but what about the media themselves (itself?)–have we, as Christians, taken the time to examine what these things are that we watch, listen to, and carry around in our pockets, and how they, just being what they are, affect us? There’s so much more behind these opening questions, and it seems like we’re quickly approaching a time when Christians will need to seriously consider them in light of Christ’s call on our lives.
I shouldn’t be surprised that others are thinking these thoughts too, but I was when I found a link to an article that contained these thoughts:
To separate the mind or soul from the body is to mime death. It is generally accepted that any separation of the two, mind and body, results in death. Electric media disturb the natural union of mind and body at the deepest level. They take the user out of nature in a pantomime of death. The new sensibility brings a new fascination with death and the hereafter increasingly seems here and now, not hereafter, and encourages the growth of nihilism and amorality…Doesn’t this illuminate somewhat our culture’s present infatuation with euthanasia and abortion? …The new reality, which we all accept without question, is this: on the air, on the telephone, on the Internet, you are, you have being in many places simultaneously. These are literally out of body experiences and they are casual, utterly unremarkable features of everybody’s everyday life: and they pull the rug out from under individualism. Cyberspace is the home of the group, not the individual; its natural mode is the hive.
It’s from an article called The New Nomads: Eight Characteristics of the Electric Mass Audience, and was originally part of a speech given by Eric McLuhan at Wheaton College. I recommend reading the whole thing.
Here are some of his characteristics of what we call “The Mass Audience.”
Electric media profoundly challenge the very foundations of individual identity each time they transform us into mass audiences. The base of private identity is rapidly becoming irrelevant to contemporary experience throughout the west…
1. The Mass Audience is invisible. Composed as it is of de facto intelligences with no bodies. The average person daily uses interactive media from telephone to Internet by being transformed into bits of electric information. This disembodiment parodies the condition of angels, and it contributes to the disorientation that people feel in the material world.
2. Minus the physical body, the user of electric media can be in two or two dozen or two million places simultaneously — everywhere the Internet reaches, in fact. The electric crowd lives as if already dead. Consequently it finds nihilism natural. Death as a way of life, has a familiar ring to those who follow the news. The enabling environment for the electric crowd is the totality of electric media present and operating via broadcast, or network, or satellite, and so on. So there is the radio crowd, and the TV crowd, and so on. All of these are, as it were, dialects of the mass audience.
3. The Electric Crowd, composed as it is of new nomads, who haunt the metaphysical world, cannot have distant goals, or directions, or objectives. Those matters pertain to becoming, and the nomad is involved rather with being. Being is not an objective or a goal. With no outer physical body, the mass audience shifts its focus inward. For example, for over forty years youth have consistently rejected long-range goals and objectives as irrelevant. This move inward also appears disguised as narcissism, but it is the narcissism or the selfishness of one without a self — rather different from the selfishness that attends private individualism. Fixed goals and becoming belong to incarnate existence; the electrified nomad is wrapped in the ecstasies of sheer being, bereft of all traditional ties to the natural world and to natural law. In other words, we are floundering, we are disoriented. Each new technology represents one or another modulation of our humanity.
4. People without physical bodies use participational imagery to generate the emotion and the aesthetics of being — the only reality left after leaving the physical body and the physical world behind. Advertisers a generation ago shifted their attention from products to image, from hard selling of things to participative forms such as lifestyle ads. These provide life fantasies and group identities for all. Mass audience is not characterized by rationality, although individual members of it may be rational. Online or on the air, minus your physical bodies, you put on the corporate body, you wear all mankind as your skin. Under these conditions, a private sensibility would be a terrible liability.
5. The quality of image adjusts the degree of participation. A “good” image allows a lot of participation in depth, by a big diverse mass. For this it must be virtually devoid of content. The aesthetic of these circumstances derives from manipulations of being. Each new electric medium brings with it a new mode of group being, a new we. Hybrid energy bring the biggest kicks of all, and it is in the nature of electric media to hybridize endlessly. Each new medium collects older ones as what we call features, even as it becomes included in the others as a feature, a process that will continue until all have become features of each other. Their future is features. Gadgetry. Narcissism for the self-less.
6. The crowd of electrified nomads has no natural boundaries. It o’erleaps all natural and physical limitations. It is exempt from natural law.
7. The Mass audience was coined, the term, to denote broadcast crowds. Sheer speed makes the mass, not numbers. At electric speed there is no moving to or fro, the user just manifests here or there, having left the body behind. “There” might be the other side of the room or the other side of town or the other side of the world – it makes no difference, it’s all the same. You function in more than one place at once. On the air, you can have your being in thousands or millions of places simultaneously. Physical laws no longer apply once you leave the physical body. There is nothing on which to base them. You become information. You become an environmental image. Anyone who goes online becomes thereby, a de facto node of the worldwide network. This is not an unfamiliar form. Our worldwide net then has its center everywhere and its margin nowhere…
Interesting thoughts for the beginning of some important discussions. You can read the whole thing here.