Cyber bullying: Technology and McLuhan

Cyber bullying: Technology and McLuhan

The cruel mob pursued 13 year old Megan Meier through our high tech “social networking site MySpace and called Megan a liar, a fat ***** and worse”.

McLuhan has stated that all technology is an extension of a human faculty. The ‘bomb is an extension of the fist’ is a simple example.

“The Medium is The Message” is the phrase that made Marshall McLuhan famous. It is a phrase most of us, young and old, have heard. Until recently this was a mysterious phrase that left me speechless.

Megan, 13, fought back, but she was overwhelmed.

Let’s get very fundamental here and go back to the invention of the alphabet to understand what McLuhan is talking about and why it is important.

“The Greek myth about the alphabet was that Cadmus, reputedly the king who introduced the phonetic letters into Greece, sowed dragoon’s teeth, and they sprang up armed men. Like any other myth, this one capsulates a prolonged process into a flashing insight. The alphabet meant power and authority and control of military structures at a distance. When combined with papyrus, the alphabet spelled the end of the stationary temple bureaucracies and the priestly monopolies of knowledge and power.”

“The phonetic alphabet is a unique technology…This stark division and parallelism between a visual and an auditory world was both crude and ruthless, culturally speaking. The phonetically written sacrifices worlds of meaning and perception that were secured by forms like the hieroglyphs and the Chinese ideogram. These culturally richer forms of writing, however, offered men no means of sudden transfer from the magically discontinuous and traditional world of the tribal word into the cool and uniform visual medium.”

“All of these forms [pictographic and hieroglyphic] give pictorial expression to oral meanings. As such, they approximate the animated cartoon and are extremely unwieldy, requiring many signs for the infinity of data operations of social action. In contrast, the phonetic alphabet, by a few letters only, was able to encompass all languages.”

“She felt there was no way out,” Ms. Meier said.

Consider the invention of the printing press and the introduction of books to the society. A book communicates a message. Many books communicate many messages. ‘The book’ communicates the same message to everyone who comes into contact with the book. The book transmits the same message to everyone while many books transmit many different messages to many different people.

Evolution moves very slowly. We adapt to our environment very slowly. We survive because we do adapt. When we change more quickly than we can adapt we face problems that we have not had the time to make the kind of adjustments necessary.

The habits we acquire determine our state of mind. Our changing habits are part of this process of adaptation to our environment. Do not think of environment as being just the quality of our air or water but it is a broad term signifying the world we live in.

So we have changed very dramatically our habits that were part of us when we knew little and understood much. I am speaking relatively here. What happens to us as a result of this dramatic change? I do not know but I only point to the fact as worth consideration.

Examine how we sit and watch TV for several hours everyday. When we watch TV we are constantly being transported perceptively from one scene to another. Think for a minute if instead of sitting and watching TV we were physically escorted done a hallway with many doors. Then we open a door and are physically placed into this world we see on TV. Our reaction would be very different. In other words we are creatures prepared for a certain world that no longer exists. This is the definition of a forthcoming extinction if we think about the meaning of evolution.

“Mom, they’re being horrible!” Megan said, “sobbing into the phone when her mother called. After an hour, Megan ran into her bedroom and hanged herself with a belt.”

Has our technology become our master? I think so.

This story about Megan by Christopher Maag, “When the Bullies Turned Faceless” was published in the December 17 edition of the NYTimes.

[b]What did the little bird say to the big bird?

Peck on someone your own size.[/b]

Bullys have to have a willing victim. Megan’s parents provided that victim. They failed to teach her self worth, esteem and how to change the channel. She allowed the others to get the best of her mentally because she was not taught to understand the nature of words and how harmless they really are unless you give them power. This is a common parental failing. We teach our kids to obey to follow authority figures. We teach them to not question majority. Sounds like a recipe for suicides to me.

Humans are cruel with words but, words have no control unless we allow it. Her parents taught her to allow words to have power.

Kids must be taught to question rules, laws, authority and majority in order to keep a healthy balance.

I suspect that technology is like a virus. We must become a good deal more sophisticated intellectually in order to control it rather than having it control us as it now does. We are very good at the kind of reasoning demanded by technology but very inadequate with reasoning required to learn to live together.

Our habits determine our fate to a large extent. Our habits, just like the habits of an athlete will determine success. Our habits prepare us for the now. Now is no time to change habits—habits control what we can or cannot do at the moment action is required. This includes especially our habits of mind. If we do not form an honest mind we will not behave honestly intellectually when the time requires it. This is what CT (Critical Thinking) is partially about. By studying CT we are creating the proper set of intellectual habits that we will guide us in the future.

“Blaming the victim” is rarely a productive line of thinking. People should take these moments and use them to try and understand how we related to technology. The internet is a fundamentally alienated medium of communication. I mean, really, I’m a bunch of text and a 13th century woodblock print in the world of ILP. When communicating on the internet, it is very easy to forget that there are people on the other side. But on the receiving end, it is very difficult not to take comments personally. This creates an environment where it is very easy to offend but offenses are taken very personally. People need to realize that and stay as detached as possible while using the internet for communication. As long as you recognize that the communication is alienated you can spoil for the effects, or at least keep them in mind.

I did not blame the victim, The victim is an innocent child. The culprits or bullys were not taught well either. The truest culprits are the adults that are responsible for teaching kids. These are the ones that should be held accountable. When you have a bully child or a victim child it is your teachings that created the child.

Words are just that, and bullies play on the fact that if they string them together in certain sequences: they can have a massive negative impact on their victims.

I agree with Krist’s statement: that parents should inform their children that words are just that… the question then arises for me: would the victim still react to the bullying, or would the knowledge imparted to them impede the bullying…

I would argue that words are far more than “just” words. Time and time again, the power of communication is demonstrated and as long as people fail to recognize that, its power will go unchecked.

I do agree with Kris that education is important on both sides.

Words are just words: until they have the desired effect, or hit the right nerve: they are words - to me, it’s the interpretation/impact: that makes them not just words…

My insights make me not give a shit about pretty much anything, Xunz: especially the way words/speech/speeches are used to impact upon others :confused:

Given that humans are social beings and that much of that sociality is revealed through communication, and furthermore that the purpose of language is to be interpreted in a consistent manner and have an impact . . . I don’t see how speech couldn’t have the interpretation/impact level to it provided that the people in question are indeed communicating.

As for the second comment: apathy is part-and-parcel with the decay of both society and morality. Your view is a deadly one.

Who said the interpretation had to be consistent? You? Why? What about interpretation based from individual need? we are social, but at the same time are individuals…

My view is a self-survival one, and a view I just can’t seem to help having, Xunz - anyway, I prefer to help society on a global level: a better use of time and energy, I think, and the impact of one’s efforts is greater too.

I’m not so sure about the last part of the barrage of questions, as for consistency in communication – I think you’ll find that it is a wonderfully consistent tool. That is the purpose of symbols, to create a consistent response.

As for helping society on a global level, I think that both ends need to occur. Otherwise it tends towards empty formalism or detached actions that benefit nobody.

…a consistent response requires weak/pliable minds - perhaps yours is? but all minds are not the same, and therefore your hypothesis wouldn’t apply to those individuals…

…and we choose the end that we wish to make those actions from - ah, the beauty of choice…