Dystopian Catharsis

Do these stories feed us or placate us?

When I read The Hunger Games, for a moment I had hopes that our children where angry. Angry enough to realize what was happening around them. To realize what it meant. Perhaps it’s a quiet revolt stewing in places I don’t see.

Writers and actors want these stories to change us. I commend their bravery to speak out loud, to fight the ancient Leave-It-To-Beaver guard, to try and spark some form of action.

But I fear catharsis.

By the time one hour is up, my anger, fear, desire to act has been purged and released with the scrolling of credits. I know how fiction makes me feel. This feeling has to be because of the show I watched last night. Not because I’m urged to change my world.

What happens when the world isn’t stranger than fiction?


The dark side of McLuhan’s Tribal Man

Does the Global Village have a few dark alleys?

If you don’t know McLuhan’s theory, here’s my super-duper simplified a-little-too-much version of it:

Around 1964, McLuhan theorized that as technology advanced it would become a digital central nervous system of information connecting all media, like our physical central nervous system connects our senses.

In this connectivity, mankind will revert back to an oral society, back to a time of Villages — but this time a Global Village. In turn it would rekindle us back to a tribal-like life.

Now to break it down:

Yes, his central nervous system theory was a prediction of the Internet. Usually the mic drops here, we stop.

But wait, there’s more.

His Global Village is happening everywhere. It’s in every craft beer you drink, every food truck you eat at, pop up shop you buy a bar of elderflower artisanal soap from; every digital nomad you meet; every tattoo and piercing; every lumber-sexual you see drinking an Old Fashioned variant with locally source gin or whisky.

What does an oral society have to do with all of that?
The underpinning of most of McLuhan’s theories is how we interacted with a medium is far more important than it’s content. It changes us by interacting with it. The radio dial and transistors; understanding that invisible waves can transmit voices through the air; using the theatre of the mind to pretend that the announcer is talking just to you. All of this is more important than how captivating the content is.

The medium is the message

Marshal McLuhan

How does media make lumber-sexuals? It’s the consequences of how your brain rewires itself slightly when interacting with a medium. The dominant medium of choice can influence how your mind works, in essence your thoughts.

Back to the Lumber-sexual thing.


Get your giggles out now. It took me 3 years to not giggle when I heard the word “repository”

It means spoken word. Story Telling. Oral Traditions. Great grandmothers teaching grandmothers a recipe. Learning a childhood lesson through a bedtime fable. The sound of someone else’s voice as you remember what your learned. It rings with a sense of history.

McLuhan referred to this oral time and the time of the Tribal Man. And like the term Tribal, a sense of history comes. The exploration of it — asking yourself, when Mom said she was drinking an “Old fashioned” what was that? When Dad was showing me a picture telling me about camping — what was up with the moustache and touque? How would I look with a moustache and touque?

And the exploration of history deepens:

  • How did my grandfather make moonshine?
  • My grandparents sold their own butter to make ends meat. How can I do that?
  • Every tattoo is a story to tell; a visual history of your life.

Sure — this isn’t the exact same. Our current Orality is driven more through digital channels, but it’s still word of mouth.

The craft and artisanal resurgence is nice and all, I’m a huge sucker for that scene, but with the latest wave of Xenophobic-like politics happening in the US & UK, I’ve started wondering, is Orality a part of it?

What are our darker tendencies when we are Tribal?

If you’ve traveled like I have, you have walked into a place you shouldn’t have been. All eyes staring up at you wondering who you were, asking themselves “What is this stranger doing in here? Don’t they know better?” Now imagine going farther back in time. What happens to that situation in a more primitive world: Slavery. Salem witch hunts. North America’s genocidal colonization. Farther. Holy Wars. Dark Ages. Roman Conquest. Genghis Khan. Vikings. Farther.

Humanity has a history before the written word of being fiercely loyal and territorial, perhaps to a fault: racism, religious wars, family feuds escalated to extremes causing neighbours to kill. Our history is full of a darker side when anyone mentions “protecting our own.”

What about this latest wave of “alternative facts” or “fake news.” Is it fake, or is there an aspect that we just don’t care about anymore.

This is going to take longer to explain, but I’ll get there. I try to imagine myself in a world where the only thing I had was word of mouth — pre-literate, no books. I don’t think it would take long to see first hand the telephone game affect. In a small village the chances of me being a witness or involved in a rumour should be the same odds of getting hit by a rain pellet standing in an open field during a storm.

This could mean that I would be aware, and might even think that stories are subjective. Not everyone knows everything, and maybe that’s ok. You don’t have to read every page of a long book. Maybe just every odd page to get the “gist”. The details wouldn’t matter because no matter how much you try, someone will have a different take — like a rumour.

And if the details didn’t matter and stories are flexible, wouldn’t that mean the truth is just a malleable?

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this?

This isn’t a sandwich-board article denouncing our future splattered with “the end of the world” it’s more of an interesting exploration. By looking at the yin and yang of a societal shift, perhaps there’s more in McLuhan’s predictions to be aware of and bring into our conscious mind. With any technology there are consequences. Not right and wrong consequences, but change happens and taking the road less traveled will change you.

I feel there’s an aspect of media that’s not being spoken about, or discussed. Perhaps it’s because we’re looking at the content, not in the shifting landscape of technology and how we are interacting with it, which was McLuhan’s message all along.


The media binding problem

Multi-sensory integration makes my brain hurt

What was it like for the first organism with two senses?

I’ve been asking myself this for the past little while. I ask myself when I see people around swiping their screen knowing they’re throwing digital balls to capture their next Pokemon. I ask myself when I see another commercial for Samsung Gear VR. I ask myself when I read articles about long form content on Medium, and the amazing rise of podcasting, and even when reading about the latest epidemic of fake news.

The reason I ask, is rooted in McLuhan. If he’s right, and I’m feeling confident he is, then something is happening to Media right under our… senses. It’s merging and stewing. While the backbone of the internet has set the path, the kinks of media amalgamation are still being worked out. Media darwinism is aplenty.

Wittingly, or unwittingly, I think Snapchat is the first true hybrid . The first to break down the walls of traditional mediums.

It’s the first system that, as an internet affluent late 30-something
Gen-X/Gen-Y’er, had me stumped. My immediate “I don’t get it” reaction came from the root in my brain that couldn’t classify it.

It’s an ephemeral platform that can post text, picture, video, and augmented reality???

BOOM goes my old man brain.

It was my first exposure to Media. Plural. Capital M. The true idea of multiple senses finally converging. While I feel that I’m pretty progressive in my understanding, I still somehow had a silo’d concept of media: Blogger, WordPress, Ghost. STOP. iTunes, Soundcloud, Spotify. STOP. Youtube, Vimeo, Netflix. STOP.

Sure, you could mix and match. Start reading a blog. CLICK. Watch the embedded video from YouTube. CLICK. Google for the song from that video. CLICK. Listen to that song on Spotify. CLICK.

No matter how small the divide, it was still there. It still is. While I’ve come to terms with my conflict, I’ve also had to come to terms that I have crossed the line. I can now imagine myself as my father when I was showing him how easy the Nintendo controller was, all the while baffled why he had to always stick his tongue out as he swung his arms right & left as he pressed the right and left arrows.

You might think media has already merged. Perhaps this conversation was over in 2015. I disagree. If we were to imagine all five senses of a digital central nervous system, I think we’re only at the very beginning — two.

After all, while there are a small handful of younger superstars, the majority of Digital Natives, 29 and younger, are still in their work force infancy; still at the whim and will of my generation and before. We might mask our media brain farts well; we might be quicker on the up take to “get it”. But only after we’ve stepped aside, or get bulldozed over, do I think the Media merge can speed up the pace.

To all you young whippersnappers, hurry it up, will you? Create things that will confound my brain. Baffle me. I’m optimistic of our media’s future. Although I feel it’s in a bit of a rocky place, I also feel that this too shall pass. Media evolution will right the course. As long as it’s only a small fraction of platforms that cause this late 30-something to stop and think “I don’t get it”, don’t think for a moment that we’re even close to the end of the Media road.