Do new media disembody humans? [Marshall McLuhan Monday]


McLuhan spoke and wrote much on the electric age’s effects on humans as persons, having both body and soul:

When you go on the telephone, you are transformed. You become instantly available to your friend in Chicago or he becomes instantly here to be able to talk to us in Toronto. You can talk to Tokyo and Chicago and to New York simultaneously. And this gives you sort of the dimension of an angel: an almost preternatural being, disembodied spirit.

In the electric age, man becomes a kind of disembodied spirit. I don’t think our institutions have any way of coping with this new dimension of man—the angelic, discarnate man of the electric age who is always in the presence of the other men in the world. (TV Interview with Father Patrick Peyton, 1971)

Does our use of new media create a void which the physical once filled? Could this be one reason for the Western world’s continued disregard for the dignity and value of human life, sexuality, and bodies/health? Clearly, McLuhan was onto something here.

Perhaps this is an area where the Church would become a “sign of contradiction,” refraining from liturgies saturated with new media, for instance.

What do you think? Have you felt the effects of new media that McLuhan suggests?


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