"There is a new song, too complex to get all of first time around. It could come only out of the ferment that characterizes today’s pop music scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the famous Beach Boys, and one of today’s most important musicians, sings his own ‘Surf’s Up.’ Poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity, ‘Surf’s Up’ is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future."
For those in the dark, what McLuhan had to say goes something like this: Way back when, humans communicated orally. Ears and mouths were key in an environment dominated by sound. With the invention of the alphabet and written words, sight became the paramount sense. Reading was also linear, logical, and done in solitude, which led to the individualization of both people and nations. Then came electronic media: telegraphs, telephones, televisions. These devices, in their ability to traverse both time and space, re-tribalized society. McLuhan deemed this new predicament the Global Village. “The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum where everybody gets the message all of the time,” McLuhan said during an interview in 1960. “A princess gets married in England and boom, boom, boom go the drums. We all hear about it. An earthquake in North Africa, a Hollywood star gets drunk—away go the drums again.” But the content of the message isn’t what matters; what matters is the medium, because it is the medium that modifies our senses when processing the received information. McLuhan’s implications are radical, and certainly beyond any anxieties over the etiquette involved in adopting new technologies.
McLuhan: All media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it. It’s a process rather like that which occurs to the body under shock or stress conditions, or to the mind in line with the Freudian concept of repression. I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.