Sunday Book-Thought 62

The classicist Eric Havelock and the psychologist David Olson assert the thought-provoking hypothesis that the efficiency of the Greek alphabet led to an unparalleled transformation in the actual content of thought. By liberating people from the effort required by an oral tradition, the alphabet’s efficient “stimulated the thinking of novel thought.”
Try to imagine a situation in which the educated members of an oral culture had to depend entirely on personal memorization and meta-cognitive strategies to preserve their collective knowledge. Such strategies, however impressive, came with a cost. Sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, dependence on rhythm, memory, formulas, and strategy constrained what could be said, remembered, and created.
Maryanne WolfProust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007), p. 65.


Sunday Book-Thought 61

If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigation charts? I am curious to know hat would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties. Would we, then, cease to look at works of art as an explorer might regard the gold and gems used as the ornaments of simple nonliterates?
Marshall McLuhanUnderstanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994 [first published 1964), p. 66.