I took a break from my TV-fast to watch Frontline tonight. It was another excellent program about the media by Douglas Rushkoff
called The Persuaders
. It reminded me of this quote by Marshall McLuhan:
Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commerical interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.
I think McLuhan's point is that anytime we consume electronic media, it's giving control of our senses over to a third-party temporarily. Right now you've entrusted me—some random guy in Oregon you probably don't know—with your eyes and attention. Your nervous system is processing this post and evaluating these words. Once *every* message entering our consciousness is paid-for by a commercial interest, we've given away our ability to have an authentic culture. What's hopeful about this view of media is that the choice is ultimately ours; we have some power over how much control over our nervous system we give out.