Transmitting Culture: 4.


Hoofstuk 4 – Fault Lines


Die Aardbewing Gebied

Isn’t the awkwardness of this position (the position of the mediologist), being in both places yet belonging fully to neither, typical of most people’s along the century’s continental divide?

The mediologist interprets our grand crisis of identity as the result of a confrontation between the technologic crust of the human species, its renewal ceaselessly accelerated, and the underground mantle of cultures, under violent compression as they meet despite the latter’s weakened elasticity.

The pace of our displacement intensifies the counterneed for placement. Cries of human protest are the understandable expression of those caught within the cultural equivalent of geologic uncorformities.

The human animal survives by consulting his dreams as much as his prosthetic devices.

Whoever refuses to grasp both ends of the thread carefully risks treating the problems by overlooking the problematics.

From the shrinking of distances he (McLuhan) deduced the happy amalgamation of cultural memories; this meant blurring the two orders of space (technology) and time (culture).

These still do not modify the basic anthropological need to believe, any more than the technologies of knowledge acquisition alter our competence and appetite for knowing.

It is a sure thing that one does not put on a new culture the way one changes software or cars. No less sure is the fact that each period’s cognitive systems are constructed as a function of the available enclosed within the individual’s brain (Pierre Levy).

Individuals are composed of layers, like a building of several floors (social class, language, nationality, religion, profession, region, sex, etc.).

For Tzvetan Todorov the intercultural is constitutive of the cultural.

Hierdie gedeelte is vir my moeiliker om te verstaan, maar dit lyk asof daar gese word dat met die versnelling van die spasie waarin ons beweeg (tegnologie) het ons al hoe minder tyd om ‘n goeie basis vir ‘n kultuur te formuleer wat weer lei tot die fragmentering van kultuur en eindelik tot ‘n moontlike gefragmenteerde wereldkultuur. 


Technology is freighted with positive or negative values, fitted into institutions or social networks (like the speed bump or the alarm clock).

The manufactured and even standardized machine-object (the auto-mobile) can also vehiculate dreams, style, values, and the self-image of an era. Thus can it also materially emblematize an era’s spirit in symbols, especially at a distance.

Recording, saving, archiving, and consulting: all imply know-how, sometimes personalized and sometimes, as so often today, delegated to machines.

Much as each organism selectively picks up from its environment pertinent information that blinks its signals only to it, a lineage of cultural evolution singles out, from a complex of available innovations, the ones most meaningful to it and that it alone can best optimize.

Need one truly choose between technicism and culturalism?

Without the quasi-chromosomal conjunction of cultural breeding ground with new technology, an innovation will not come forward and take over.

Hier is dit eenvoudig. Tegnologie en Kultuur het mekaar ewe nodig om voort te bestaan. Die een kan nie sonder die ander nie. Tegnologie kweek ‘n nuwe soort kultuur in die sin van hoe die boodskap oorgedra word wat daarmee saam die boodskap self beinvloed. En sonder ‘n nuwe soort kultuur wat voortleef op ‘n nuwe tegnologie kan tegnologie nie geproduseer word nie. So dit is ‘n konstante wisselwerking tussen die twee agente om ‘n bestaan te handhaaf.


A tractor will outperform a plow, period. These things are not open for discussion as tastes and colors are. A balance sheet of yield per acre speaks for itself. For the descriptive ethnologist, no one group of people is superior to the others; for the historian of technolo­gy, or the technologist, some tools are indeed superior to others. In the cul­tural realm, before and after count for nothing; chronology is never an argu­ment for or against.

Which things exactly, then, are technological, and which cultural? I sug­gest that technologic covers those devices or systems that, so to speak, carry a one-way ticket, and cultural those that are open to trips back in time at any moment in history. Once artillery was invented, no army sought to supply itself with crossbows. After the appearance of the railroad, no transportation authority made use of the stagecoach. After antibiotics, boiled decoctions changed their status. But in, say, art history, no irreversible ratcheting ever upward exists: Picasso can recycle art negre for his own purposes, and I am permitted the luxury of preferring Cimabue to Dubuffet. All periods and all schools are fair game; cultural history does not obey time’s arrow. And noth­ing warrants the supposition that Rawls is a more pertinent political philoso­pher than Rousseau just because he was born later or that the good Doctor Schweitzer had loftier ethics than Saint Vincent dc Paul because he had stored up three additional centuries of spiritual experiences. In the history of loans, norms, and values, the notion of an irreversible threshold or water­shed lacks pertinence. Yesterday’s technological object informs me about the one I had in my hands yesterday. Yesterday’s preserved painting or myth teaches me about what I am today and can become tomorrow.

industrial object that has fallen into disuse will be stored in all open-air museum of science and technology. The art object ends up in a museum tout court. No engineer will go off to the museum of technology maintained by the engineering institute in order to improve his present-day work, yet (.6zannc regularly looked at Poussins in the Louvre to learn how to paint bet­ter: paradoxically, the work removed from its context continues to function, whereas the desituated machine is kaput.

Let me put the same idea in other words. Culture is inherited; technology, received. Culture is transmitted by deliberate acts. It is a singular content of intimate concern to me, to my identity proper, for which I am personally responsible, it being incumbent on me to will it to those who will come after. Technology is transferred and disbursed spontaneously: I derive good from it but am not really needed by it; it stands in availability. (This points up the difference between conserved things and stocked items.) There are techno­logical lineages but only cultural legacies. For those things that differentiate me from others, that single me out as different, I feel a sense of responsibili­ty. Of those things by which we all resemble one another, I am a consumer, a user, a receiver, and a victim but not a designated recipient or beneficiary. For all its rendering possible and easy the act of messaging, technology is never itself a message. Only culture call be addressed to someone.

Hierdie gedeelte is net eenvoudig awesome! Lees die gedeelte bo. Dit verduidelik alles.

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