Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Misunderstanding Media: A Blurry "Vision of Students Today" (Part One)

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Misunderstanding Media: A Blurry "Vision of Students Today" (Part One)

Article excerpt

THE IMAGERY IN A RECENT and very popular YouTube broadcast "A Vision of Students Today" exposes students in a college lecture hall seemingly living in a state of "all-at-oneness" with their media. Repetitive New Age marching music provides the soundtrack for a point-of-view camera that shakily glides along the stairs and chairs. Superimposed over this appears a 1967 quote attributed to Marshall McLuhan: "Today's child is bewildered when he enters the 19th Century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is searce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules."

This fades to a wall that reveals the graffiti "If these walls could talk ... What would they say?" For the next four minutes, expressionless students are shown holding up a myriad of statements like: "I buy hundred dollar textbooks that I never open" and "I spend 2 hours on my cell phone" and "I spend 31/2 hours a day online."

The data used to produce this version reveals a disdain for print in general and textbooks in particular. Instead, texting, emailing, downloading, and blogging take center stage in these students' lives and in this so-called vision. However, the unintended irony of this cinema verite sound bite is that all the media-bedazzled students use print as the only medium to state their obviously coached and choreographed messages.

Similar to Auden's "Unknown Citizen," the "Unknown Students" possess an eerie, disembodied anoymity. In place of the inappropriate McLuhan quote that introduced this video, the director should have begun with the invitation from Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The discontent and disconnection shown by the students take on the characteristics of "a patient etherized upon a table." (Eliot p.3)

The anesthetizing attributes of electronic media either intentionally or inadvertently celebrated in this video hark back to an insight McLuhan examined 44 years ago. In his blatantly misunderstood work Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, he states "The effect of electronic technology had at first been anxiety. Now it appears to create boredom." (McLuhan p.26)


Media have a way to cover up as well as disclose. For example, boredom masquerades as participation with do-it-yourself Websites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. …

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