Saturday, December 6, 2008

In a message dated 12/04/08 18:46:39 Eastern Standard Time, Lance Strate writes:

"I'm not sure if you absolutely have to have a sense of humor to be a media ecologist, but it certainly is highly recommended. McLuhan was a notorious punster, Postman loved to people people on, and there is a trickster mentality that constitutes a significant strain in our intellectual tradition."

Lance is right. The tradition of humor in Media Ecology goes back over 16,000 years to the Lascaux cave paintings. Recent scholarship has suggested that the cave paintings were actually elaborate knock-knock jokes. The reason the humorous tradition was lost is that the creators of those cave paintings were in the habit of telling their knock-knock jokes with a stone club.

A careful reading of the Socratic dialogues reveals what a kidder Plato was. For example, consider this exchange between Socrates and Phaedrus.

(Phaedrus gives a long exposition on the relationship between lovers and then asks:)

"What do you think of the speech, Socrates? Isn't it extraordinarily fine, especially in point of language?"

Socrates: "Amazingly fine indeed, my friend. I was thrilled by it. And it was you, Phaedrus, that made me feel as I did. I watched your apparent delight in the words as you read. And as I'm sure that you understand such matters better than I do, I took my cue from you, and therefore joined in the ecstasy of my right worshipful companion."

Phaedrus: "Come come! Do you mean to make a joke of it?"

Socrates: "Do you think I'm joking, and don't mean it seriously?"

What a kidder that Socrates was! And a true Media Ecologist!

At nearly the same time, Moses was knocking them dead at the Red Sea with his own unique variation on the classic surfer dude/wipeout routine. That was after God had said to Moses, "Take two tablets and call me in the morning."

Fast forward 2000 years, and Johannes Gutenberg was killing the scions of the Catholic Church with his famous "You're not my type" tag line.

Our own electronic era owes a lot to the whimsey of Alexander Graham Bell who liked to play tricks on his assistant:
Bell: Come here Watson, I need you.
Watson: Who said that?
Bell: He he he.

There are countless other examples of the mirth and humor of the pillars of Media Ecology, but its late, and I'm not getting paid for this. However, I will include one of my favorites, which I've shared here before, the best McLuhan joke ever:

Several students of Media Ecology consult a famous psychic in order to contact Marshall McLuhan and finally get a clear explanation of his writings. The seer goes into a trance, but says nothing for several minutes.

Losing patience, one of the students cries out, "Dr. McLuhan, are you there? Why won't you speak to us?"

A deep voice replies, "The Medium is the Message!"

So the next time you are at a media conference, and someone tries to go all serious on you over the biases of communication, technological determinism or hot and cold media, remember that humor is an integral part of Media Ecology and look that person right in the eye and sing "Media Ecology almost is theology!" and walk away. If one person does that, they'll think he's crazy and try to ignore him. If two people do it, they'll think that Media Ecology is some sort of conspiracy and try to have them removed from the building. But if 50 people do it, imagine, 50 people singing "Media Ecology almost is theology!" and then walking out! They'll think its a movement, which it is.


Josh said...

This and your previous post have provided much in the way of smiles.

Robert K. Blechman said...