Robert Lawlor – Language and Perception of the Primitive

*Disclaimer* – This commentary is heavily McLuhanist and is mostly rehashed, but my experience of McCluhan is that it takes frequent rehashing to get on the other side of its seemingly incomprehensible exterior.

The assumption of the medium is what the vigilant individual has to get inside of, if they wish to be aware of how conditioning works. It is assumed that the typographic technology arose out of the spoken and written language of its time. But suppose for a moment that typographic text had a greater impact on language and thought than they had on it. The assumption of a linear evolution of language into typographic text is imposed by the typographic medium itself. Letter forms are analogous to architectural space, they have a gravity, they “sit” on the page, and their major function is the encasement of ideas into linear structures of thought.

In this video Lawlor digs into how language and the meaning of words shape our experience of ourselves and the world, particularly, the shift in how “the primitive” is viewed. The theory of evolution carries with it the assumption of typography, namely linearity. An unspoken conceit of the classical theory of evolution is that the culture that birthed the theory exists at the highest point of evolution. Of course, we spared no modesty in developing Darwinist theory. Although, it might have seemed revolutionary at the time, Darwin was just acting in a pattern established by the typographic medium, which shifted the word primitive from a venerable heritage to the failure of certain peoples to evolve with “civilized” culture.

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