Lamberti on probes, mosaic, and the position of the book


Probes are a way of investigating literacy, orality, and digital media.

What McLuhan understood … is that the development of new electric media was quickly inducing new anthropological constructs in which literacy would reset according to new forms of relational and communicative patterns and modes more and more encouraging collective interplay, hence retrieving the ancient idea of orality, but nonetheless shaping the new post-literate world (which he called electric age.)

Mcluhan was not there when the world wide web exploded and could not work with that medium; instead, he preserved the book as an object and as a form of communication, but reconfigured and redesigned it no longer on the basis of the Euclidean line, but of the tribal circle.

He conceived the printed page as a new interface on which to plug in and translate the new electric simultaneity by means of a renewed approach to ancient alphabetic and visual patterns.

He readjusted the traditional syntax in order to grasp the new sensorial implications encouraged by electric media, developed inclusive and paratactic patterns making an interesting use of discontinuous forms already explored by modernist writers and artists, at the same time retrieving ancient educational precepts.

By so doing he retrieved also a more general approach to knowledge and experience, in contrast with a too narrow specialisation, typical, he insisted, of the mechanic age (the age of literacy), but not longer useful to understand the simultaneity characterising the new electric world (the age of post-orality).

Joyce, Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, but also Francis Bacon, Gian Battista Vico and Thomas Aquinas offered him heuristic models based on aphorisms, paradoxes, and paratactic constructions to support what Bacon himself called ‘broken knowledge’, in fact a clear strategy to learn and memorise experiences and ideas in a way capable to induce the reader to ‘enquire further’…

This idea of broken knowledge and aphorism seems to offer a more appropriate approach also to the new electric environment which is more and more dominated by new psycho sensorial dynamics based on simultaneity.

the mosaic


[McLuhan] developed a new method of investigation (the ‘mosaic’) still based on literacy; and yet, he started to conceive the book and the written page as powerful interfaces to meet and explore new forms of orality, in that anticipating the later hypertext heuristic.

His form of writing is … an open probe which encourages an active response from readers, who are constantly asked to play with his words and aphorisms, his repetitions, his slogans, his puns, as well as with his gaps … In order to play fully, readers must no longer approach his pages in a traditional way, but must act differently, finding meanings through gaps (which he calls ‘resonant intervals’) and brave associations. “The Mosaic” is the actual translation of such an idea, a strategy that McLhuan employed and introduced since his most famous book, The Gutenberg Galaxy.

McLuhan’s mosaic retrieve[s] ancient forms of communication and art (such as a the graffiti, the manuscript, philosophical dialogues all forms linked to various phases of orality) also apt to contain and reveal the new ‘electric tribalism.’



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