A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

Remembering is distorting

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Bartlett proved it long ago      

In Remembering Bartlett, who was a don in Cambridge, uncovered a remarkable fact.  People don’t remember things as they were; they distort them.  And the farther back they try to remember things the more distortion there is.  

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  How much of what you remember is a distortion? 

Does this not explain the experience we all have that others memories are different from our own?  And the necessity of telling family stories over and over again if the story is to be preserved?  And the ultimate futility of the ritual:  for unless the story is recorded in some way, on tape or in writing, it will change, and if it is recorded the story is not what you thought it would be.  It is a re-membering, a distorting.   

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 186.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Technology 1 Comment

1 Comment to Remembering is distorting

  • Wonderful post. I think about why we remember the stories we do every day.
    I believe that stories are revolving scripts of our own creation. They are the narratives that we live by, and through which we define ourselves, our world, and our role in it.
    If someone asks us to tell him or her something about ourselves, we share something of our lives and we put it in story form. Our lives become a collection of events, all coalescing into our personal narrative in which each of us play bit parts.
    Charles Hale

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