We Become What We Behold

Marshall McLuhan’s book “Understanding Media” can be used as a tool and as a means of interpretation of our wants, objects of desire that we have. In the modern encounter with technology, our own creation, we “become what we behold”. Lang’s “Metropolis” is a good example of this statement.

Keywords: Media, tool, Metropolis.

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We Become What We Behold

In his book “Understanding Media" Marshall McLuhan expounds on the topic of media. Going from one subject to another, he smoothly switches to the topic of technology, particularly speaking about the gadgets that surround us – all in the context of media. The chapter named “The Gadget Lover” describes human dependence on technologies such as electricity, television and computers. He says that all those technologies were extensions and “amputations”, replacing certain body functions with new technological developments. He goes on further to describe that television produced images that opened doors for audile-tactile perception. People opened themselves to a medium that affected the entire being. That brought about the entire change into communication and social life. He quoted poet Blake who expounded on the theme of people “becoming what they behold”. He insisted that embracing those mechanisms people related to them as servomechanisms, finally beginning to serve them (McLuhan, 1994, p. 45).

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In this regard, it would be interesting to make a short analysis of Fritz Lang's film “Metropolis”. It was produced in Germany in 1925. The plot of the film is futuristic, describing the life in the city of Metropolis in 2026. The city is run by intellectuals who invented and supervise huge machines, which are operated by the working class. The producer describes a conflict between those two classes and shows people’s complete dependence on machines. When rebels destroy the machines the whole city population is endangered.   

Lang, in his own understanding and words, depicted what was to take shape later. He showed technologies that were invented to serve as the extensions of human bodies. People first shaped those tools and then those tools shaped theirlives. Lang’s "Metropolis" was produced in the result of a paradigmatic shift that occurred in the minds of people, who opened themselves to the world of technologies. Thus, they produced what they “beheld” in their minds and then began to serve the fruit of their hands in order to sustain their life style.

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This way, the subject of self-amputation has become “the other,” an object of desire, awe, and fear, and also a new influence on our own being and identity.

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