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Are laptops becoming part of our bodies? In bizarre ruling, Federal judge invokes memory of baffling media icon Marshall McLuhan 7/10/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in McLuhan.

Kristine Lowe points to a Wired article in which a judge claimed that the search of a laptop required the same privacy protections as a search of our bodies. He said that hard drives were an “extension of our own memory” and warned against “government intrusions into the mind.” If you think about this for more than a few seconds, you will realize that his rationale fails to pass the laugh test, because the same arguments could be applied to a piece of paper. The lawyer who made this silly argument surely had a good laugh.

But the real memory invoked here was that of the late and often baffling communications theorist Marshall McLuhan (a point surprisingly overlooked by a magazine that at one time had listed him in its masthead as their “Patron Saint”). McLuhan thought that just about all technologies were extensions of our bodies because of the body-like capabilities they added, e.g. shovel=hands, car=feet, telescope=eyes. He actually coined the term “media” in its current usage for the new (at the time) broadcast communications, to complement words like speech, writing, and printing. These broadcasts brought us pictures and sounds from remote areas, so were supposedly extensions of our eyes and ears. By that logic, I guess we can also say that a lawyer is an extension of a headache.


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