“In accepting an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame a few years ago, General David Sarnoff made this statement: ‘We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.’” (McLuhan, pg. 11) (Pg. 64 in our text)

Literally, this quote is saying that “we” are quick to blame technology for the issues that arise from them instead of focusing on how these technologies are being used by people. The issues come from how people use them, not from the technology itself. The technology is inherently natural, it is the way they are used that demonstrates its value.

Intellectually, this quote made me think of the duality of human beings. On the one hand, we have the capacity to do amazing things, like using technology to launch a telescope that can see the furthest ends of the universe (I recommend looking at some of the new images from the JWST if you haven’t already.) On the other hand, we also use technology to create shows like “The Real Housewives of NJ.” We can do incredible things and we can also be slaves to our own devices, literally and figuratively.

Emotionally, this quote made me feel reflective. As I continue my academic studies, I am constantly questioning my own habits, trying to become better. Reading this made me feel that there are things that I need to focus on, in order to grow. For example, scrolling Reddit or Instagram on my phone are bad habits that I practice using technology, and that is something that I need to actively work on.

As far as connection goes, as soon as I read this quote, I instantly thought of the passage I quoted from Postman in BP#1. If you recall, I reacted to a quote about the creation and use of the mechanical clock. Monks created an incredible technology in the clock, yet it has been used for something completely different than its original purpose. The monks used it to enhance their worship of God, which can be considered good, whereas corporations have perverted the use to push their agendas of money hoarding at the expense of their employees.



“He parodies Spanish history. Following contact with the Incas, he writes, “In all Castille, there was a great commotion. All day and at night in their dreams the Spaniards were saying ‘Yndias, yndias, oro, plata, oro, platadel Piru’” (“Indies, Indies, gold, silver, gold, silver from Peru”) (fig. 2). The Spanish, he writes, brought nothing of value to share with the Andeans, nothing “but armor and guns con la codicia de oro, plata, oro y plata, yndias, a las Yndias, Piru” (“with the lust for gold, silver, gold and silver, Indies, the Indies, Peru”) (372). I quote these words as an example of a conquered subject using the conquerors language to construct a parodic, oppositional representation of the conqueror’s own speech. Poma mirrors back to the Spanish (in their language, which is alien to him) an image of themselves that they often suppress and will therefore surely recognize. Such are the dynamics of language, writing, and representation in contact zones.” (Pratt, Pg. 35) (Pg. 70 in our text)

Literally, this quote is describing Poma’s writings. He antagonizes the settlers that came looking for silver and gold and who they dreamt and spoke about it in their sleep. Pratt explains how Poma used the conqueror’s speech in a way that is uncommon for oppressed people. He uses the Spanish language in a parodical way to undermine the oppressive representation of the Spanish.

Intellectually, this quote made me think of revolt. Here you have a man, who had been oppressed and had a new language forced upon him, and he used said language to protest the Spanish in a way that was directed towards them specifically. He was able to learn this language and wield it as his own.

Emotionally, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy and pride. Empires have been invading and pillaging indigenous for as long as human civilization has been present in our world. The “strong” have always taken advantage of the “weak,” and the same can be said when the Spanish invaded and massacred the Inca. Reading about Poma and how he used the Spanish’s own language against them this way made me happy, since this was his way of standing up for himself and his people, unlike so many others who have been oppressed and erased from history.

This connected to what Gee said about language and how intellect was associated with literacy. The Spanish colonists spread their use of language and culture of writing theoretically and condemned those that were oppressed and conquered for not being able to be proficient in it. Puma shows us that western literacy does not equate intelligence. Poma uses his oppressor’s language against them. He pokes fun at them, showing understanding of their language, as well as wit and humor.

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1 Response to BP#2

  1. This is a good post. However, I don’t think that your description of McLuhan’s quote is actually what’s going on or what the point is that he’s making. I’d suggest going back and find where he uses the term “somnambulism.” That should help.

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