McLuhan’s conceptualization of ‘media’ is of great use for us to think about things and what is surprising is that the leaders of the object pact (in ‘material culture’, object-ontologies’, etc) do not care for him or his work even though it is directly pertinent to the topic. For my purposes it is clear that culture (the concepts and objects left behind in society’s wake – the products of social-(inter)action) is a medium as McLuhan described it and that “it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium”. [McLuhan, 2001:9]
Culture is the human medium & as such it ‘shapes and controls’ social-(inter)action rather than just providing ‘a canopy for the interpretative needs of the present’ (as Douglas & Isherwood put it). This is the problem of culture: the relations of power are all skewed by time because the entire medium is history. The ‘angel of history’ has tossed all of culture out into the garbage and our re-use of this refuse in entangled with the skeins of relations-of-power that led to the creation, survival, & availability of that culture. It is the pastness of culture that gives it that aura of force & authority that the ‘objectists’ have mistaken for an ‘agency’ (or worse ‘being’) because we are so entangled with pastness ourselves. We need the past as medium because it provides us with an interpretive canopy for our ‘now’ and our living-through-time has shaped and controlled who we are. It is therefore easy to read from us to it through this relation to the past and see the agency or being of objects (& concepts) as equivalent to people because rooted in pastness but this is not the case because culture was already a part of our ‘lived experience’; we have already dealt with. The ‘objectists’ have read their entanglement with the past & the imbrication of culture with past as though it were culture that comes first (because it comes from the past) when, in fact, culture is the result of social-(inter)action and it is society that comes first. People make (& continuously re-make) society & this is done with the medium of culture but that culture was made by society to be re-used by society & not the other way round.