The title of Francesco Casetti’s book – The Lumière Galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come – is at the same time brilliant and deliberately misleading; indeed, though referring to McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy, it differs from it on at least three relevant points.
First, McLuhan insists on the importance of the medium’s technological and material basis in determining both the media experience and the perception of the medium itself; Casetti, by contrast, believes that media experiences and the very possibility of recognizing media specificities are relatively independent of their technological bases and their material conditions of viewing and listening, since they represent specific cultural forms
Second, McLuhan argues that ‘With [the] recognition of curved space in 1905 the Gutenberg galaxy was officially dissolved’ (253). Casetti’s central thesis about cinema in the digital era is exactly the opposite: the forms of cinema experience tend to survive after the end of cinema as a technological and factual apparatus, and they tend to endure even in the very different circumstances of audiovisual consumption characterizing the present condition; indeed, cultural forms bend disparate technologies and settings to their own expectations and needs, thus producing experiential forms that, despite their differences from the past, can still be targeted as ‘cinema’.
A third point of opposition between McLuhan and Casetti regards the structure of the book. Indeed, McLuhan designs his work as ‘a mosaic pattern of perception and observation’ (265), composed by a number of short chapters; on the contrary, Casetti arranges his discussion around seven chapters, each corresponding to a keyword: relocation, relics/icons, assemblage, expansion, hypertopia, display, performance. Beyond the paratactic succession of the seven issues, it is useful to introduce a distinction: while most of the chapters follow a descriptive-interpretative approach, two of them (assemblage and performance) adopt a more strictly theoretical orientation. We will set them apart in our presentation.
Ruggero Eugeni (2015) ‘The Lumière Galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 13:4, 443-447, DOI: 10.1080/17400309.2015.1093282.