Five Minutes with Marshall McLuhan: the Google Executive Director of 2020?

by Steve Seager on July 29, 2013 . Views: 401

Marshall McLuhan | Steve SeagerAt almost every conference I attend, in almost every conversation I have with innovative digital or communication thinkers, I hear echoes of one of my heroes, Marshall McLuhan.

I’ll be referring to a McLuhanesque concept (media literacy) in an upcoming post on strategic management competencies soon, so I thought I’d share this post with you on the off-chance you aren’t familiar with him.

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase the ‘global village’, and know and understand the meaning of ‘the medium is the message’ (Sure? Nice podcast, that) but the depth and breadth of his work might be surprising.

McLuhan’s thoughts covered not only tactical effects of ‘electronic media’, such as the dominance of the image over text way before it was technically feasible, but also observed that:

‘The medium, or process of our time – electric technology – is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing – you, your family, your neighbourhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to ‘the others’. And they’re changing dramatically.’

He also summed up my mum’s worries (and probably yours as well) about Facebook when he said:

“All our alienation and atomization are reflected in the crumbling of such time-honoured social values as the right of privacy and the sanctity of the individual; as they yield to the intensities of the new technology’s electric circus, it seems to the average citizen that the sky is falling in.”

He could easily have been mistaken for a 2020 Google director plugging a semantic Lifestream/Google Glass/Knowledge Graph hybrid when, in 1964, he says:

“Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extension of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Take a look at this video interview from 1960. Yes, 1960. Very Twilight Zone!

Check out this article by PR Guru Paul Seaman for a ‘review’ of McLuhan, or visit the official Marshall McLuhan site for loads of great stuff.

– Steve

  • DonnyvonScotch

    Interesting analogy in the last clip from McLuhan, about the production line. Line vs Field: i remember someone being asked what the greatest barrier to development of knowledge was, and the interviewee answered ‘language’. They argued that the linear process of language and story was holding back progress as it could only explain a complex process in a linear, sequential way. Here McLuhan talks about a ‘field’ – and this is indeed much closer to our current storytelling which is often immersion in many channels, or a field of visual and narrative elements.

  • Nice insight, my man. Linearity sucks. And is, of course, a completely inaccurate construct for pretty much anything.

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