At almost every conference I attend, in almost every conversation I have with innovative digital, media or communication thinkers, I hear echoes of one of my heroes, Marshall McLuhan.
I’ll be referring to a very ‘McLuhanesque’ concept of mine (media literacy) in an upcoming post on the three strategic management competencies for the Chief Communications Officer of the 21st century, shortly. So, I thought I’d share this post with you on the off-chance you aren’t very 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 you may be surprised to discover the depth and breadth of his work.
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 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-honored 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.”
“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!
UPDATE: PS If you are a journalist, editor, generally curious communicator or even young tech/digital guru, you may want to check out this fascinating report on the first ‘tele-paper’ from 1981 courtesy of radical innovations from the San Francisco Examiner. Trust me, it’s worth it!