Marshall McLuhan Forecast the Crises of Today

06Jul11

Five Things You Need to Know: We’ve Been Here Before… and We’ll Be Here Again

KEVIN DEPEW  JUL 06, 2011

This may strike you as very familiar:

“Because of today’s terrific speed-up of information moving, we have a chance to apprehend, predict and influence the environmental forces shaping us — and thus win back control of our own destinies. The new extensions of man and the environment they generate are the central manifestations of the evolutionary process, and yet we still cannot free ourselves of the delusion that it is how a medium is used that counts, rather than what it does to us and with us. This is the zombie stance of the technological idiot.”

In other words, the increasing speed of information flow, new media, how we respond to it and how it affects us is far more important than the content of the medium, which is certainly true of Twitter and Facebook and others. It’s something I’ve written about frequently (see: The Crisis of Non-LinearityThe Increasingly Intangible Crisis, and The Crisis of the Real). Most of the content of Twitter and Facebook can easily be dismissed, but the impact of the mediums and the emergent networks transcends the content.

And then, from the same source:

“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.”

Indeed, not a day goes by that we aren’t bombarded with news that the sky is falling in (see below, for example). Our technology, the immediacy of our access to information and data, both informs and intensifies our electric circus. Only yesterday, the Casey Anthony verdict turned into a Twitter circus immediately, the content of the trial and the verdict itself superseded by a bizarre publicity failure (or possibly a success if there truly is no such thing as bad publicity) by the baked goods company Entenmann’s as well as a tweet about the verdict by the famous-for-being-famous celebrity Kim Kardashian; the content of the trial verdict, which she was expressing her disbelief over, was shattered by the implicit self-referential echo back to the OJ Simpson trial, for whom Ms. Kardashian’s father helped win an even more famous not-guilty verdict.

The reason I bring up the new media quotes above are to direct you to the interview from which they were taken, and more important, to point out when this interview took place… March, 1969. Yes, 1969. A Playboy magazine interview with Marshall McLuhan. We’ve been here before, it seems. And we’ll be here again.         http://tinyurl.com/6aqn6vb

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