Marshall McLuhan on Video: The Global Village (1960)


The book is no longer “king,” says Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College. McLuhan studies the effects of mass media on behaviour and thought. In this CBC report on the teenager, he discusses how our youth facilitate the global shift from print to electronic media. Television has transformed the world into an interconnected tribe he calls a “global village.” There’s an earthquake and no matter where we live, we all get the message. And today’s teenager, the future villager, who feels especially at home with our new gadgets — the telephone, the television — will bring our tribe even closer together. ( )

• At the time of this interview McLuhan was working on The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which the idiom “global village” first appeared. It was his most prominent book next to Understanding Media (1964). 
• McLuhan warned that the future global village would be wrought with violence. He figured the electronic process would force people to “re-tribalize,” placing excessive stress on individuals and traditional identities. 
• He wrote a draft of The Gutenberg Galaxy in less than a month and the book was published shortly after in 1962. It examines the effects of the printing press on thought and space. McLuhan maintained it lessened the need for manuscripts, put monks and scribes out of work and developed a correct spelling usage. 
• His first book, The Mechanical Bride , published in 1951, maintained that advertisers exploited images of women to sell products.

Ours is a brand-new world of all-at-once-ness.’Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished. We now live in a ‘global village’…a simultaneous happening. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience co-exist in a state of active interplay.” (The Medium is the Massage, 1967, p. 63)

Key Themes & Ideas: “These new media of ours … have made our world into a single unit….the world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message…. all the time. A princess gets married in England and boom boom boom go the drums and we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa, a Hollywood star gets drunk…away go the drums again. I use the word tribal….it is probably the key word …”

Electronic culture is “with it” – book culture is away from it, solitary – e-culture a continually sounding tribal e.g. princess gets married  in England – electronic man is tribal – distinct from individual man – no private, point of view, self-definition – books still important, but have different role – but book’s role now diminished – books were our first teaching machine & only teaching machine during Renaissance – today we have many teaching machines – we learn everywhere, not just in school – the assembly line derived from books (printed pages) – but assembly lines now changed, simultaneous operations, not one thing at a time – no longer a line, but rather a field – print affected every aspect of our lives – books & media today work through our senses – print altered our sense ratios & so will new media – the difference between a teenager & an adolescent – teenager electronic – adolescent, like books.

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