I was introduced to Marshall McLuhan’s writings in college at Marymount Manhattan, and I was an art student trying to bridge the gap to technology: threading words into paint, editing video in a very early Adobe Premier, projecting slides over wireframe sculpture. I think New York does that to you. The synaesthesia effect. So many sounds and voices, smells and colors coming at you that you get swept up in it. You can’t tell a red fish from a blue fish.
So, the Intro to Communications class was taught by Alistair Sanderson, PhD who was at the time lugging a huge bag full of books and stuff back and forth from campus to help bring the SciFi network into being. We were to write a paper based on a book of our choosing about a major figure in the world of communications. Most people did “auto” biographies of famous or infamous people. I stumbled on the Global Village and have been enthralled with him ever since. The best free-form speech I’ve ever given, complete with question and answer period after.
A lot of McLuhan’s references are seriously dated, but that’s because he was trying to relate ideas about the what he saw as logical extensions of technology that were 40 years in the future. McLuhan wrote in 1965 about electricity retribalizing people at the same time it made everywhere the center. So I am spending a lot of time going back over some of McLuhan’s BIG ideas… not just his one-liners, and looking at them through the filter of our new media marketplace, where the buyer tells the seller what he wants, and sometimes even designs it himself. This upside-down world fits right into McLuhan’s “tetrad” script for man’s relationship to his technological creations.
Many people view the internet as a benign tool that can bring out the best in humanity by democratizing information. I wonder if this is an accurate read of human nature, or even if you can call this democracy. I want to re-explore man’s relationship to technology, and see if the great soothsayer has any other pearls of wisdom to impart about how best to cope with the intersection of biology and technology. Look for more on this subject soon.