Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week 4: Marshall McLuhan (part 1)

Marshall McLuhan was a controversial professor, author, lecturer and researcher in media, technology and communication. Since his death, his work has continued to provide a powerful framework for analyze of communication and media. He is most noted for his for interests in predicting the future of technology, most notably the internet and coining for “global village,” “the medium is the message” and “retribalized.”
In a 1969 interview with Playboy ( the reporter asks, “Would you describe this retribalizing process in more detail? (mcluhanmedia, 2008)” McLuhan provides an in-depth understanding. In a sense he is equating “retribalized” to a “global village”; a community that is no longer fragmented by class, literate, access to information and educational resources. McLuhan discusses how in tribes everyone sat around; heard and shared stories at the same time; and how the alphabet and printing started the beginning of a fragmented society based on access to information, classism, education, etc. He equates a “global village” or “retribalized” as returning to everyone having access and receiving information at the same time. 
He associates retribalization to ethnic groups that remain close to their tribal roots. The sense of community allowed people tribalized people to communicate and share information. He describes Western civilization as fragmented, alienated and dissociated. He cites the alphabet and printing as the beginning of fragmentation in Western civilization. McLuhan says all media from the phonetic alphabet to the computer are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment (mcluhanmedia, 2008).
However his prediction of an electronically intertwine world set the stage for a “retribalization” or “global village.” “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). It was through this global village that McLuhan identified the retribalization process, the reconnection of man in, “a new state of multitudinous tribal existences” (McLuhan, 1969, 2004).  The internet is proving a real-time link of accurate information about what is happening on a global scale and not all information is coming from the media. Instead the media is increasingly using social media as an indicator of what us accurate or true based on their numbers “followers” or “subscribers”…a “global village.”

McLuhan was obviously a man ahead of his time with enormous insight into the future of media, technology, and communication. I am personally interested in his predictions about politics and the USA political system. On September 24, 1976, he provided a candid interviewed with Tom Brokaw and Edwin Newman the morning after the Carter/Ford Debate. His predictions and theories continue to be analyzed and studied by a new generation of theorist and researchers that are looking to uncover or expand on theories from McLuhan’s work.


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