Thursday, July 21, 2011

Does anyone in the global village really know anything of his work? Happy birthday Marshall MacLuhan

McLuhan Collection
Today marks the 100th birthday of Marshall McLuhan (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980). Famous for the aphorisms/statements "the medium is the message" and "global village", today, in our hyper-connected media world of the aging 21st century, his work is more relevant than ever.

Though the seminal Understanding Media was the first of his works that I read, it is The Gutenberg Galaxy that I often return to.

In the electronic age which succeeds the typographic and mechanical era of the past five hundred years, we encounter new shapes and structures of human interdependence and of expression which are "oral" in form even when the components of the situation may be non-verbal. (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962, p. 3)
We are living in a period richer and more terrible than the "Shakespearean Moment" ... What will be the new configurations of mechanisms and of literacy as these older forms of perception and judgement are interpenetrated by the new electric age? (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962, p. 278)

Named the "patron saint" of Wired Magazine (whose style is certainly an outgrowth of McLuhan's early work, The Mechanical Bride. Perhaps his most meta appearance was in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, where McLuhan himself appears and turns on a pompous filmgoer to say,  "You know nothing of my work." In truth, I don't think we yet fully understand the impact of his work.

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