wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Marshall McLuhan (1911-80)Marshall McCluhan


Canadian professor and media expert (pictured right), famous for coining the phrases:

  • “the medium is the message” 
  • “global village”.


Key books

The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)


Technology (including electronic media like the telephone and radio) will create:


1. A global village

An electronically interdependent world, making it more susceptible to global terror and political brainwashing ( like George Orwell’s Big Brother).

The Internet and 9/11 have shown the accuracy of  McLuhan’s predictions.


2. New products


3. New lives

Technology will change people’s lives.

Its moral effect depends on how we use it, so we must be aware of its consequences.

For example, new communications technology affects how we perceive ourselves and other people.

Wisdom suffers when we emphasize one of the senses (seeing, hearing, touching) at the expense of the others (e.g. the telephone replacing reading in an oral society).


Key quotes on society

The world has become a computer, an electronic brain…. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside.

But certainly the electro-magnetic discoveries have recreated the simultaneous ‘field’ in all human affairs so that the human family now exists under conditions of a ‘global village’.

“Print is the technology of individualism”.


Understanding Media (1964)


The age of electronic media (with its consequent information overload) has brought:

  • anxiety.
  • boredom.
  • the need for empathy and psychological well-being.


 Hot and cold media


A “hot” medium (like print and radio) gives less sensory participation but more information than “cool” media (like TV, the telephone and personal communication).

Hot media will be more socially disruptive in “cool”, less industrialized countries.

Cool media will cause more disruption in richer, hotter cultures like America.

Replacing a hot medium with a cool one will worsen human relations, because people’s participation in communication falls.


Television might seem a passive medium, but it can:


1. Inspire great emotional involvement from its audience

(as with John F. Kennedy’s funeral).


2. Brainwash people 

This must be prevented by supplementing it with other media like books.


One final point...

“The medium is the message”

i.e. the medium determines how its message is perceived .

The “message” of any technology or communication medium (like TV and the telephone) is its impact on people’s lives.

So General Electric is not in the business of making light bulbs but moving information, because this is where the usefulness of electric bulbs lies.

Global media make us more conscious of the world’s problems, so that “we wear all mankind as our skin”.


Key quotes on communications and society 

The medium is the message, because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.

If the nineteenth century was the age of the editorial chair, ours is the century of the psychiatrist’s couch.


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