At the close of the year – at the close of the decade (though some dispute this) – it’s instructive to read or re-read McLuhan’s great text, the gutenberg galaxy.
I’ve had this book a long while (secondhand it cost me £1.50), being the 1967 reprint of the 1962 original. I can’t claim to have read it cover to cover; rather I’ve dipped in over the decades. Like today in fact. My motivation for posting was this sentence from the Prologue: ‘We are today as far into the electric age as the Elizabethans had advanced into the typographical and mechanical age’. OK, that was composed some 60 years ago, and our second Elizabethan is still on the throne!
What McLuhan couldn’t know then, although he hints at it throughout, is how the electric age has morphed into the digital age; and, as he does foresee, we are now one ‘global village’. He continues in that Prologue: ‘And we are experiencing the same confusions and indecisions which they had felt when living simultaneously in two contrasted forms of society and experience.
Whereas the Elizabethans were poised between medieval corporate experience and modern individualism, we reverse their pattern by confronting an electric technology which would seem to render individualism obsolete and the corporate interdependence mandatory’.
Perhaps he was wrong about individualism, since social media makes heroes of anyone and everyone not just the Kardashian’s. But all, or most, of us are daily, hourly, in the grip of the corporate giants who collect our data, share our data and make their coin many, many times over and over and over.
Happy 2020 to all my readers.