You Know Nothing of My Work! In case you know nothing of his work, we shall open April's book discussion of Douglas Coupland's biography of Herbert Marshall McLuhan with a video clip of the famous scene from Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Coupland, author of Generation X, employs literary techniques that mimic the digital world in the unfolding of McLuhan's story. Footnotes lead to Wikipedia entries, and dialogue is pulled directly from online discussion groups. McLuhan's bibliography appears throughout the book in the form of Abebooks rare book sales, and a test for symptoms of autism (McLuhan is suspected of being on the spectrum) are included in the text as an example of the impact of the Internet's style on our ever evolving and/or shrinking attention spans.
McLuhan's range of study was vast — religion, education theory, philosophy, and poetics were all tentacles in his intellectual purview. But it was McLuhan's role in positing communications and media theory directly in the spotlight of 20th century scholarship that has garnered him such a revered role in the pantheon 20th century thinkers. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, first published in 1967, was his best-selling work. Also released as an audio recording, McLuhan espouses on the powerful role of advertising and media on our human senses and emotions.
Having coined the phrase "the global village" in the early 1960s, McLuhan predicted that electonic communications would soon shrink the world into the size of a village, clairvoyantly announcing the age of the Internet nearly 30 years before it existed. Physical distance has eliminated geographic factors as a hindrance to communication, and McLuhan envisioned this entity as an extension of human consciousness.
Questions for the Reader's Den:
- In what ways has communication technology influenced or changed your behavior?
- Would you rather watch TV or surf the Internet?
- If you were deciding to vote in an election, what sources would you use to make up your mind about a candidate?