It’s the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan, the great media theorist. It’s time for some quotes. This one’s about the meaning of a phrase he coined (or popularized?), the “global village.” There are more quotes to come.
The global village is not created by the motor car or even by the airplane; it’s created by instant electronic information movement. The global village is at once as wide as the planet and as small as a little town where everybody is maliciously engaged in poking his nose into everybody else’s business. The global village is a world in which you don’t necessarily have harmony; you have extreme concern with everybody else’s business and much involvement with everyone else’s life. It’s a sort of Ann Landers column writ large.
What business do insurance adjustors in Kalamazoo, Michigan have with the Casey Anthony trial, the marital travails of Tiger Woods, or that picture of me playing with my son in the backyard? That’s the world television began to give us in McLuhan’s day. The Internet has completed the transaction. And most of us signed up for Facebook and Google Plus without thinking about that question.
Now it’s well known that you can’t quote McLuhan on a blog without an ironic wink. By quoting him in such a medium, I’m only making it all worse.
But we’re way past the possibility of communicating in some way other than the Internet. No serious person I know is seriously proposing that serious people pull out of the global village. The best serious bloggers (?) can do is call on people to take up residence in the wisdom quarter rather than the red-light, penny-arcade, or fair-and-balanced districts.
McLuhan can help us do that by forcing us to look at our air sometimes rather than only and ever looking through it.