As a teenager, I first encountered the writings of Marshal McLuhan. His books took me on an adventure…, imagining that society was formed by its mediums of expression. People didn’t use a typewriter, they were typed. Like Joyce in Ulysses, he invented a new language to address the phenomena. Some of his language is mainstream today, although no one seems to remember where “The Global Village”, and “information surfing” came from.
McLuhan was a Canadian Professor of English Literature and communications theorist whose ideas about media and communication were innovative and controversial. A core premise was that our technology was both means and molder of communication, and accordingly shaped our culture. The content of a medium is less important that the medium itself. It is the medium that shapes us. Geronimo may have “heard” his world…, but literate man “saw” the world because typography shaped his world perception and cognition. Henry Ford could only exist because of Gutenberg.
In 1962, McLuhan wrote that “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind”. Sounds a little bit like the world web doesn’t it?