It’s been a big week for media.
Not only was Julian Assange announced as preaching to the masses at Splendour (irritating!), and not only has the mysterious (to tech-tards such as myself) Google+ been launched, but the Murdoch empire has been facing some serious scrutiny into its methods of “investigation” (aka stalking, harassment, bribery and blackmail) and reporting. The Murdoch saga has even snaked its way to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street: British PM David Cameron’s media advisor is a former News of the World editor (likely to beat out used car salesman in this year’s “least trusted profession” polls) who is suspected of knowing about the use of phone hacking as a creative new source for its journalists. Furthermore, Paris Hilton has cracked it at suggestions she may be well past it, and Kim Kardashian is suing Gap – over a look-alike model and an unathorised breach of the IP in her image… Interesting. How similar must one look to us before we can sue for an infringement of our personal IP? I have a double walking around Sydney and Brisbane. This might be my ticket to the big bucks!
Not only all of those things, and arguably more importantly…
…Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of late media theorist (and visionary), Marshall McLuhan. The Canadian is credited with coining the phrases “the global village” – which he described as extreme concern with everybody else’s business – and “the medium is the message”. He also described what we now know as the internet – 30 YEARS before it existed. (He probably wrote sci-fi novels in his head, too).
He suggested that radio and TV – the mediums of the day – would become an “extension of our central nervous system”. I think given the extension of our hands to our mobile handsets with internet connectivity, that we could safely suggest that the internet – and its various modes of delivery (handset, iPad/other tablet [is there one?]/laptop/etc) – is most definitely a part of our collective central nervous system today. In fact, if I’m without internet, my nervous system becomes awfully agitated!
His words are still so apt – particularly his comment that media would result in the electrical re-tribalisation of the West. Much like Google+ Circles, we clump together based on interests. We may dismiss a potential date or new friend based on their “Info” on Facebook, and form friendships that may never have existed through a blog that encapsulates common interests and concerns (like… dating and shoes!). There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, however we probably should recognise that media plays a fairly significant role in our foray into how and who we socialise with. One possibly dangerous element to this re-tribalisation may be a tendency then to only use the Internet – with its infinite possibilities for information sharing and the spread of ideas – for limited purposes that suit only the “tribe” – less openness, more closure to those who don’t belong or feed us the information we want to hear? I suppose the Assange’s of this world are here to ensure our tribes face a few ugly truths, and that we continue to question who provides us with our news. I still don’t think he belongs at Splendour, though… It’s about music, not politics!
McLuhan also warned that an “age of anxiety” would be upon us, driven in large part by the loss of privacy associated with the new age of electronic media. Is my FB cool enough? Is my blog funny enough? Why am I doing nothing tonight, when I know that about 80 of my friends are out partying (according to Twitter)? and on and on. For example. :o)
All this at a time when a new report suggests that although Gen Y is more connected than ever, we also are lonelier than ever.
In celebration of his cleverness, ABC Radio National is running a series of broadcasts as part of its McLuhan Project.
Please, please check out some of the archives here. (Seriously well worth watching if you have the time – even if it is just to look at the fantastic 70s clothes and hair!).
The anniversary of his birth is a great time to pause and reflect on how we use the Internet – are we getting dumber and more narrow-minded because we have built whole communities that validate our ignorance? Are we meaner to people because our bullying is less proximate physically? etc... And where might we be going in the future with the use of the internet? Will it be used for good or evil?
Thoughts? (Apart from: WHOA that’s some heavy, garbled shit right there).
I would also like to note that McLuhan's comment that radio people are far more literate than TV people is probably still very accurate today.