Brain Pickings

Uncovered Gem: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village


Why tribal man is the future of communication, or what TED has to do with Playboy.

A few months ago, we raved about this brilliant Marshall McLuhan interview from a 1969 issue of Playboy, where the iconic media scholar and pop culture philosopher — a man most famous for his contention that “the medium is the message” — lays out his fascinating and radical theories about “hot” vs. “cool” media, the loss of identity in the age of “electric media,” and other cultural phenomena remarkably relevant in today’s social media landscape, some four decades later.

Today, we look at this uncovered gem from 1960, where McLuhan explores how “electric media” are turning the world into one global village, changing our relationship with print, and extending our sensory capabilities — all issues occupying the media theorists, publishing gurus, cultural anthropologists and iPad enthusiasts of today to an extraordinarily similar degree. And though the video cuts off abruptly, it makes up in brilliance for what it lacks in ending — if there ever was a real cultural Nostradamus, McLuhan would be it.

These new media have made our world into a single unit. The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and — boom boom boom! — we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa; a Hollywood star gets drunk — away go the drums again.

We find this particularly relevant, after just having seen a fantastic SXSW panel on making content available in 100 languages, which covered TED’s Open Translation Project, the wonderful global conversation aggregator Global Voices, and Mozilla’s translation development platform — all brilliant tools enabling and democratizing the global dialogue, using new media as the vehicle for this powerful social movement.

How will you beat the global drum today?

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