I just read the New York Times review of Douglas Coupland’s new book on Marshall McLuhan. In summary, McLuhan revealed the workings of an emerging global village in which the medium or means of conversation defined it and really set the framework for understanding. Reviewer David Carr begins with the following: “Oh boy, yet another modern thinker who suggests that ‘electronic interdependence’ is the defining aspect of our time.” Coupland’s point is of course that fifty years ago, McLuhan predicted phenomena that have now become accepted fact — the medium is the message.
All true, but I would argue that we have moved way beyond that. In fact, the messenger has become the message. If we examine much of the babble streaming through social media, content is less irrelevant than participation. What is at issue is the connected-ness itself. There is a new profundity in the notion that the connection itself is now the communication.
It’s almost as if we were all side-tracked for five hundred years on a spur of human evolution. From the Renaissance onward, we sought to define individuality, carving out a life of the interior, only to merge again in this vast online sea. In many ways we have returned to a more feudal sense of community in which notions of privacy have given way to the priorities of connection and even the exploration of thought itself has been replaced by mythic codes.
I’m not arguing that it’s all bad. In fact, it is endlessly fascinating. Sure wish I could be around for the next fifty years to see where it all goes….