Now All the World’s a Sage

We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.
The Medium is the Massage is one of my favourite non-fiction books. Its ‘collide-o-scopic’ presentation typifies my image of the psychedelic 60’s and a lot of what Marshall McLuhan said in 1967 is even more true today.

His comments about the our role in the new media age are echoed today in discussions about social media. It’s hard to believe that the following was said before Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the others existed:

How much do you make? Have you ever contemplated suicide? Are you now or have you ever been…? Are you aware of the fact…? I have here before me… Electrical information devices for universal, tyrannical womb-to-tomb surveillance are causing a very serious dilemma between our claim to privacy and the community’s need to know. The older, traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions—the patterns of mechanistic technologies—are very seriously threatened by new methods of instantaneous electric information retrieval, by the electrically computerized dossier bank—that one big gossip column that is unforgiving, unforgetful and from which there is no redemption, no erasure of early “mistakes.” We have already reached a point where remedial control, born out of knowledge of media and their total effects on all of us, must be exerted. How shall the new environment be programmed now that we have become so involved with each other, now that all of us have become the unwitting work force for social change? What’s that buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing?

Though no longer unnoticed, his view on the effects of television on politics rings truer when applied to today’s internet:

A new form of “politics” is emerging, and in ways we haven’t yet noticed. The living room has become a voting booth. Participation via television in Freedom Marches, in War, revolution, pollution, and other events is changing everything.

And he describes ‘big data’ 40+ years before it became a big deal:

Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition.

There is also the accompanying audio version that is available for free download on the site for the estate of Marshall McLuhan. An auditory ‘collide-o-scopic’ full of stereophonic effects, it also reflects the era it was produced in. Even with a sound from the past, the content remains current. Together with the print version it makes for what is probably one of the first multi-media books.

The Medium is the Massage is a great book on today’s new media.