The American stake in literacy as a technology
or uniformity applied to every level of education,
government, industry, and social life is totally
threatened by the electric technology. The threat
of Stalin or Hitler was external. The electric
technology is within the gates, and we are numb,
deaf, dumb, and blind about it's encounter with
the Gutenberg technology, on and through which
the American way of life was formed.
Marshall Mcluhan 1964
Before the invention of the printing press books were few and hard
to come by. They were usually read aloud to a group and everyone in
that group shared the same experience. With the advent of Gutenburg's
printing press books and eventually newspapers became available to
almost everyone. Reading became an individual experience and the
concept of individualism grew as the new print technology spread
around the world. Soon a new form of society emerged based on the
individual, the Democracy.
In 1844 the first electronic text, the telegraph, changed the press
in that news was available from all over the world with just a few clicks
of a telegraph key. Thus was born the "headline", which mimicked the
telegraph message with it's brevity and non sentence structure and
with the headline began hype.
With the twentieth century came more and faster forms of mass
communication, shrinking the planet into a global village and making
mankind more tribalistic. The invention of radio became a tribal
drum in the 1930's. Countries with strong tribal or feudal histories,
Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan became Fascist and barbaric while
America, England and others with our high literacy rates were mostly
immune to radio's negative effects.
Since radio there have been more and faster forms of mass
communication and technologies. Each has changed our world and made
it more like a village and individuals, of the caliber found at
the dawn of the Gutenberg revolution, are quickly being lost in
mankind's' new electronic collective consciousness.
In the last few years the emergence of the World Wide Web has
created an information source that other media are hard pressed to
compete against. Anyone can put up a Web page and provide the world
with a wealth of information, sometimes in complete disregard for the
truth. As a result the worlds' news media has to rush information
to the public in order to compete. More and more often without
waiting until the facts are in.
Freedom without responsibility is not being free it is being wild.
In trying to provide instant news today's press is abandoning its'
responsibility of providing the factual information so crucial to
You cannot understand media without Marshall McLuhan any more
than you can understand space-time without Einstein. Prof. McLuhan
passed away before the dawn of the cyberspace continuum but upon
hearing about the first instance of Electric writing (printing text
in light on a screen) he had these words in his book, "Understanding
The alphabet (and its extension into typography)
made possible the spread of power that is know-
ledge, and shattered the bonds of tribal man, thus
exploding him into an agglomeration of individuals.
Electric writing and speed pour upon him, instan-
taneously and continuously, the concerns of all other
men. He becomes tribal once more. The human family
becomes tribal again.