The Zuckerberg Galaxy Greets McLuhan's Centennial
Marshall McLuhan, the greatest media theorist of our age, the man who coined the expressions "global village" and "the medium is the message," was born on the Canadian prairies 100 years ago this month. He won critical acclaim with his books of nearly half a century ago, Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Galaxy. While he looked at Gutenberg technology in the rear-view mirror, he foresaw 50 years into the electronic future of what we today can call The Zuckerberg Galaxy.
In a single paragraph of The Gutenberg Galaxy, published in 1962, McLuhan forecast the personal computer, Google, Wikipedia, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, and several generations of multimedia World Wide Web technologies. He wrote: "The next medium, whatever it is — it may be the extension of consciousness — will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind."
McLuhan was neither a scientist nor an engineer nor an economist. He was a literary man, a Renaissance scholar, devoted to the tradition of Aristotle, Cicero, and Thomas Aquinas, steeped in the doctrines of formal cause and natural law.
His formation enabled McLuhan to see all technologies, including electronic media, as environments — man-made tools that tend to become imperceptible as they reshape their makers and as their makers become dependent upon them as vital ambiances: water for fish, air for birds.
McLuhan and his associates formed a school of thought that came to be called "media ecology." Not the political movement to protect the natural environment from man, media ecology is an apolitical outlook concerned with protecting our humanity from the hazards of overexposure to our man-made milieu.Continued on the next page