McLuhan On a Dime

Today I picked up a copy of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. I found it in a thrift store in the small town of Pine, Arizona.

It set me back 10 cents.

For another dime I got a book from the mid 1970s full of funny predictions for the 21st century… according to a Rand prediction listed on the cover page, by 2004 we should have already Genetic Manipuation (maybe), Large-Scale ocean framing and mining (is that commercial fishing?), household robots for routine chores (where is mine?), automated highways (is that photo radar?)…

But back to McLuhan…

It is the book that’s making history– and hysteria– with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and the twentieth century.

Now I am not much of an academic or follower of literature, and you will find me tossing references here to Shlabucky’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1967) or Melankovf’s Model of Internal Magnified Intelligence (1982), but I think it was time to dive a little into this classic.

Our new concern with education follows upon the changeover to an interrelation in knowledge, where before the separate subjects of the curriculum had stood apart from each other. Departmental sovereignties have melted away as rapidly as national sovereignties under conditions of electric speed. Obsession with the older patterns of mechanical, one-way expansion from centers to margins is no longer relevant to our electric world. Electricity does not centralize, but decentralizes. It is like the difference between a railway system and an electric grid; the one requires railheads and big urban centers. Electric power, equally available in the farmhouse and the Executive Suite, permits any place to be a center, and does not require large aggregations.

I am not convinced that “departmental sovereignties” have really melted away, perhaps melted some in the corners.. but substitute networks, the internet, for “electricity” and you have the true meltdown of power, control, and access to information that is unfolding us in real-time.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.