Happy 100th Global Village Birthday

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Time flies when you’re in a hot medium. 100 years ago tomorrow, Canadian media pioneer Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born. In honor of this centennial, his American publisher, Gingko Press, is getting the word out. Here are a few:

His provocative theses caused him to become one of the most popular and controversial intellectuals of the 1960s and fundamentally altered – not just in the academic realm – our relationship with media. Especially today, when the political impact of media technologies such as the Internet, Web 2.0 and wireless communication is increasingly visible, McLuhan’s visionary thoughts about networking and participation in the “global village“ are becoming even more plausible. Celebrate with us! And discover (anew) the experimental thinker and keen analytical mind of early consumer culture.

He turned out to be more prescient than anyone would have expected. What he would have done with or said about the Internet is subject for speculation, but certainly he’s enjoying the spectacle of interaction and social networking wherever he currently resides. And here are some quotes from the man who massaged the medium –

“Official culture still strives to force the new media to do the work of the old media. But the horseless carriage did not do the work of the horse; it abolished the horse and did what the horse could never do. The audience, as ground, shapes and controls the work of art.”

“In the information age of the magnetic city all “hardware” city forms are obsolescent and tend toward the status of tourist attractions and museums. The old “hardware” form is made vivid by the new ‘software’ frame, or information surround. What had been ground becomes figure in a new figureground relationship.”

“The environment is always ‘invisible’ and its content is always the old technology.”

“When I say that ‘the medium is the message’ I don’t question the ‘content,’ but point out that every medium is a hidden service environment.”

“To say that any technology or extension of man creates a new environment is a much better way of saying that the medium is the message.”

“Any new technology, any extension or amplification of human faculties when given material embodiment, tends to create a new environment. This is true of clothing as of speech, or script, or wheel. This process is more easily observed in our own time when several new environments have been created.”

“It is the framework that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame. All media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms.”

“The ‘content’ of any medium is another medium.”

“Each new technology is a reprogramming of sensory life.”

“All human tools and technologies, whether house or wrench or clothing, alphabet or wheel, are direct extensions, either of the human body or of our senses.”

“Media technology is an abstraction and extension of one or another of our senses. Today our total sensorium is externalized.”

“My whole fallacy is wrong.”

[See Bruno Monguzzi’s Leonardo’s Horse on yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller.]

Herbert Marshall McLuhan

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →