Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | May 11, 2010

McLuhan was right; the “Global Village” has arrived

While Marshall McLuhan is no longer the household name he was in the early 70’s, I vividly remember sitting in my college communications class, listening intently as the professor exposed me to McLuhan’s communication theories. “The medium is the message” and the “global village” were terms that stuck in my head and have often come to mind as the Internet and our lightning speed communication tools – email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – have become a part of our daily lives.

When McLuhan coined the term “the global village” in the late 60’s, he wrote that the print culture would be brought to an end by what he called “electronic interdependence.”

Are we not seeing the decline of print newspapers and publications in favor of online communication methods? Newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and more brief forms of communication, the blog (weblog) and microblog (Twitter), are overtaking print media by leaps and bounds.

Has anyone ever heard of the Kindle? Who hasn’t? Amazon’s e-reader has flown off the shelves for months, and other companies are coming out with their own versions. Traditional print publishers are already focused on transitioning their materials to a digital format that works with e-readers. Major magazine publishers are rumored to be close to launching a joint venture that would focus on digital distribution of their content. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released figures placing trade e-book sales over $12 million for April 2009, a 228.3% increase over April 2008.

McLuhan also predicted in his writings that we would move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity with a “tribal base.” What would you point to as our tribal/global village? Facebook, perhaps? YouTube? MySpace? WordPress? Millions are coming together from all over the globe to form tribal connections through a medium that didn’t exist a decade ago.

YouTube celebrated its 5th anniversary in February; launch date 2005
Facebook marked its 6th anniversary; launch date: February 4, 2004.

MySpace’s start-up goes back to August 2003.

Mmm…not exactly ancient history!

Most of my career was spent developing newsletters and brochures for hospitals and industries, from concept to completion. I conducted the interviews, wrote the content, took photos, and completed the layout & design of monthly and quarterly publications. It was a process that took two to three weeks. The information included was, necessarily, somewhat “old news” by the time it was printed, mailed, and received via “snail mail.”

In more recent years, employee communication was augmented with email blasts to all staff, electronic bulletin boards in the Cafeteria, and employee communication updates about benefits, etc., available via protected areas of the hospital’s or company’s website. E-newsletters (electronic versions of print publications) are starting to become more the norm, in lieu of hard copy communication vehicles.

And now there is blogging.

A term originated in 1997, Wikipedia defines a blog (a contraction of the term “web log”) as a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. More than 112,000,000 blogs were being tracked by search engine Technorati as of December, 2007. Within the past two years, hundreds of thousands more have surely been created. The collective community of all blogs is known as the blogosphere. More and more companies are using blogs to enhance internal communication and culture, as well as to inform external audiences for marketing, branding and public relations purposes.

Using the “medium” of the Internet to communicate a “message” in a new, more instantaneous way is something I could not have predicted when I entered the hospital P.R. and marketing field in the early 70’s, even though the future-think of Marshall McLuhan had been introduced to me in theory.

Now, 30 years later, I am participating in this new wave of bringing information not only to the audience for which it was intended, but ultimately to anyone in the world who somehow stumbles upon a blog post, even perhaps this very blog!

Amazing! Mind-boggling! Marshall McLuhan would be smiling, I think, to know that his predictions about electronic media are no longer theory but reality. His theory, that messages are inextricably influenced by the medium in which they are carried, is as true today as it was more than 40 years ago. I leave you with two provocative McLuhan quotes:

Tomorrow is our permanent address.
When a thing is current, it creates currency.


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