. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – The Open Mind – interview with Marshall McLuhan – June 18, 1969 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.
It would be fascinating to hear Marshall McLuhan’s observations about our current state of Media and Technology. In the 1960s, long before the advent of the personal computer, the Internet, cellphones, 3-D technology, and an entire world of communications advances, Marshall McLuhan was, whom many considered, a Communications Philosopher, a Seer into the brave new world of Mass Media. His views and theories about our life under the influence of Communication were considered revolutionary, even radical at the time. His supporters and critics were sharply divided – some saying he was a Visionary, while others said his visions were tantamount to selling pictures of Snake Oil.
Had he lived past 1980, he would either have been horrified, disgusted or humorously mystified by all the advances which have taken place. Although his theories regarding the Message, particularly with reference to News and mainstream media, no doubt have shot way past even his most pessimistic assessments.
But then at the time, the Medium itself was so fascinating and was still, to a large degree, in such a state of evolution, that the mere idea of just “turning the TV off” hadn’t occurred to anyone. Today those technologies are viewed as bordering on the dim-distant and curiously quaint. And now that there are so many alternatives; television and even communication as we knew it in the 1960s has become a moot point. When we took for granted the dial-telephone, the radio, the TV, the physical book and even the vinyl lp, we had no idea at the time the reintroduction of many of those “old-school technologies” would be revisited and re-embraced (well . . .the book and the vinyl lp anyway).
So listening to this interview, part of the Open Mind series hosted by Eric F. Goldman, you can develop a creeping cynicism over our current state of Media affairs – that, as fast as new and revolutionary technology was developed, came the myriad ways to distort, manipulate and obscure the lofty intentions of those advances. That, even during the time of this interview (1969), the notion of the “dumbing down of America” was looming pessimistically on the horizon.
If you aren’t familiar with Marshall McLuhan, or the impact he had on popular culture in the 1960s and early 70s, give this interview a listen. But also dig around for his many books on the subject, including his most famous (at the time), Understanding Media – I suspect it’s available on Kindle, a medium McLuhan would have gotten a huge perplexed giggle out of, no doubt.