An analysis of Marshal McLuhan reveals that all media, regardless of the message exerts a “compelling influence on man and society,”(The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications, 1969). Technological innovation has wielded an influence so great, that sensory function has been thrown off-balance. The electronic revolution faces the challenge to bring restoration to a pre-tribal society, therefore balancing the senses.
During the reign of a “tribal” era, James Burke explains that, “survival depended on the few square miles they knew, while facts were a direct personal experience,” (Burke). The main source of information was received through the pulpit at a local church or passed down through folk stories, memories or troubadours. During this period of time, all senses remained in harmonious balance.
The introduction of the printing press disturbed the balance of the senses, shifting emphasis to the visual sensory function. McLuhan believed the printing press, “finally sealed the doom of tribal man,” (The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications, 1969). Visual communication forever changed the way information was spread. Focus shifted, giving voice to the individual and promoted the dissemination of the tribe. “The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a process of specialism and of detachment, (Marshall McLuhan, 1967). This “separation of senses” as McLuhan describes it, impacted the community or “village”. Identity of the tribal man was no longer defined, protected, or encouraged by the group.
McLuhan holds the electronic media responsible to bring retribalization back to the village. While print technology created the public, consisting of separate individuals with separate fixed points of view, electric technology created the mass, which abandons fragmentation. “Enter TV. Television and the electric media generally, say McLuhan is reversing the process; they are returning man’s sensory ratios to the pre-print, pre-literate, ‘tribal’ balance. The auditory and tactile senses come back into play and man begins to use all his senses at once again in a unified, ‘seamless web’ of experience, becoming a global village,” (Wolfe, 1968). The global village philosophy is a world of “allatonceness” or a “simultaneous happening” involving men once again with each other, (Wolfe, 1968).
In his day, McLuhan attributed the television as the catalyst of the electronic revolution. While, the television plays an integral role, the present day catalyst could best be known as social media. Using social media, we are immersed in active interplay, massaging the sensory function back to its proper balance. Similar to newspapers, people “get into them every morning like a hot bath, “ (The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications, 1969). Social media becomes our environment and we become extensions of its skin. Working us over, the tribe is restored with a world of “total involvement, in which everybody is profoundly involved with everybody else,” (Marshall McLuhan, 1967).
As a media psychologist, the constant concern is to find balance between where we have been and where we are going. Similarly, we must realize this very moment will become obsolete in the next. Living in environments that are not only invisible, but also active, presents a challenge to be aware of. This challenge forges the road ahead as unknown and often debatable. We must constantly investigate, struggle and hold findings with palms open. McLuhan explains, “any approach to environmental problems must be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to encompass the entire environmental matrix which is in constant flux,” (The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications, 1969). Media is a forever compelling influence on man and society; the key is to hop on the train, destination unknown.
Burke, J. (Director). The Day the Universe Changed: Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge [Motion Picture]
Marshall McLuhan, Q. F. (1967). The Medium is the Massage. New York, NY: Bantam.
The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications. (1969). The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications. Retrieved from McLuhanmedia.com: http://www.mcluhanmedia.com/m_mcl_inter_pb_02.html
Wolfe, T. (1968). The Pumphouse gang. New York, NY: Noonday Press.