Global village

From Academic Kids

Global village is a term, coined by Marshall McLuhan in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy, describing how electronic mass media collapse space and time barriers in human communication, enabling people to interact and live on a global scale. In this sense, the globe has been turned into a village by the electronic mass media.

Today, the global village is mostly used as a metaphor to describe the Internet and World Wide Web. The Internet globalizes communication by allowing users from around the world to connect with each other. Similarly, web-connected computers enable people to link their web sites together.

Although McLuhan refers to it by a toponym, the Global Village is actually a historical period, not a place. It was immediately preceded by what McLuhan calls the "Gutenberg Galaxy" (another geographical designation for a chronological period). Though its roots can be traced back to the invention of the "phonetic alphabet" (McLuhan's term for phonemic orthography), the Gutenberg Galaxy, like the Global Village that followed it, was ushered in by a technological innovation, the Gutenberg press.

However, the Gutenberg Galaxy phase of Western Civilization is being replaced -- McLuhan is writing in the early 1960s -- by what he calls "electronic interdependence," an era when electronic media replace the visual culture of the Gutenberg era, producing cognitive shifts and new social organizations based on aural/oral media technologies.

One sticking point in McLuhan's argument is his emphasis on the oral/aural nature of electronic media. McLuhan's thinking is clearly influenced by the technology and culture of the United States in the 1950s: he often makes references and draws analogies to jazz, the radio, the telephone. Critics in the 1960s were quick to point out that the most important new electronic technologies (film, television, computers) were, in fact, predominately oriented towards the visual.

As a result of this shift in technology and media, humankind will move from the individualism and fragmentation that characterized the Gutenberg Galaxy to a collective identity, with a "tribal base." McLuhan's coinage for this new social organization is the Global Village (in Gutenberg Galaxy, the term is always capitalized), a term which has predominantly negative connotations (a fact lost on its later popularizers):

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. [...] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. [...] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture.

Note McLuhan's characteristic stress on the importance of awareness of a medium's cognitive affects: If we are not conscious of how technology impacts cognition and society, the global village has the potential to become a place where totalitarianism and terror Dorf he:הכפר הגלובלי nl:Global village pl:Globalna wioska pt:Aldeia Global


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