Light Through McLuhan

The term 'global village' predates by at least two decades the term 'globalisation' that started to be used in the political-economic arena in the 1980's.

The concept has been credited to Wyndham Lewis, who wrote in 1948 that 'the earth has become one big village, with telephones laid on from one end to the other, and air transport, both speedy and safe'; and to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote that technology was creating 'a single organised membrane over the earth', and that 'the age of civilisations has ended, and that of one civilisation is beginning'.1

The concept appears in various forms in McLuhan's work after 1951,2 but is pervasive by the Report on Project in Understanding New Media (1960) where McLuhan tells us confidently that 'The world is now a global village.'3

While critics of Understanding Media (1964) read this as utopic, McLuhan went on to describe the global village as 'a whispering gallery, with a large portion of mankind engaged in making its living by keeping the rest of mankind under surveillance', a 'theatre', in other words, 'with every human being more or less aware of being on-stage and in role'.4

McLuhan in his later work preferred the term 'global theatre' to 'global village', arguing that 'in the global theater the audience and the crew become actors, producers rather than consumers';5 however Ted Carpenter observes that this 'proved unappealing to journalists, who considered themselves neutral reporters, not theatrical producers'.6

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