Governing tough in the Electric Age

November 20, 2017 09:26 AM

Basic theory still very right
Yet his basic premise still holds true. It was that television as a widely available form of an “electric medium”, and the selective viewing which its evolution into cable TV allowed was going to atomize existing social structures. Suddenly geographic ‘neighbors’ would not necessarily communicate with each other and share the same political and social views.

While not necessarily the case right away back into the 1970’s, it became thoroughly possible for folks living next door to each other to be alternatively watching very socially liberal content and highly conservative communications at the same time. That would be without any interest in or desire to develop similar views to each other. And to take the next logical step, separate TV viewers within individual households were also able to watch highly disparate content.

For more on his theories and his perception of the impact on society, consider reviewing his March 1969 Playboy magazine interview by Eric Norden. His broader academic writings (more below) are very interesting on the technological impact of various pervasive “medium” shifts on individuals and society. Those go back to the creation of the phonetic alphabet (the high tech of its time.) Yet the interview provides a more immediate nuanced insight into his theories, including how they were already showing up in societal changes out of the post-World War II environment into the 1960’s. It is a very interesting if somewhat lengthy read.

“The medium is the message”
McLuhan understood all of this profound impact of the ‘medium’ prior to most social commentators. Others were typically more so focused on the expansion of content than the major social impact of the ‘medium’ through which it was delivered. And McLuhan saw all of the considerable impacts of this trend prior to the major spread of personal computers in the decade after his death, leading to the further massive content explosion of the internet.

That significantly intensified the tendencies McLuhan had already noted. He was very humble in not taking credit for ‘predictions’, as (clarified in the interview) he felt he was merely communicating ‘observations’ on what was already occurring. That was much as he had assessed on previous major ‘medium’ (or ‘technology’ if some would prefer in the current environment) shifts affecting previous societies.

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About the Author

Alan Rohrbach is Lead Analyst and President of Rohr International, Inc.  He is an international equity index, interest rate and foreign exchange trend advisor. His forte is ‘macro-technical’ analysis of how fundamental influences blend with technical aspects to drive trend psychology. Clients include international banks, hedge funds, other portfolio managers and individual traders.