Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​7​4​2​/​I​M​A​G​E​.​M​A​.​8​.​3.9 | PDF

Abstract | The 1960s was the decade in which satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy was intro­duced to the tele­vi­sion world via a series of live broad­casts. With the active par­tic­i­pa­tion of 46 sta­tions, BBC’s Our World (1967) was undoubt­ed­ly the most glob­al­ly far-reach­ing of them all. Con­ceived around Mar­shall McLuhan’s con­cept of the com­mu­nica­tive glob­al vil­lage, the spe­cial pro­gram took full advan­tage of satel­lites to reach a tru­ly glob­al audi­ence and use the occa­sion to announce the dawn of glob­al­iza­tion and what liv­ing in a small and thor­ough­ly con­nect­ed world would mean for its inhab­i­tants. Promi­nent in the broad­cast was the program’s Cana­di­an seg­ment, which aired right after the intro­duc­tion and includ­ed an inter­view with Mar­shal McLuhan in the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Corporation’s stu­dio in Toron­to. This paper con­sid­ers McLuhan’s con­tri­bu­tions both to the ideas and prac­tices of plan­e­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tion as well as his direct involve­ment with the pro­duc­tion of Our World. I demon­strate how McLuhan’s under­stand­ing of the co-con­sti­tu­tion of time and space not only set live tele­vi­sion broad­casts apart from oth­er tem­po­ral media but that, through these spa­tiotem­po­ral affini­ties, One World can be con­sid­ered to belong to the pre­his­to­ry of our con­tem­po­rary tele­com­pu­ta­tion­al tech­nolo­gies such as the Inter­net and mobile phones.

Résumé | Les années 1960 ont été la décen­nie où la tech­nolo­gie satel­li­taire a été intro­duite dans le monde de la télévi­sion par le biais d'une série d'émissions en direct. Avec la par­tic­i­pa­tion active de 46 sta­tions, Our World (1967) de la BBC a été sans aucun doute été l’émission la plus dif­fusée à tra­vers le monde. Conçu autour du con­cept du vil­lage plané­taire de com­mu­ni­ca­tion de Mar­shall McLuhan, le pro­gramme spé­cial a prof­ité pleine­ment des satel­lites pour attein­dre un pub­lic véri­ta­ble­ment mon­di­al et a saisi l'occasion pour annon­cer l'aube de la mon­di­al­i­sa­tion et ce que vivre dans un monde petit et com­plète­ment con­nec­té sig­ni­fierait pour ses habi­tants. Le seg­ment cana­di­en du pro­gramme, dif­fusé juste après l'introduction, a été mis en vedette et com­pre­nait une entre­vue avec Mar­shall McLuhan dans le stu­dio de la Société Radio-Cana­da à Toron­to. Cet arti­cle con­sid­ère les con­tri­bu­tions de McLuhan aux idées et aux pra­tiques de la com­mu­ni­ca­tion plané­taire, mais aus­si son impli­ca­tion directe dans la pro­duc­tion d’Our World. Je démon­tre com­ment la com­préhen­sion de McLuhan de la co-con­sti­tu­tion du temps et de l'espace non seule­ment sépare les émis­sions télévisées en direct des autres médias tem­porels, mais aus­si, par ces affinités spa­tio-tem­porelles, com­ment One World peut appartenir à la préhis­toire de nos tech­nolo­gies de télé­com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­tem­po­raines comme Inter­net et les télé­phones mobiles.

Moham­mad Sale­my | The New Cen­tre for Research & Prac­tice

Our World: McLuhan’s Idea of Globalized Presence as the Prehistory of Computational Temporality

The 1960s was the decade in which satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy start­ed to be incor­po­rat­ed in the pro­duc­tion of live tele­vi­sion pro­grams. How­ev­er, with the active par­tic­i­pa­tion of 46 sta­tions from round the world, BBC’s Our World (1967) was undoubt­ed­ly the most glob­al in its reach. Con­ceived around Mar­shall McLuhan’s con­cept of the com­mu­nica­tive glob­al vil­lage, the spe­cial pro­gram took full advan­tage of satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy not only to reach a glob­al audi­ence but also simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­duce its live tele­vi­su­al con­tent from dif­fer­ent loca­tions around the world. Satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy allowed Our World to func­tion as a plan­e­tary announce­ment of the dawn of glob­al­iza­tion and what liv­ing in a small and thor­ough­ly con­nect­ed world would mean for its inhab­i­tants. Our World also played a major role in defin­ing the visu­al and pre­sen­ta­tion­al style of not just live broad­casts, which became wide­spread with cable tele­vi­sion in the decades to come, but both the aes­thet­ics of the 24-hour cable news and the main­stream Inter­net.

Accord­ing to the media schol­ar Lisa Parks, the pro­duc­tion of Our World in 1967 was large­ly pred­i­cat­ed on the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of a UN treaty enabling the free use of the earth’s out­er space in accor­dance with inter­na­tion­al law and ban­ning its monop­oly by any sin­gle nation (Parks 76-77). The coun­tries involved urged the pro­duc­ers to focus on human­i­tar­i­an themes and pur­pos­es. The pro­duc­ers, on the oth­er hand, used the mass audi­ence of the pro­gram not only to pub­li­cize but also visu­al­ize urgent glob­al issues. Park empha­sizes that Our World emerged at the peak of the Cold War, the space race, and dur­ing the decol­o­niza­tion of the devel­op­ing world (Parks 75). It was as if all the vil­lages of the globe were brought togeth­er by the con­ver­gence of media and polit­i­cal inter­ests to pro­nounce the dawn of a new era of glob­al coop­er­a­tion and com­pe­ti­tion not just between the west and east but also the north and south. Our World was broad­cast­ed on June 29, 1967 with an esti­mat­ed 500 mil­lion view­ers in 24 coun­tries. It required more than two years, thou­sands of tech­ni­cians, miles of cable, and $5 mil­lion dol­lars to pro­duce.

Promi­nent in the broad­cast was the program’s Cana­di­an seg­ment, which aired after the intro­duc­tion and includ­ed an inter­view with Mar­shal McLuhan in the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Corporation’s stu­dio in Toron­to. In this illu­mi­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tion, which con­tains the most com­pressed ver­sion of the philosopher’s con­cept of the Glob­al Vil­lage, the pro­duc­ers lay the the­o­ret­i­cal ground of the show’s propo­si­tions and made explic­it Mcluhan’s cen­tral­i­ty to their con­cerns.

In The Medi­um Is the Mas­sage, McLuhan and Quentin Fiore wrote: “Ours is a brand-new world of all-at-once-ness, time has ceased space has van­ished we know live in a glob­al vil­lage a simul­ta­ne­ous hap­pen­ing” (63). The tech­no­log­i­cal rebirth of the world as a glob­al vil­lage was empha­sized in the start of the pro­gram with images of new­ly born babies from around the world. Our World includ­ed seg­ments about var­i­ous nation­al efforts to increase the world food sup­ply and find solu­tions to hous­ing prob­lems. The show also high­light­ed exam­ples of skills in sport and adven­ture from, notably, a pro­fes­sion­al Cana­di­an female swim­mer break­ing her own world record live in an open pool in Van­cou­ver. Per­haps the most enter­tain­ing sequences of the pro­gram were rehearsals of Lohen­grin at the Bayreuth fes­ti­val, Fran­co Zef­firelli rehears­ing a film­ing of Romeo and Juli­et in Italy, Leonard Bern­stein and and Van Cliburn rehearsal at the Lin­coln Cen­ter in New York, Joan Miró in his stu­dio in France, and The Bea­t­les and their pro­duc­er George Mar­tin record­ing their hit song “All You Need Is Love” in Lon­don.

Our World began very ear­ly Mon­day morn­ing in Aus­tralia and Japan, Sun­day after­noon in North Amer­i­ca, and late Sun­day evening in Europe. How­ev­er, for its dura­tion, the view­ers from these dif­fer­ent time zones around the world were boot­strapped to a new tech­nol­o­gy capa­ble of unit­ing them both spa­tial­ly and tem­po­ral­ly. This form of glob­al pres­ence was nev­er tech­no­log­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble before. Today’s net­worked media takes for grant­ed the mass par­tic­i­pa­tion of mil­lions of users as the pre­con­di­tion for its author­i­ty and legit­i­ma­cy, but in 1967 the audience’s knowl­edge of the fact that mil­lions of oth­ers were also watch­ing the pro­gram added a new dimen­sion to the tele­vi­su­al expe­ri­ence. The acces­si­ble live­ness made a medi­at­ed expe­ri­ence almost as tan­gi­ble, real, and author­i­ta­tive as any phys­i­cal encounter with the world. This mode of expe­ri­enc­ing time is what I refer to as tele­vi­su­al inter­sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, a mode that only enhanced as we moved from live satel­lite broad­casts to the 24-hour cable tele­vi­sion cycle and lat­er on to the Internet’s own glob­al tem­po­ral­i­ty. How­ev­er, this inter­sub­jec­tive and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry imma­nence could only be pos­si­ble by way of the media’s reori­en­ta­tion of the view­ers’ atten­tion­al resources away from their actu­al and phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence of the world and into the audio­vi­su­al real­i­ty of the tele­vi­sion mon­i­tor. The togeth­er­ness can only become tan­gi­ble if the cog­ni­tive con­scious­ness of the audi­ence is drawn into a con­vinc­ing vir­tu­al world with its own tem­po­ral log­ic. This def­i­n­i­tion of tem­po­ral­i­ty is much clos­er to McLuhan’s and goes against its con­tem­po­rary phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy and its Marx­ist recu­per­a­tion via Wal­ter Benjamin’s phi­los­o­phy of his­to­ry.[1] In this sense, tem­po­ral­i­ty is not grasped exclu­sive­ly through inner time of con­scious­ness nor the mea­sured out­er time of the world, but rather the way the pas­sage of time from the stand­point of exter­nal beings, includ­ing tech­nolo­gies, affects our under­stand­ing of being and time. It was through uti­liz­ing the poten­tial­i­ties of this tech­nol­o­gized inter­sub­jec­tive tem­po­ral­i­ty that Our World was able to draw mil­lions of view­ers into itself, pro­vid­ing a new per­spec­tive from which one could see the Earth as a thing sit­u­at­ed out­side of the view­ers’ phys­i­cal and local real­i­ties, thus trans­form­ing how they under­stood the present in ret­ro­spect. One can only notice how this mod­el of under­stand­ing com­plex facts is sim­i­lar to how we expe­ri­ence the Inter­net as a whole today. It was the first time in his­to­ry that humans could watch the plan­et as a sin­gle enti­ty in both time and space, sim­i­lar to how Yuri Gagarin and Neil Arm­strong had pre­vi­ous­ly viewed the Earth from the out­er space.

It is note­wor­thy that the style and visu­al design of Our World had ram­i­fi­ca­tions for both the pre­sen­ta­tion of live cov­er­age on tele­vi­sion and for how objec­tive news and com­men­tary were to enter pub­lic space in the future. For instance, the hum­ming and buzzing envi­ron­ment of the con­trol room from Toronto’s CBC stu­dio where McLuhan was inter­viewed fore­shad­owed what in the 1990s became known as the aes­thet­ic frame for 24-hour news broad­cast­ers such as CBC News­world and CNN. In addi­tion, by com­bin­ing live use of the tele­vi­sion stu­dio along­side maps, pho­tographs, charts, and live footage from remote loca­tions, the pro­gram point­ed to the com­pu­ta­tion­al future of the media in which the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the present is estab­lished in a net­work, or what McLuhan would term a “mosa­ic” of dif­fer­ent types of infor­ma­tion.

Look­ing back almost 50 years at this exper­i­ment in mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, one might ask, was this only the start of a new life for the medi­um of tele­vi­sion, or is the pro­gram also the har­bin­ger of our post-cyber­net­ic plan­e­tary life? To answer this ques­tion, we should mea­sure Our World against three dif­fer­ent philoso­phies of his­to­ry and their tem­po­ral­i­ties. This con­sid­er­a­tion high­lights the sig­nif­i­cance of the pro­gram to our shared tele­vi­su­al his­to­ry in three­fold. The clas­sic con­cep­tion of his­to­ry treats its sub­ject as a con­crete object from the past with an exact archae­o­log­i­cal point of ori­gin, wor­thy of unearthing and bur­nish­ing by the his­to­ri­an. In this respect Our World con­sti­tutes a time cap­sule of the mod­ern west­ern lib­er­al weltan­schau­ung, a term defined by the Vien­nese art his­to­ri­an Alois Rigel and expand­ed by the Hun­gar­i­an soci­ol­o­gist Karl Mannheim. Accord­ing to both, world­view is not an ide­al cat­e­go­ry but rather the mate­r­i­al and for­mal capa­bil­i­ties of arti­facts, espe­cial­ly mon­u­ments, to pre­serve the virtues, aspi­ra­tions, prac­tices, and tech­nolo­gies of the past and present times. As a media mon­u­ment, Our World speaks to both the form and con­tent of the post­war Mod­ernism advanced by the US and its West­ern allies as they com­pet­ed inter­na­tion­al­ly with Sovi­et com­mu­nism for the devel­op­ing world. Our World is also sig­nif­i­cant in our con­tem­po­rary con­cep­tion of his­to­ry as for­mu­lat­ed by Wal­ter Ben­jamin in the “The­ses on the Phi­los­o­phy of His­to­ry.” For Ben­jamin, his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness is the back­ward recon­sti­tu­tion of the ruins of the past in the present against the inevitable force and direc­tion of futu­ri­ty. This par­tic­u­lar con­cep­tion bears resem­blance to how the Husser­lian phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy describes the tem­po­ral process of expe­ri­enc­ing the world as well as how Nor­bert Wein­er con­fig­ured the tem­po­ral­i­ty of cyber­net­ic feed­back loops (34-35). This con­cep­tion of his­to­ry is also gras­pable through McLuhan’s own char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the future as being gras­pable only through the rear-view mir­ror (McLuhan and Fiore 110-11).

Yet there is a third and spec­u­la­tive con­cept of his­to­ry asso­ci­at­ed with Promethean real­ism, to use Ray Brassier’s term. One can arrive at this con­cep­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly via Reza Negarestani’s read­ing of Hegel and Suhail Malik’s con­cept of risk ratio­nal­i­ty in rela­tion to the oper­a­tional log­ic of finance cap­i­tal­ism. These thinkers share an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry as a tem­po­ral plat­form for how future and the past strug­gle against each oth­er in the sub­strate of the present time. From these more recent per­spec­tives, Our World defines the moment in which the alien and arti­fi­cial­ly intel­li­gent future, chan­neled through the fig­ure of McLuhan, trav­els back in time to lib­er­ate the present from the clutch­es of the past. From these per­spec­tives, rea­son, even if abstract­ed from its bio­log­i­cal sub­strate and oper­a­tional­ized via our media tech­nolo­gies, can still play an autonomous role in shap­ing the future his­to­ry. Thus, if one day in the future, our intel­li­gent machines find the capa­bil­i­ty to look back into the mir­ror of his­to­ry, they would be able to rec­og­nize in Our World and par­tic­u­lar­ly the McLuhan seg­ment a notice­able trace of their own exis­tence.

There can be no doubt that the tele­vi­sion monitor—in gen­er­al, as the ubiq­ui­tous opti­cal data out­put device and live satel­lite tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming, and in par­tic­u­lar, for its imma­nent temporality—are the har­bin­gers of the plan­e­tary-scale com­pu­ta­tion and Inter­net today. How­ev­er, we can also claim that McLuhan was at least uncon­scious­ly aware of the futu­ri­ty of the tele­vi­sion medi­um, as evi­dent in Our World’s open­ing inter­view with the author. McLuhan’s use of x-ray as a metaphor to explain the depth of tele­vi­su­al expe­ri­ence com­pared to the super­fi­cial nature of print media not only reveals the spe­cif­ic epis­temic qual­i­ties of tele­vi­sion but also points to the fur­ther deep­en­ing of this x-ray effect as we shift from the ana­logue sig­nal via satel­lite to the dig­i­tal one via the Inter­net.

In addi­tion, McLuhan’s clear­ly under­stands the mosa­ic and frag­ment­ed essence of the tele­vi­sion par­a­digm as reflect­ing an era in which the sep­a­ra­tion between the spec­ta­tor and the par­tic­i­pant can no longer be main­tained. It is not hard to see how this con­fla­tion of object and sub­ject, user and used, and con­sumer and pro­duc­er is reach­ing its peak dur­ing our cur­rent Inter­net par­a­digm. At the heart of these trans­for­ma­tions rests the ques­tion of time, its qual­i­ties and log­ic dur­ing social, polit­i­cal, and epis­temic trans­for­ma­tions. Here, McLuhan rec­og­nizes the tem­po­ral rev­o­lu­tion which tele­vi­sion facil­i­tates as an inex­pen­sive and uni­ver­sal dis­penser of infor­ma­tion in a time-based form and its inten­si­fi­ca­tion via inex­pen­sive live satel­lite broad­cast. In short, for McLuhan, these media trans­for­ma­tion were essen­tial­ly about the fun­da­men­tal change in the rela­tion­ship between humans and the notion of time medi­at­ed by media tech­nolo­gies.

The Transcript of Our World’s interview with Marshal McLuhan[2]

CBC: Good after­noon. This is the con­trol room here in Toron­to where view­ers in Cana­da will see our world this after­noon. It’s one of 45 con­trol rooms around the world, link­ing the world, or the devel­oped world, in this first glob­al tele­vi­sion pro­gram. I have with me in the con­trol room Pro­fes­sor Mar­shall McLuhan, the so-called prophet of this elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tion age. I hope you don’t object to that word, “prophet,” you must be tired of it.

MML: I’m quite help­less.

CBC: I don’t know if you know what is going around here Pro­fes­sor McLuhan. I don’t.

MML: It’s a real hum­ming, buzzing con­fu­sion.

CBC: Can you say what mes­sage the medi­um has on the world this after­noon?

MML: Well, I can say right off for exam­ple that every­one will look at this pro­gram as if it were some­thing they have already seen before, with just a lit­tle addi­tion of this and that, because that is the inevitable way in which we look at every­thing. It’s the same old thing with a lit­tle item or two added. In fact, what is hap­pen­ing around the world today, is what has hap­pened with the [Mon­tréal] Expo: a huge mosa­ic has been cre­at­ed in which, in effect, an x-ray of world cul­tures, not a sto­ry-line, not a per­spec­tive, not a point of view, but a kind of x-ray through this mosa­ic, is cre­at­ed in which every­body can par­tic­i­pate. Every­body is sur­prised at Expo at how deeply they appre­ci­ate and par­tic­i­pate in the show. Nobody seems to real­ize why it is so unlike oth­er world fairs. And I think this show this after­noon will have some unex­pect­ed reper­cus­sions in that way. Peo­ple will be drawn into it as par­tic­i­pants, where­as they are mere­ly view­ing them­selves as spec­ta­tors at this moment.

CBC: Doesn’t this, though, it’s cre­at­ing an entire­ly new intel­lec­tu­al spir­it, cli­mate, for those who can com­mu­ni­cate. Doesn’t it present anoth­er prob­lem of divid­ing those who can from those who can’t?

MML: Well, what is called for exam­ple a gen­er­a­tion gap today, the TV gen­er­a­tion of kids, have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent set of per­cep­tions from their par­ents. Their par­ents grew up in a visu­al world like the world of movies, where they have cam­eras and pic­tures and points of view. The kids have grown up in an x-ray world. The TV cam­era does a per­pet­u­al job of x-ray on them and they take this for grant­ed. X-ray means depth, x-ray means par­tic­i­pa­tion in depth in what­ev­er they are doing, and calls for a total­ly new kind of com­mit­ment to every­thing they are doing. That is why when they encounter sit­u­a­tions in which they are mere­ly clas­si­fied enti­ties as in the school room; they don’t feel want­ed, they don’t feel need­ed, they just drop out. Now, this strange new all-at-once sit­u­a­tion in which every­body expe­ri­ences every­thing all at once cre­ates this kind of x-ray mosa­ic of involve­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion for which peo­ple are just not pre­pared. They have lived through cen­turies of detach­ment, of non-involve­ment. Sud­den­ly, they are involved. So it’s a big sur­prise, and for many peo­ple a kind of exhil­a­ra­tion. Won­der­ful!

CBC: But there are peo­ple in the world, the major­i­ty, who don’t live in this new, involved soci­ety, and they are still in the age of the camel—

MML: They are try­ing to live in the rear-view mir­ror. They are still des­per­ate­ly try­ing to get an image of them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion that is famil­iar and known, where­as in actu­al fact the sit­u­a­tion that they find them­selves in is not well known, it’s utter­ly sur­pris­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing. The peo­ple have always, in all ages, Stan, have always been ter­ri­fied of the present. The only peo­ple that seem to have enough gump­tion, or nerve, to look at what is hap­pen­ing right under their nose are artists. They are spe­cial­ists in sen­so­ry life. They just delib­er­ate­ly look at the present, you know, as if they dared it to ruin, or do some­thing to them. They are like Perseus and the Gor­gon. The artist looks into the mir­ror of art and says, the heck with the Gorgon’s image, I’m not ter­ri­fied. But most peo­ple sim­ply expect, when they look at the present, to be turned to stone, as by the Gorgon’s spell, and they are ter­ri­fied. There­fore they pre­fer the rear-view mir­ror. Near­ly every­body who looks ahead, as it were, is in effect look­ing at the rear-view mir­ror, and if peo­ple try to proph­e­size about today’s show, they will be stead­fast­ly look­ing in the rear-view mir­ror.

CBC:  But we are, nev­er­the­less, as you have said, those of us who par­tic­i­pate in this new soci­ety, this elec­tric soci­ety, it is a new sense of aware­ness and involve­ment, but, my ques­tion is this: the major­i­ty of the world’s peo­ple in our satel­lites are going around the world today, are com­plete­ly out of it. The cam­eras don’t reach them, they don’t hear the mes­sage—

MML: They aren’t watch­ing the show at all.

CBC: And they are not in the rear-view mir­ror. They are in the past, cen­turies, and isn’t that gap widen­ing as our rock­et-like soci­ety goes for­ward?

MML: You know, some­thing like Expo, though, cre­ates a mosa­ic of all those soci­eties as well as all the lat­est ones, and every­thing hap­pens at the same moment. You can be in Beirut, or in Tokyo, or in New York at the same moment, in this kind of mosa­ic world of all-at-once­ness, and so, in effect, the back­wards coun­tries have to become con­tem­po­rary sim­ply because of this instan­ta­neous qual­i­ty of the mosa­ic. To be brought into the show, they are all par­tic­i­pants. It’s no longer a ques­tion of phil­an­thropy or just do-good­erism. They just real­ize these peo­ple are part of the show and they have to get into the act, until we put on their make­up or some­thing they can’t go before the cam­era, so, the whole back­ward ter­ri­to­ries of the world are being upgrad­ed at very high speed. In fact, one of our most mis­tak­en efforts in upgrad­ing is war­fare, because when you fight a back­ward coun­try you in a sense edu­cate it to hur­ry its edu­ca­tion up into the present. That’s the way Julius Cae­sar did it.

CBC: But didn’t we just see an exam­ple in the Mid­dle East where one nation had an army which was a com­plete mas­ter of this mech­a­nized soci­ety, fight­ing anoth­er which was men­tal­ly caught in a camel age.

MML: You can see that the gen­er­a­tion gap there, or the tech­no­log­i­cal gap, cre­at­ed frus­tra­tion (inaudi­ble) even though the war didn’t.

CBC: You are con­fi­dent that these nations, the back­wards nations who are not yet in the elec­tric age, they are in the tran­si­tion to radio age, as you have already point­ed out, but—

MML: But you see, in our own homes, the gen­er­a­tion gap between child and par­ent is fan­tas­ti­cal­ly great, but we always accept­ed that as a nor­mal, nat­ur­al growth gap. Now, today, because of an enor­mous speed up of infor­ma­tion, the child is becom­ing an adult, the adult has to acquire all the empa­thy and intu­ition of child­hood in order to live with his own chil­dren. The gap between adult and child is just dis­ap­pear­ing overnight. That is as big as any rev­o­lu­tion as any back­wards coun­try has to face when it’s being updat­ed into the 20th cen­tu­ry. The biggest rev­o­lu­tions in the world are tak­ing place under our own roofs, at our din­ner tables. This all-at-once­ness just wipes out the old dis­tances and times between age groups, eth­nic groups, civ­i­lized groups, and so on. This kind of speed up enables you, for exam­ple, at Expo, to see all the cul­tures of the world, in x-ray form, in depth. What you encounter at Expo is not his­to­ry, but the imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence of these coun­tries. You walk into a pavil­ion and you expe­ri­ence them not as they were, or they will be, but as they are, as an imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence, as imme­di­ate as the smell of a cig­a­rette.

CBCI’d like to, on this day, when Mr. Kosy­gin and Pres­i­dent John­son, are meet­ing at West­bor­ough, to look back at a com­ment you made back a num­ber of years ago, around eleven years ago, I think. You point­ed out the dif­fer­ences men­tal­ly between a print soci­ety and the new­er oral, the elec­tric soci­ety. You made the inter­est­ing obser­va­tion that the Unit­ed States and the Sovi­et Union are the two great coun­tries which came to great­ness in the era of the print­ing press. Do you—

MML: Well, no I’m not sure that I wish to say just that. The Unit­ed States is entire­ly a prod­uct of the print­ing press. Rus­sia had many cen­turies of his­to­ry before print, and still has huge com­mit­ments—

CBCBut the sovi­et Com­mu­nist soci­ety is a print­ing press-mind­ed orga­ni­za­tion—

MML: Ah, ah! Right, the 1917 Octo­ber Rev­o­lu­tion was entire­ly the result of the print tech­nol­o­gy of that era. Yes.

CBC: But do you find in those two coun­tries today, any indi­ca­tions of, per­haps, the prob­lems they inher­it­ed from the print­ing press?

MML: Oh yeah, because the Unit­ed States is always look­ing for blue­prints and always look­ing for solu­tions in forms of clas­si­fied data. This, of course, is utter­ly alien to Russ­ian cul­ture with its oral tra­di­tions of involve­ment, and so there are great gaps, cul­ture gaps, between the US and Rus­sia. The Rus­sians haven’t had time to become com­plete­ly per­me­at­ed with print cul­ture by any means.

CBC: Did you by any chance see Mr Barouni, the del­e­gate from Sau­di Ara­bia speak­ing the com­plete Arab oral—

MML: No, and a man who resent­ed the com­ing of the Euro­pean civ­i­lized blue­print into the Arab world impos­ing on them. What we con­sid­ered, that is the way we have always thought of civ­i­liza­tion, giv­ing the ben­e­fits of civ­i­liza­tion to Africa has always come down to print-ori­ent­ed peo­ple as the lay­ing down of new blue­prints, new times for work and edu­ca­tion, pro­gram­ming, but today it has to be done by dia­logue, by a com­plete­ly new kind of involve­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in their prob­lems. And the old blue­print method is dis­ap­pear­ing with­out ques­tions. Tele­vi­sion is an x-ray not a blue­print, so it goes right inside prob­lems, inside cul­tures, in depth. There are so many numer­ous sto­ries that express the griev­ances and the ten­sions that arise from these sit­u­a­tions. I wish we had time to rehearse them.

CBC: I’m afraid that our time is up. I’ve got to get down to the stu­dio. Many thanks, Pro­fes­sor McLuhan.

Works Cited

Ben­jamin Wal­ter. “The­ses on the Phi­los­o­phy of His­to­ry.” Illu­mi­na­tions: Essays and Reflec­tions, Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 1968, pp. 253-264.

Brassier, Ray. “Prometheanism and its Crit­ics” #Acel­er­ate Read­er, edit­ed by Robin Mack­ay and Armen Avaness­ian, Urbanomic/Merve Var­log, 2014, pp. 467-487.

Husserl, Edmund. On the Phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of the Con­scious­ness of Inter­nal Time (1893-1917). Kluw­er Aca­d­e­m­ic Pub­lish­ers, 1991.

---. The Phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of Inter­nal Time-Con­scious­ness. Indi­ana UP, 1966.

Malik Suhail. “The Ontol­ogy of Finance: Price, Pow­er, and the Arkhéderiv­a­tive.” Col­lapse VIII, edit­ed by Robin Mack­ay, Lon­don: Urbanomic/Sequence, 2014, pp. 629-812.

Karl Mannheim, “On the Inter­pre­ta­tion of Weltan­schau­ung,” Essays on the Soci­ol­o­gy of Knowl­edge, (Lon­don: Rout­ledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 33-83.

McLuhan, Mar­shall and Quentin Fiore. The Medi­um Is the Mas­sage, Pen­guin Books, 1967.

Negarestani, Reza. Intel­li­gence and Spir­it, Urbanomic/Sequence, Upcom­ing.

Parks, Lisa. “Our World, Satel­lite Tele­vi­su­al­i­ty and the Fan­ta­sy of Glob­al Pres­ence.” Plan­et TV: A Glob­al Tele­vi­sion Read­er, edit­ed by Lisa Parks and Shan­ti Kumar, NTU Press, 2003, pp. 74-93.

Riegl, Alios. His­tor­i­cal Gram­mar of the Visu­al Arts. Zone Books, 2006, pp. 55-56.

Wein­er, Nor­bert Wiener. Cyber­net­ics: Or Con­trol and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the Ani­mal and the Machine, MIT Press, 1948, pp. 30-44.

Images Notes

Fea­tured Image: From left, Paul McCart­ney, George Har­ri­son, Ringo Starr and John Lennon of the Bea­t­les pose for pho­tog­ra­phers dur­ing a break in rehearsal for a per­for­mance of their song, "All You Need Is Love," on June 25, 1967. (AP Pho­to) Used with per­mis­sion.


[1] The tem­po­ral log­ic of Wal­ter Benjamin’s angel of his­to­ry is sim­i­lar to the phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal expe­ri­ence of human sub­jects. In both cas­es a con­tin­gent and unex­pect­ed encounter with the future is made sense in the present vis-a-vis the subject’s recon­struc­tion of the past in which the Ben­jamin­ian “ruins” stands as a metaphor for the dis­in­te­grat­ed nature of past infor­ma­tion. See both Ben­jamin and Husserl.

[2] Tran­scribed with help by Manuel Cor­rea and Olivia Leit­er, cer­tifi­cate stu­dents at the Thew Cen­tre for Research and Prac­tice.

This arti­cle is licensed under a Cre­ative Com­mons 4.0 Inter­na­tion­al License although cer­tain works ref­er­enced here­in may be sep­a­rate­ly licensed, or the author has exer­cised their right to fair deal­ing under the Cana­di­an Copy­right Act.