Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Media inequity threatens the "global village"

Of the many ideas sprouted by the germinal mind of Marshall McLuhan, the notion that media are extensions of human beings is one of the most intriguing. If you have a telephone, you has super-ears; if you have a TV, you have super-eyes.

Perhaps. (A haunting question: Do you "hear" better or "see" better as a result?)

In recent years there can no question that those who acquire the ability to use new media have the farthest reach, the greatest extension. Those without access to new media or the skill or desire to use them are placed at a greater and greater disadvantage.

Within our own society we see chasms opening between the technologically proficient and the technologically ignorant, deprived or challenged.

Moreover, the faster the pace of technological change, the more apparent — and troubling — are the consequences of the divide.

Many of us have friends who simply can’t be troubled to keep up with the changes. To us, it is as if they have gone deaf or been struck blind.

The examples are everywhere. Suppose I have a message I want to get out to a group. I simply call up the group list on my computer and fire off the message. But suppose that someone in the group doesn’t read e-mail, or, horror of horrors, doesn’t have a computer. Will I go out of my way to phone my message? I confess it’s not likely. They are literally out of my communications loop

In my own way, I’m equally out of the loop to a young generation that text-messages. No one text messages me because they know I don’t text message. I might as well be living on Mars.

The changes are coming faster and faster and threaten to drive us farther and farther apart even as those of us who master them grow closer and closer.

Because of the uneven and inequitable media “extensions” of our human powers, the verdict is out on the “Global Village” that McLuhan predicted would result from Earth-girdling media.

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