A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

The environment.

Marshall McLuhan (February 22, 1967, age 55). What you see is not what you are getting.

I have come up with a new idea.  New technologies create new environments that reveal the past (the old environment) but leave the present (the new environment) invisible.  I have hinted at this with my idea of the rear view mirror.  Traveling forward, eyes fixed on the rear view mirror, we see only where we have been.  Every age has done this traveling blind to its present and seeing only its past.  I imagine you know where this is going, so I will leave you to figure this out for yourself.

Me (April 2010, age 57).  Looking past the past.

An idea that rises up in response to Marshall McLuhan’s idea is that if we only see the past not the present, not surprisingly our social plans and policies are designed to deal with a world that no longer exists.  Graffiti for example.  In a world of private property (the past) graffiti is vandalism, an assault on property.  But if our world is actually one of public property, graffiti is the exercise of a common property right.  The problem is not that graffiti happens but that we are all not participating equally in its creation.

Have another look at the graffiti around you. On whose property is it most likely to appear?  “Public” or “Private”?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 343.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 10th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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