Marshall McLuhan

Laura Maxwell (English 111, 1994)

Any technology tends to create a new human environment. Printing from movable types created a quite unexpected new environment -- it created the public. Manuscript technology did not have the intensity or power of extension necessary to create publics on a national scale. What we have called "nations" in recent centuries did not, and could not, precede the advent of Gutenberg technology anymore than they can survive the advent of electric circuitry with with its power of totally involving all people in all other people.

We are today [1965] as far into the electric age as the Elizabethans had advanced into the typographical and mechanical age. And we are experiencing the same confusions and indecisions which they had felt when living simultanesouly in two contrasted forms of society and experience. Whereas the Elizabethans were poised between between medieval corporate experience and modern individualism, we reverse their pattern by confronting an electric technology which would seem to render individualism obsolete and the corporate interdependence manditory. . . . The enterprise which Milman Parry undertook [in his Homeric studies] with reference to the contrasted forms of oral and written poetry is here extended to the forms of thought and the organization of experience in society and politics.

Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, Prefac, Prologue