September 14, 2009 | Leave a Comment
“The classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 207, 1964.
Marshall McLuhan studied the effects of speed and time on social change. One of his seminal insights was that media mold how we perceive the world, not only by the content that is distributed, but by how specifically media enhance our ability to access information.
It has become evident that the media are about politics. How we communicate influences the distribution of power and authority. More powerful than any political manifesto is the way that the words might be conveyed.
There are three foundation, democratizing power centers. Education controls the ability for an individual to synthesize information. Voting integrity empowers an individual to act upon the information. Media enhance access to information. With fundamental transformations in media, education and voting integrity get a boost.
What we are observing now is an exponential increase in the speed and quality of information distribution. Everything is changing as a result of this transformation.
Theorists Shirky, Rheingold and others describe the result of barriers coming down with the placement of high-quality resources, such as cell phones and information access, with the formerly disempowered. A staggering upsurge in creativity results with the belief that an individual can make a difference. High-quality information can become ubiquitous when it is observed that a system can encourage an egalitarian distribution of high-quality information. When information stops congregating in the hands of the few, the many feel empowered.
But it’s also the speed. Information grows stale. The fact that information becomes available in real time to anyone who can profit from its availability means that the horizontal feels natural. Why believe in hierarchy when authority is informed by access to information, and information is quick and free?
Eliminate distance and collapse time and we redefine a foundation principle of human nature. That principle is that there is a difference between being human and being god. We still mostly believe that the difference between being human and being god is important enough that whether god exists or not, or what stories we have assigned to god, are integral to understanding our place in the universe. This is changing.
There are no atheists in aboriginal society. To be a member of the community is to share community beliefs. We are quickly headed in an aboriginal direction, where society will be characterized by a universality of process. This is a process not unlike a prehistoric band where each individual has access to all community resources. A result is deep systemic integration, not alienation, resulting in an experience characterized by synthesis, not stratification.
If “the media is the message,” then the elimination of space and time does away with defining ourselves by what we do or don’t have access to. Which stories we assign to god or whether he or she exists becomes secondary to the experience that we are not separate. Eliminate space and time and you eliminate most conflict. We are talking about the de-alienation of society.
It will take some time for education to catch up with information distribution and provide an ability to evaluate and form conclusions. Voter integrity will perhaps come faster as it becomes relatively easy to generate double checks by a grass-roots system that combats those places where authority still seeks to congregate. In the meantime, prepare for the wildest ride a species can engage in. After having achieved an ability to be alone, be separate, feel alienated, think thoughts and question authority, we are now being introduced to the equivalent of social hallucinogens. We are being introduced to no time, no space.
This has also been called the eternal now.