Global Village

Gutenberg Galaxy

Global Village is a term closely associated with Marshall McLuhan, popularized in his books ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man’ (1962) and ‘Understanding Media’ (1964). McLuhan described how the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. In bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion, electric speed heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree.

The Hindu concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is one single family) is a similar thought, according to which: ‘Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.’ The same concept is to be found in an ancient Tamil poem as, ‘every country is my own and all the people are my kinsmen.’

Marshall McLuhan predicted the Internet as an ‘extension of consciousness’ thirty years before its commercialization: ‘The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.’

Today, the term ‘Global Village’ is mostly used as a metaphor to describe the Internet and World Wide Web. On the Internet, physical distance is even less of a hindrance to the real-time communicative activities of people, and therefore social spheres are greatly expanded by the openness of the web and the ease at which people can search for online communities and interact with others that share the same interests and concerns. Therefore, this technology fosters the idea of a conglomerate yet unified global community. Due to the enhanced speed of communication online and the ability of people to read about, spread, and react to global news very rapidly, McLuhan says this forces us to become more involved with one another from countries around the world and be more aware of our global responsibilities. Similarly, web-connected computers enable people to link their web sites together. This new reality has implications for forming new sociological structures within the context of culture.

No chapter in ‘Understanding Media,’ or later books, contains the idea that the Global Village and the electronic media create unified communities. In fact, in an interview with Gerald Stearn, McLuhan says that it never occurred to him that uniformity and tranquillity were the properties of the Global Village. McLuhan argued that the Global Village ensures maximal disagreement on all points because it creates more discontinuity and division and diversity under the increase of the village conditions. The Global Village is far more diverse. After the publication of ‘Understanding Media,’ McLuhan starts to use the term ‘Global Theater’ to emphasize the changeover from consumer to producer, from acquisition to involvement, from job holding to role playing, stressing that there is no more community to clothe the naked specialist.

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