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The Global Village


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Marshall McLuhan, who died in 1980, taught at St. Michael's College, the University of Toronto. His books The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media established his international reputation as a communications theorist and made him one of the most famous and controversial scholars of the 1960s and '70s. Bruce R. Powers, a longtime friend and collaborator of McLuhan's, is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at Niagara University.


Weighted with technobabble, McLuhan's fervent forecast of a computer-linked global village flies in the face of political realities: ``Mass, spontaneous electronic referendums will sweep across continents. The concept of nationalism will fade. . . . '' A ``new tribalism'' with ``centers everywhere and margins nowhere'' will flourish, and books will be obsolete, or nearly so, by the 21st century, the authors of this futurist tract further assert. McLuhan collaborated on this study with Powers, a communications professor at Niagara University in New York, who completed the manuscript after the media guru's death. Contrasting the ``visual space'' mediated by sequential, left-brain thought processes with the ``acoustic space'' called into being by the pattern-producing right brain hemisphere, the authors put forth catchy but unsubstantiated generalizations about the Oriental mind, Russians, the U.S. economy, entrepreneurship and electronic media. McLuhan's concept of the ``tetrad,'' a four-part intuitive structure rooted in figure-ground relationships, is used here as a predictive tool to gauge the impact of emerging information technologies. (Apr.)

This is not a revised or updated version of McLuhan's Understanding Media ( LJ 6/1/64) or even War and Peace in the Global Village (LJ 11/1/68). It was written, according to Powers, between 1974 and 1980 (McLuhan died in 1980) and ``put together'' between 1976 and 1984. McLuhan's thesis has always been that electronic technologies have been altering and reconstituting people in ways they don't understand and causing them to lose their private identities. This book probes the same theme from different angles, but with the same McLuhanesque all-over-the-place reasoning. Powers seems to have had a leavening effect on the master's breathless prose and extravagant presentation. The book should provoke people to think, if nothing else. For McLuhan collectors. See also Philip Marchand's Marshall McLuhan and George Sanderson and Frank Macdonald's retrospective, reviewed in this issue, p. 75.-- A.J. Anderson, G.S.L.I.S., Simmons Coll., Boston

"Highly readable and valuable....I would unreservedly recommend the Powers book as the best available introduction to and summary of McLuhan's thinking."--Journal of Communication

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