Friday, March 18, 2016

McLuhan Argued for Educational Technology in 1965

CBC TV - Take 30 (Program) - McLuhan predicts 'world connectivity' 1965

Heady stuff! I mean, finding a video of a revered, iconic figure like Marshall McLuhan full of quotes that so perfectly fit any need you might have to justify your field and, with which, in the act of citing them, you can wrap yourself up in such an elegant mantle of expertise. And then, embed that video directly into your blog, so that the Brain-God, McLuhan, himself, is looking into the camera and delivering the words as they formed in his mouth... directly to your readers (viewers?) and you've hitched your wagon to a super nova. Yeah, baby!


One of my areas of specialization for the past quarter century has been Educational Technology.  And for one, I certainly find the things McLuhan is saying in this clip to be compelling. And, yeah, I did a little cherry picking of words and ideas here. These are things he said, after all, a tad over half a century back and getting all of this to line up perfectly is expecting a bit too much. Still, it's there. He's talking about digitizing information and content and making it store-able, retrieve-able, and search-able; and in the process, eliminating the need for people to physically go to specific places to access hard copies of the data they need for their work. And, he's talking about virtual travel to places and people to gain a far more authentic experience of them than reading a book 'about' them could ever render. Further, he seems to indicate that he understood that certain 'tasks', things, I suppose, like bookkeeping and accounting, would become highly automated, and that at the foot soldier level, the hands-on, grunt-work level of sweating and laboring to get them accomplished (not the flying at 30 thousand feet, overview management of them) they would become, to a large degree, marginalized and superfluous; tasks formerly done by workers now replaced by machines.

So, yes, McLuhan saw and understood and described this back in '65, which, when considering things of this nature, was a very long time ago, indeed. Of course, THAT, alone doesn't make any of this true or profound. But as you watch this video you realize that he saw it all with such clarity, and that by listening to his descriptions even we, mere mortals, can see the truth in this now. And that doesn't really require a stretch because the world has literally, physically demonstrated these ideas to be true... even though many of our fellow humans still don't see it.

I was 17 years old when this interview was broadcast. I don't remember it, although the following year, when I went off to college the name McLuhan was one much mentioned on campus. And for me, finding this video is a perfect example of the power of digitized, archived, search-able content... YouTube!

Interviewer: Q - "...  What about an educational procedure, then, that will satisfy all of the senses that are now not being satisfied by schools?.."

McLuhan: A - "... the sort of dialogue among all the elements of our world that is going on, actually, and without benefit of bureaucratic blessing or any official blessing... the kind of exchanges and interchanges of imagery and awareness of peoples of the world... This is (uh) the pattern that I think that Education will resort to more and more. Instead of locating people, for example, in a particular place, to teach them German or Chinese, they will be moved to Germany or China to learn those things... they could be moved by circuitry.

 ... in our world, we are hurrying back and forth across town, morning and night, to situations which we could quite easily encompass by closed circuit. Why do the wheels keep hurrying us downtown? Some people are puzzled by this and they've come up with he answer: it's the filing cabinet, down town in the offices that makes it still necessary to rush back and forth from suburb to office... that it is this obsession with the contents of a file  documents, contracts, DATA... all of these materials actually could be just as available on closed circuit, at home...

The stock broker discovered this long ago that with the telephone he was able to conduct his business anywhere - he doesn't have to hurry down to the stock exchange... we still have this obsessional, compulsive drive to fit into patterns, to fit into classifications which says our job is 'down here!'.. That's why we're terrified when automation threatens to integrate us, so that all of the old fragmentary jobs go back into a circuit... Circuitry has already brought this about, in many levels of our lives, and the applying of it to the industrialized areas of fragmented and specialist tasks at work is inevitable, yes, because it's already happening..." 

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