The Catholic Church in McLuhan’s “global village”

By Robert Duncan
Catholic News Service

Thursday the Vatican will release Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day 2013. The topic is “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith.”

The weekend may be a good time to return to the thought of the man Life Magazine called “the Oracle of the Electronic Age,” and reflect on the value his observations have for us today.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian Catholic philosopher of communication who owed part of his conversion to Catholicism to the writings of G. K. Chesterton. His insights about media sparked debates that continue to resonate.

In 1965, appearing on Canadian television, McLuhan predicted the coming of telephone commerce and “world connectivity.”

“The sort of dialogue among all the elements of our world that is going on actually and without benefit of bureaucratic blessing, or an official blessing, the kind of exchanges and interchanges of imagery and awareness of peoples of the world, this is the pattern that education will tend to resort to more and more,” McLuhan predicted.

In the video below, McLuhan outlines his theory of “the global village,” saying, “These new media have made our world into a single unit. The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and — boom boom boom! — we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa; a Hollywood star gets drunk — away go the drums again.”

If the late Catholic media theorist had this much to say about television and the sciences of his day, what might he think of the world of Facebook and Twitter?

Marshall McLuhan: the global village

Robert Duncan is a multimedia journalist in the Catholic News Service Rome bureau.

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