Simon and Garfunkle and McLuhan

November 22, 2021
Posted by Jay Livingston

The term “global village” was coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1962 in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy.

But certainly the electro-magnetic discoveries have recreated the simultaneous “field” in all human affairs so that the human family now exists under conditions of a “global village.” We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums. So that the concern with the “primitive” today is as banal as nineteenth-century concern with “progress,” and as irrelevant to our problems.

McLuhan was prescient. He saw that the electronic media would dissolve the distinction between primitive and modern. In 1962, even the term “electronic media” was not much in circulation (McLuhan uses electro-magnetic). “Globalization” had not yet entered the general conversation, and the Internet and World Wide Web were decades away.

(Frequency of globalization in books. Google n-Grams.)

I doubt that anyone still reads The Gutenberg Galaxy these days, but Maurice Stein assigned it, along with McLuhan’s Understanding Media (1964) to my Sociology of Literature class in 1965. That was also the year that Simon and Garfunkle’s “Sound of Silence” became a huge hit.

These seemingly diverse facts came together for me this morning as I was listening to a promo for a new audiobook, Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon.

(No transcript. The idea is entirely in the music.)

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