As some of you will have noticed I am currently reading Marshal McLuhan's Understanding Media. I have been aware of the two best known ideas from the book "The medium is the message" and "The global village" but had always assumed it was just some "meeja" rant about TV and radio. It is however, for those of you haven't read it, a wonderful, all encompassing, profound, readable and bloody clever eye-opener about all kinds of means by which meaning is transferred between people. From rail systems to native oral traditions, from money to the telegraph he explains how all mediums of transfer between people carry their own significance in and of themselves independent of the content they may be carrying. For instance the very fact that television exists has an effect on the societies it touches whether or not the programmes it carries are deemed to be good or bad.
There are great sections on how the development of a phonetic alphabet and the arrival of the Gutenburg printing process introduced the concept of replicability in a way which had never been possible in the oral traditions which preceded them. This in turn brought about the move to systematisation and identification of processes which lead to the mechanistic view of organisations and human activity. Although writing in the sixties and way before the net became what we know today McLuhan predicted that the pervasiveness, immediacy and accessibility of electronic communication would return us to the more oral, narrative holistic view of the world which is what excites so many of us in the blogging community.
Great stuff - highly recommended!