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The Medium Is the Message

Douglas Coupland explores the ideas of 60s media seer Marshall McLuhan, in a new world of the 'global village'. From 2018.

Generation X author Douglas Coupland explores the ideas, sound and vision of media seer Marshall McLuhan who in the 1960s coined the phrases "the medium is the message" and "the global village".

Marshall McLuhan was the first great prophet of what would become digital mass media and indeed the global media village - a thinker and writer of near supernatural foresight.

Trained as a literary scholar, throughout his career McLuhan not only examined the relationship between form and content in the media itself, offering dazzling arguments for the importance of medium over content, but anticipated the very idea of online networks, virtual reality, multiple interfaces, social media and most importantly of all, how new technologies rewire us by stealth, endlessly transforming our identities and our communities. "We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us," he said.

Drawing on cutting-edge thinking about networks and cybernetics, McLuhan foresaw a fully wired, connected world, which would bring to an end the isolated consumption of print. New cross-border (effectively online) communities would form, breaking old political barriers, creating genuinely new kinds of electronic identity. But with this McLuhan offered a warning: older ideas of privacy and the self would evaporate under new media he said, leading to the rise of what he called 'discarnate' man - the lost, disembodied user extended across an unrelenting, unforgiving electronic global nervous system.

McLuhan's ideas seem more prescient than ever. As Douglas Coupland puts it: 'The future has never happened so quickly, to so many people, in such an extreme way - just as Marshall predicted, an uncanny prophet of our own digital age.'

Contributors include novelist Tom McCarthy, DJ Spooky, Andrew McLuhan, biographer Philip Marchand, the media theorists Shannon Mattern and Bernard Dionysus Geoghegan, Zak Kyes the graphic designer, philosopher James Garvey, filmmaker Jonathan Meades and former network engineer Tung-Hui Hu, who has written on McLuhan and 1970s guerrilla television.

Presenter: Douglas Coupland
Producer: Simon Hollis

A Brook Lapping production

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2018.

Available now

57 minutes

Last on

Sun 11 Jul 2021 01:00


  • Sat 20 Jan 2018 20:00
  • Sun 23 Dec 2018 22:00
  • Tue 6 Jul 2021 11:00
  • Tue 6 Jul 2021 21:00
  • Sat 10 Jul 2021 13:00
  • Sun 11 Jul 2021 01:00



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