For the first time in the history of the planet all of the media in all of the countries on every platform is talking about the same thing. There has never been a more useful time to understand McLuhan.
McLuhan’s approach to media was to start with the effects and work backwards. He claimed this was Sherlock Holmes’ approach in every case he solved.
Start with the effects and work backwards to the source.
McLuhan would look beyond COVID-19 and first make a list of its effects on the Global Village.
Scrutinizing the details of the Coronavirus, the number of cases, the number of deaths, could tell us less about the impact COVID-19 was having upon the planet than could the examination of its effects.
The most glaring and unanimous effect of the Coronavirus is that it has everybody everywhere believing in borders again. Better fences make better neighbours.
Before Coronavirus became king, there was great division over whether borders were necessary or not. Among the nations, within the nations, there was great debate. Now the world is almost unanimous in its faith in borders.
Even “social distancing” is a border at essence.
Notably, it would be McLuhan’s way to point this out neutrally, with no comment on whether it was a positive or negative effect upon society.
The mentality best and most beautifully expressed in that Frost Poem has been re-instilled upon the planet, re-tribalizing it via electrical technology, just as McLuhan had described in the early sixties.
The deaths, though many and tragic, that have occurred across this globe are nowhere near as important in the grand destiny of the Global Village, than the fact that this virus, which truly has gone viral, has got the whole wide world believing, and firmly, in BORDERS again.
This is the sort of perspective-changing thought Marshall McLuhan engaged in.
It is why McLuhan is so refreshing, so worthwhile, maybe even so necessary to us if we are to navigate our way through the digital galaxy we have created.
McLuhan would begin his media probes my making a catalogue of effects of any given scenario. He would let the effects he discovered determine the next move in his media investigation.
If the fact that COVID-19 has the world believing in borders again, what is another of its effects?