Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 9, 2011 6:38 PM

The Great Old Minds Of New Media

Curious to get some fresh thinking in your New Media diet?

Yes, there are countless brand spanking new business books, Blog posts and answers on Quora to help you better navigate the new media channels. You could do that, or side-step and delve deeper into the history of mass media communications to discover some gems. Just now, I was reading the article, Marshall McLuhan: Media Savant, which was featured in The New York Times Sunday Book Review today as book review for, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! written by Douglas Coupland.

Check this out:

"Coupland explains that it was Mc­Luhan's ability to anticipate the homogenizing and dehumanizing effect of mass media when the phenomenon was in its infancy that made him remarkable. Both a prisoner and a product of academic life, McLuhan broke out because he recognized the toxic effects of media long before media became the air we all breathe. And he did it before there was any genuine understanding of how human beings process mediated information. As Coupland writes: 'One must remember that Marshall arrived at these conclusions not by hanging around, say, NASA or I.B.M., but rather by studying arcane 16th-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings. He was a master of pattern recognition, the man who bangs a drum so large that it's only beaten once every hundred years.' Put less charitably, McLuhan was the clock that was spectacularly right once a century. What made him singular was not his precision -- anybody who takes 'Finnegans Wake' as an ur-text will probably have a low signal-to-noise ratio. In between the puns, the aphorisms, the digressive language that seemed to chase itself and riddle the reader, McLuhan came up with a theory of media generation and consumption so plastic and fungible that it describes the current age without breaking a sweat."

And there you have it.

You've heard the phrase, "every new is old again." While this may be true and while history does repeat itself, it's amazing to step back (instead of staying in the present or looking too far into the future) to get an idea about how Marketing, Communications and Advertising can change. It wasn't just McLuhan either. Long before the term "Social Media" was in our vernacular, a book called, The Cluetrain Manifesto was written (and it's one I am constantly referring to). You can pick that book up right now, open it up to any random page and something will jump out at you that says, "why don't brands do this! why don't I do this?" People like Don Tapscott (you can listen to a conversation he and I had a few months back right here: SPOS #225 - The World Of Macrowikinomics With Don Tapscott) have been beating these drums for over twenty years.

A Sunday is always a great day to reflect.

Your next great idea may not come from being a head of the game, but rather for having a strong grasp on some of the great minds who had an uncanny ability to feel how the world would move. Today gave me pause. While it's easy to look at the latest and greatest, it's also critical to spend some time doing some critical thinking with those who have walked before us. A fun Blog to help get you in the mood is called, From Marshall And Me. It's written by Michael Hinton, and five days a week, he presents one of McLuhan's observations and Blogs about its relevance today.

What are some of the great minds of the past that inspire your New Media thinking?

By Mitch Joel