Friday, February 19, 2010

Marshall McLuhan's Four Epochs of History

According to Marshall McLuhan history can be understood through technology. He then divides history into four parts or epochs. The first epoch he calls the oral tribe culture. In general oral makes knowledge living,and is subject to change, interpretation, and embellishment. Sadly, the oral tribe culture is dead--or at least almost dead. Where it still exists is in small areas where native, indiginous people dwell. However this culture generally dies out when technology colonizes and assimilates various countries. Generally this technology manages to culturally embed itself whether it's wanted or not.In the oral tribe culture, everything is preliterate and depends upon the art of memory. Thus an entire work must be memorized word for word.

The second epoch is known as manuscript culture. At this point in history, writing came into being around 4000 or 3000 bc. Basically instead of memorizing an entire work like in oral tribe culture now someone would dictate what to write to you. To a certain degree, manuscript culture is tied to oral culture. Social resodance came into being awell which is a type of social thinking. The manuscript culture was hierarchial. As mentioned earlier things were dictated and then written down. Most noted for this were the monestaries of the dark ages.

The third epoch is called the Gutenberg Galaxy. Basically around this time, the printing press came into being--the Gutenberg press to be exact. With one press, many books could be created--many different books thus revolutionizing the basis of knowledge. The Gutenberg Galaxy transformed society entirely due to the printing press' great speed, it was able to reduce the labor that was originally neccesary to produce knowledge, and it had movable type. A fragmentated process of our world was able to occur. This fragment process produces flexibility while at the same time is fixed. While the process of the printing press was flexible, the product it produced was no longer flexible causing a cognitive shift. Through the Gutenberg Galaxy things had to now be ordered and make sense.Everything thrives upon rationality in which everything is ordered and linear. Rationality is responsible for producing major structures of society such as countries and nation states. The printing press itself produces books which in turn produced citizens. In order for nations to be formed, through the emergence of the novel, national subject bonds were created through specific imaginary, natinal mythology--sort of like our history of the founding of the United States of America as an independent nation from that of England. These national subject bonds resulted in people becoming uniform because they shared similar knowledge, and thus became close.

The final epoch is known as the electronic digital age which is today's society. New technology includes such things as the alphabet, radio and printing press because they totalized change in society. The electronic digigital age is also known as automation. It frees us from mundane labor. Here is futher information on these epochs.

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