Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye on “The Global Village”

Above is Marshall McLuhan interviewed by the CBC about the “global village” during the super-heated phase of his celebrity.

Below is one of Frye’s numerous assessments of McLuhan’s concept from Notebook 11f (1969-70):

The “flow of information,” which is mostly disinformation, is actually a presentation of myths. And people are increasingly rejecting the prescribed myths & developing their own counter-myths. Take another McLuhan phrase, “global village”–one early satellite broadcast was called the “town meeting of the world.” The myth behind this phrase assumes that every technological development creates a new anxiety & understanding–that a village is a community of friends. But, of course, a village may be a community of cliques & feuds & backbiting & gossip of a ferocity far worse than any metropolis, like those hideous little towns at the divisional points of railways, where the conductor’s wife couldn’t compromise her dignity by speaking to the brakeman’s wife. So when communicators, with a schoolteacher’s bright & glassy smile, say: now we’re going to be able to create a dialogue with Paraguay & Tanzania, & won’t that be nice? the reaction is, very often: we don’t want all those people in our living room: we want to get together with the people who speak our language & share our beliefs & prejudices, including, if we’re lucky, a minority that we can have fun of kicking around. Separatism, except when it is a genuine effort to escape from tyranny, is in most respects a mean, squalid & neurotic philosophy, but it is the strongest force yet thrown up by the age of total communication. (CW 13, 97)

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2 thoughts on “Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye on “The Global Village”

  1. Veronica Abbass

    This passage from Frye’s assessment, especially the myth “that a village is a community of friends,” strikes a chord with me. It reminds me that a house is not always a home. A house is a neutral noun, the word _home_ has both a denotative/emotive meaning as well as a connotative meaning. Thus, you can buy a house, but the people who live in a house, or an apartment or any other place of residence make it a home.

    The words community and neighbourhood have become emotive words used to create a positive reaction despite the fact that both a community and a neighbourhood can be places where there are “cliques & feuds & backbiting & gossip.”

  2. Jonathan Allan

    In the interests of Frye and McLuhan, John Geddes has written a novel, A Familiar Rain, in which both make appearances.


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