“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”
– Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962, p. 43)

Take a walk around your block today. Count the number of people you see fully engrossed in their electronic devices, be they in the form of laptops, smart phones, mp3s, tablets or portable readers. People with these gadgets are everywhere: sitting in your neighborhood café, riding the bus, waiting for the next train, brushing past you on the sidewalk; people have even (unfortunately) taken their devices with them behind the wheel!  Can anyone look up from their screens long enough to tell you what the time is?

Perhaps at first glance this observation may cause one to think that people have become more distant, as they turn to technology before direct human contact as a source of comfort. After all, we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve begged someone to turn off their phones in an attempt to have their undivided attention.  In his book, “Technopoly” author Neil Postman does say that this overexposure to information divides us because we are not united by the views of a common news source. Why then would author Paul Levinson argue that the internet is, in fact, bringing us closer to the idealized global village than ever before?

In Levinson’s book “Digital McLuhan,” he discusses the stages of media dissemination.  This approach gives his argument a strong foundation, which I find quite hard to argue against.  Media evolved from print to radio to television, to what we now have – the internet.  what makes the internet so special is that it is the first human media creation that allows for reciprocity.  We can listen to the radio, read a newspaper and watch TV, but there is no avenue for immediate dialogue with the person who addresses us through these forms of media.  Take a look at the internet on the other hand. Do you have a point of view on a news article? Leave an open comment. Did you just watch a profound video online? Post it to Facebook and share it with your friends.  Hate your President’s policy on economic reform? Feel free to let him know via Twitter!

The internet is a forum for us to create our news and to comment on the news stories of others. Information is transmitted immediately and is available every second of every single day.  Of course, the factor of constant immediacy may give rise to information overload and error but Levinson says it best:

“If the internet allows us to do everything well, it will be not because of the time for  careful work that its speed sets free, but also because the “us” in that hopeful equation is a vastly bigger group of minds than it ever was in the past.”
– Paul Levinson, Digital McLuhan (1999)

There is absolutely no guarantee that the news you read online is completely accurate; most major news corporations post news stories as “developing” on their websites to allow for error and updates on new information as it comes in.  The beauty of information exchange on the internet is that you and I have the opportunity to contribute to it.  People own their own channels on YouTube, CNN has launched iReport, an ordinary man became famous for unknowingly livetweeting the Osama Bin Laden raid. It’s time to get with the program.  We no longer live in a generation where we are told how to think or what to talk about. We are the media, and we have the power to reach out to each other in ways we never could have dreamed of before.

So sure, perhaps people on the street are too busy tweeting and texting to tell you what time it is, but I invite you to take a look at the silver lining. Cheers to mankind’s evolution from voyeurism to a generation of participation; welcome to the actualized global village!