6th Summit: Special Guest, Derrick De Kerckhove

7th of August 2011
Summit Main Room
10:00 am

Prof. Mr. Derrick De Kerckhove:
100 Anniversary of McLuhan’s birthday

Global village between theory and reality

The global village doesn’t so much “exist” as it co-exists with the local scene. You are carrying the global village in your pocket. It is your cellular phone. The notion itself is promoting the feeling, if not the full experience, of being a neighbor from one place of the globe to all others. Getting a sense of being part of a much larger realm than only the city or the nation is perhaps a necessary self-organizing strategy of humanity to survive.

Globalization is not an issue of economy, primarily. That is usually how people see it. But it would be more enlightening to see it as a psychological and social issue. Globalization is the framework of our metamorphosis from a society of individuals and masses to a society of networks as Manuel Castells has amply shown. Castells reads the fine print on the global contract, McLuhan drew the large picture. For example, there is this idea that Sputnik, by circling around the planet in 1957, had rendered nature obsolete and turned the Earth in an art form. That is exactly where we are going now. Short of literally “programming the planet”, we are going to rapid demise.

McLuhan was and remains right in his assessment of the global village, not a haven of peace but a nest of hatred and violence, an implosive situation that brings people upon each other’s back. At worst, the concentration of a village is a messy but unavoidable implosion of the world upon itself. “In the future half the world will be busy spying and reporting on the other half”, he said, as if it were a joke. Check out Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and what not, a global chatter that feeds on what the neighbor is up to. And how about Rupert Murdoch News of the World hacking scandal ? Is that not a vivid example of a global village event?

McLuhan’s most beautiful – generally forgotten – aphorism is that “In the age of instant communication, we wear all mankind as the extension of our skin”. That is the social consequence of shifting from the point of view to the point of being. As we follow with anguish the developments in Lybia or in Japan, or with thrilled anxiety the soccer game between Argentina and Brazil, we are taking part in the human drama in ways that was never possible before, with the possible consequence that politically as well as socially, the people of the Earth will be brought to need, require and demand that whatever it takes to establish durable peace and equal distribution of goods and services, it will be taken. I believe this very profoundly just I believe the evidence presented by the history of cities. They too have gone through growing pains to eventually achieve a stable order. But before you get there, you have to feel that need in your guts and that need has to be extended and shared by the majority of the people, those, for example who, at the peril of their lives, went down the street in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli.