Saturday, 1 September 2012

Authorship, copyright and Marshall McLuhan

In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan predicted the rise of modern mass media, which he explored in his classic book The Medium is the Massage.  This discusses the way the growth of technology can reshape society, sensory perception and revolutionise the way we communicate and live.  He coined the phrase the "Global Village".  It's fascinating to read about his prophetic observations.  He talks about print technology and the way the invention of printing did away with anonymity "fostering ideas of literary fame and the habit of considering intellectual effort as private property. Mechanical multiples of the same text created a public - a reading public. The rising consumer-oriented culture became concerned with labels of authenticity and protection against theft and piracy. The idea of copyright....was born."

He talked about the subsequent invention and availability of xeroxing (photocopying) and how this enabled everyone to "steal" and copy at will.  "Anybody can now become both author and publisher."

Anybody?  This last comment got me thinking about existing technology and the way writers can self-publish onto a digital format, a technology that is increasingly accessible and user-friendly. This in itself raises plenty of issues both for and against.  Interesting times for writers and readers.....and publishers......

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