“You can’t go home again.”

Marshall McLuhan was a cultural prophet. I recently re-discovered The Medium is the Massage, written by him and Quentin Fiore.

Back in the late 60’s, McLuhan envisioned how television and electronic media would change our lives. He coined the term “global village”, and wrote about our growing [glowing?] sense of self as “The older, traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions…are very seriously threatened by new methods of instantaneous electric information retrieval…the one big gossip column that is unforgiving, unforgetful and from which there is no redemption, no erasure of the early mistakes.” Today, newspapers struggle to stay afloat while careers are made and broken in the blogosphere.

Seriously threatened? I’m not sure if all bloggers feel that way, but there is definitely an old guard who feels strongly about guarding their privacy. Some put their digital self [selves] out there – contributing to blogs, publishing photos, creating profiles on Facebook and Myspace, Digging digital ephemera, and commenting like crazy. [I once was Lost and now am Found via Google.] Others cling to their “handle” and their “alias” in an effort to keep their friends, family, professional and other selves private and separate.

I guess I’m somewhere in between. I put my work portfolio online, and that’s perfectly natural to me and an absolute necessity (if I want to keep working). You know, I never really thought I would have a blog. I thought… that’s a thing other people do. I mean, does anyone really [have the time to] care what I have to say, and more importantly, do I want to give up my ‘privacy’ and do something so public as write a blog? Ever since my mom read my my diary when I was 16, I’ve had a fear of writing anything personal. Maybe that’s why I take so many pictures. I used to only upload a highly edited selection of photos to flickr – so as not to give away TMI about me personally. Now, I just put it all up there. Still edited, but not just the nice looking shots. I share pictures of friends, and family, and birthdays and vacations. It’s a chronicle of my life. It is all my self.

Last weekend I saw and saw Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005 at the The Legion of Honor. The show is intersperses her famous people portraits with more mundane family snapshots and very personal shots of her life partner – Susan Sontag – in the various stages of cancer. The collection is a full “photographer’s life,” as Leibovitz says: “I don’t have two lives. This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.”

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2 responses to ““You can’t go home again.”

  1. Interesting… My friend Josiah touched on a similar topic on his blog the other day. Among other things, he writes:

    “This generation will be the first who, upon death, will have an overwhelming amount of content – words, images, & video – available for anyone to effortlessly consume. Future generations will be able to quickly & effortlessly construct portraits of their ancestors. Big Macs, MacMansions, and now MacHistory. Will it be accurate? Does knowing a subject’s opinion on Over The Rhine help them have a better sense of who he/she is?”

    http://chattablogs.com/quintus/archives/068813.html

  2. http://hypertemps.procurate.com/index.php?id=P114

    MM indeed saw the future in all its 1’s & 0’s. I had such a great moment while reading “the medium…: on the 2 train, heading uptown, i got to the pages with a John Dewey quote backwards. I scrambled for a minute, then opened the book toward the subway window and read away. It was a really visceral moment with me feeling empowered by my ingenuity and everyone around me trying to understand my actions. Not very digital, but that’s the genius of McLuhan anyway: giving real-space meaning to the kinetic flow of electronic information.

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