Understanding Media
Chapter 34


The Electronic Media in 2027
by Bircan UNVER


Introduction to chapter 34

Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media" was first published in 1964. We can now see that the 1960's was the dawn of the electronic era. At that time,  neither TV, cable, satellite nor computers with Internet were as ubiquitous and accessible as they are in today's communication world.  I would, therefore, like to focus on the force that is the Internet.

In addition, I would like to compare McLuhan's visions to that of Turkey's situation in 1964; as an example of a country that has only recently had greater access to television.

I will try to predict how the electronic media will force reform and change in the educational and political system, as well as the change in the electronic media over the next 30 years from 1997 to 2027. According to this approach, education will play a key role through the power of the Internet by changing the world for the better.

The Internet as a force to change traditional journalism

I believe that the Internet will force a reform of traditional journalism and correspondence with both print and electronic media. We are still in a transitional phase from the "Cybernetic Era" to the "Satellite Era," in the first quarter of the new millennium. Under these circumstances, Cyberspace, within its own abstract circuit which is the world-wide network, will increase the number of international electronic newspapers written by specialists in their  fields. In a way, this has been happening every moment in Cyberspace, but its simultaneousness and accessibility has not yet expanded to every corner of the world.  In thirty years this will have changed the look and content of the electronic media a great deal. To that point, electronic media will not be nurtured by a sort of clan or be at the top of the pyramid. Instead, various ranges of people will nurture the media. For instance, the entire world will send out reports or comments to Internet journals continuously on many different issues related to that specific part of the world. Afterwards, every corner of the world will be under the spotlight, and this vast participation will add many different layers to international communication, politics and culture. The bottom line is that this will cause the electronic media, and in some way the print media, to go through an enormous revolution for the "public good." This revolution will reshape media and therefore, the electronic media will reshape the world.

The key is education

I would like to point out that the most essential concept and process for the "Cybernetic Era," in particular is that technology will get more sophisticated and complex with each new version.  At least a certain level of education is needed in terms of building up the basic skills and educational standards to allow people to understand, use and produce information to their full capacity.

Education is a major political and social issue, as is investing in technology and marketing its products to the whole world in order to make a major economic profit and become more powerful. Still, the politicians, the governments or the mechanical type of industrial corporations try to push this process very far. But this is an unavoidable transition and hopefully, most of their power will be out of the frame in the coming thirty years. High-tech, and its "ubiquity and accessibility" will convey a new revolution in the political and social platform on earth. This new revolutionary process might entirely change the globe forever during the "Cybernetic and Satellite Era."

As McLuhan pointed out, it may not take a big "war for landÓ by making profits through the weapon industry, which provides a political force over other countries.  Cyberspace is an unavoidable force and is rapidly expanding its accessibility. It is making a revolutionary progress in international education. This is due to Cyberspace's ability to improve educational standards internationally, from elementary to graduate level, and is the key to opening the doors to the gradual move into a new era.

As I understand, McLuhan defined that information and the electronic media are a type of weapon for economic and political achievement. In this sense, Cyberspace is a magical weapon for the people rather than monarchic or monarchic-type of Republic rulers.  Despite McLuhan's electronization ideas, I consider that Cyberspace is more of an extension of our bodies, and our nervous system.

Turkey is a great example

I think that Turkey is a great example of McLuhan's predictions.  The first world countries are rapidly expanding in the electronic media, and also rapidly surrounding their every social and political layer with Cyberspace. In contrast, Turkey is still within the 'developing' countries category.

Furthermore, Turkey has been struggling to transform its political system from a Republic to a Democracy. There are many obstacles, such as the military, the government, the countries' own constitution, and its legal system. When "Understanding Media" was published, Turkey had only two national radio stations governed by the state, and didn't have access to television. According to a United States edition of The Economist, on June 1996, there was mention that there are 31 national and regional, 300 local television channels; and 14.5 million households own TV's among a population of over 60 million. There is also satellite access from Europe, and cable channels from the BBC, CNN, Deutsche Well, Eurosport, Pro-7 (Italy), RAI 1, SAT 1, SKY 1, NBC Super Channel, TVE (Spain), Euronews, and as well as nine Turkish channels distributed by state-owned Turkish Post, Telephone, and Telegraph Service (PTT).

With the strong affect of Cyberspace, many visible and invisible boundaries within religion and modern culture are fading, especially in Turkey. This is a revolutionary force that will reshape the religion, tradition and culture of the country. At the same time, it conveys a double bind, in terms of a secular state controlling all prayers and mosques. Here are examples of how news titles relate to how the "Cyber Era" reshapes Turkey.  The first one is "At the GAP, from primitive plow jumped to the Internet," Sabah, June 20, 1997. GAP stands for "Southern Anatolian Project" (Guney Anadolu Projesi). The project conveys a goal to develop the Southern part of Turkey. The second one is that "There won't be any students without a computer", Sabah, Oct. 25, 1997). The subtitle states that this project will cost $10 billion. The button has already been pushed by the Turkish Minister of State, Mr. Isin Celebi to launch this campaign to each household. Turkey is trying to seize the 21st century, and this proves that the combination of education and Cyberspace will be the key to either belonging to a new millennium, or insisting on staying in the "Middle Ages."


In my conclusion, better education for the mass population, and the powerful force of the Internet power by the year 1027, will be dominated by the "Satellite Era." Therefore, as McLuhan indicated, the dawn of the "Electronic Era" will be completed. If Turkey already has a goal for a high-tech educational standard for every student by the current government; this is not utopia.  As McLuhan wrote in the "Automation" chapter, "As the machine and motorcar released the horse and projected it onto the entertainment, so does automation with man".  I'll try to adopt this idea, which is networking virtual worlds, Cyberspace, and etc. This will reduce the need for certain types of labor and increase the need for people with Web skills. Of course, it may be too late for some people but on the bottom line, we must constantly be able to adapt to this dynamic pace of change and maintain ongoing education in order to stay both productive and creative.

Marchall McLuhan's vision, "Understanding Media" has outlined the transformation from written to electronic media, as Plato did with "Phaedrus", from oral to written.

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NOT: This essay was written for the Media Theory course, in MA Media Studies program at the New School University, in Fall 1997. Thus, the year 1997 was a stand point to predict to the next 30 years. B.U.

Above essay also was e-published at the Turkish American Journalists Associations
TAJA home page

© Bircan Unver, Fall 1997, New York.

BAHAR sayisi web'dedir.



@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan ÜNVER. 6th issue. Summer 2001, New York.
URL: http://www.lightmillennium.org