2021 Special Focus—The Data Galaxy: The Un-Making of Typographic Man?

In 1962, Marshal McLuhan published The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Drawing a line from the structural transformation that the printing press had on social consciousness, he frames the march of history as guided by the telos an information system. “The medium is the message,” he famously proclaimed. Society is defined by a canonical medium and its communicative forms. “Typographic Man” comes to represent a new humanity, a ‘global village’ shaped in the practices of discourse and social participation defined by its media of communication.

In this history, we see the early traces of what was soon to become an “electronic age.” McLuhan captures the speculative zeitgeist of a pre-internet moment. Now 30 years since the birth of the world wide web, how has this transformed medium lived up to this speculative imagination of a universal, global, social consciousness? We now live in an age that captures, structures, and interprets masses of data – a data galaxy. These processes define a new medium – the internet. In this moment, do we see an ‘un-making’ of ‘typographic humanity’ as a kind of universal project of history? And if so, what takes its place in the speculative imagination?

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