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Modern Society as The Post-literate Generation: Marshall Mcluhan’s Global Carnival Theory

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Modern Society as The Post-literate Generation: Marshall Mcluhan’s Global Carnival Theory essay
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Marshall McLuhan’s Global Carnival Theory describes our generation as the post-literate generation; we are slowly integrating ourselves back into the holistic world, a time where reliance on natural energy sources and animal power made local values prevail over global identity. After the industrial revolution of the 19th century, the world has been reversing its progress. The loss of local identity and the steady homogenization of culture are visible traits of the increasing globalized world of today. McLuhan compares the literacy levels of the western hemisphere to the literacy levels of the Third World, describing that our generation is starting to lose its literacy comprehension as well as its individuality by not reading and writing. I personally agree with McLuhan’s theories and believe that our generation is losing its ability to be unique as people are now less inclined to think linearly as a result of the amount of media exposure we are consuming.

The United States, a superpower and arguably one of the most modernized countries, is one of the western hemisphere most renowned countries. However, despite being a world leader in terms of technological innovation, the United States possesses one of the lowest test scores in reading, mathematics and science in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The results demonstrate the United States has subpar test scores compared to major countries in the eastern hemisphere. Not only are the United States’ results unsatisfactory, but so are those of its neighbouring country, Canada, both showing deteriorating performance compared to their previous years. In fact, the top performing countries from PISA’s results are in fact countries that are in the east, demonstrating that the western hemisphere is reading less and less frequently (Chappell, “U.S. Students Slide In Global Ranking On Math, Reading, Science”). By seldom reading, you are more prone to being influenced by the media as mentioned by McLuhan. Reading allows you to actively interpret the content and create your own unique simulation of it because everyone’s brain works differently. In contrast, being shown the content is a more passive form of consumption since all your senses are already engaged, leaving less room for your own form of imagination.

Technologies such as the telephone and Skype have revolutionized the way we communicate by making physical distance no longer a hindrance to real-time conversations, thus expanding our social spheres and increasing the opportunities for cross-cultural sharing. Though unifying the world through technology may seem marvellous, in reality it is quite the opposite. Having people from thousands of miles away influencing each other causes them to slowly lose their cultural identity, in addition to their individuality. For instance, English is now the most commonly spoken language across the whole world (“Most Widely Spoken Language in the World”). Although this can be beneficial as it eases the communication barrier between individuals, it can also be detrimental to their cultural background. Learning a new language and culture that is more commonly used in today’s society often leads to one forgetting their own personal background from infrequent applicability. A prominent example in everyday society would be how multicultural and diverse Canada is. Though it is wonderful that you are able to meet people from diverse cultures, many of them are second generation Canadians. A large portion of them are no longer able to speak their native language and have adapted to the Canadian lifestyle, losing their own cultural identity in the process.

I usually trade work with my peers with the intention of proofreading and making suggestions before finalizing my essays. One thing I have noticed is that slangs are often a prevalent problem that I come across while editing. People have a tendency to use casual dialect when sending text messages and other instant messaging services and as a result, slangs have subconsciously migrated into their English dialect. Our generation has the common goal to be “trendy” and “fit in”, often causing them to follow mainstream trends such as the use of slang as part of a natural vocabulary. The use of slang is so extensive that even the Oxford Dictionary has added many of these terms such as “selfie”, “derp”, “twerking” and “phablet” to its database (“New Words Added to Today”), demonstrating how the common use of anything can become mainstream and influential. With trends being so popular in our daily lives, it is becoming a challenge to even be able to think for yourself as an individual.

Reading books has been a method that most teachers recommend students use to improve their reading and writing skills. However, with the prevalence of technology in our modern society, our generation has less of a reason to read books for entertainment. Many of the bestsellers nowadays have been made into movies. In a survey I conducted with a pool of fifty people, of the people who have seen the ‘Harry Potter’ series, 91% of them have never read Harry Potter prior to watching the movie and only 9% of people had plans of reading the book after watching the movie (“Movies vs. Books”). The responses received showcase how people today would rather be able to watch something then to read it. However, the significant difference between reading something and simply watching it is that when you are reading, you are granted the ability to freely think and picture the content. When viewing something, the visual content is already incorporated leaving little to no room for your own take on the situation. Later, when the surveyed were asked why they would not read the book after watching the movie, a majority of them told us they did not feel the need to read after knowing the story. The fact that people are not even the slightest bit concerned or even aware that they are losing their ability to freely think is gravely problematic as it demonstrates how people do not even feel the need to be entitled to individuality.

The Global Carnival video is an accurate representation of McLuhan’s theories because throughout the video, screens are constantly feeding us content. Similar to how the media is consistently a part of our daily lives. In a recent study, teens are recorded to have spent more than 7 ½ hours per day consuming media through TVs, cellphones and computers (Ahuja, “Teens Are Spending More Time Consuming Media”). With teens investing so much of their free time on “hot” mediums, it makes it excruciatingly difficult to have time to spend on other mediums that stimulate their own identity.

In addition, the amount media being output in the Global Carnival video is heavy to the degree where it is masking the interview taking place, comparable to how media is so prominent in our daily lives that it masks all other thoughts trying to pass through. Displaying the video in gamma also aids in artistically representing the situation. Gamma defines the relationship between a pixel’s numerical value and its actual luminance. Without it, shades captured by digital cameras would not appear as they do (Davidović, “Gamma Correction”). This is comparable to how without the media’s exposure, the content would not appear nearly important as it currently does. For instance, if the media broadcasted that a new trend was to only wear pink shoes, then many people would start to only wear pink shoes. However, choosing not to wear them is not that big of a deal as the media makes it seem. Thus, demonstrating how media endorses you to pursue things that can actually be quite ridiculous if you start to think of it individually instead of following mainstreams.

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Modern Society As The Post-Literate Generation: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Carnival Theory. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from
“Modern Society As The Post-Literate Generation: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Carnival Theory.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
Modern Society As The Post-Literate Generation: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Carnival Theory. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Jun. 2022].
Modern Society As The Post-Literate Generation: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Carnival Theory [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Apr 26 [cited 2022 Jun 26]. Available from:
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