Communication in a
Most people presume that we live, at the onset of the new millennium, in a golden age of communication. In terms of technology, we do. And the age grows more golden every day, because each day brings new and faster machines and software. But this is no golden age in terms of individuals communicating with one another.
It has been over 35 years since Marshall McLuhan warned us that “the medium, or process of our time—electric technology” was changing everything. In Understanding Media he told us that “the medium is the message.” Today we have come to realize the critical importance of the next step. For successful communication we must focus on the medium, the message, and the messenger.
And what is the information and knowledge state of America's potential messengers in the twenty-first century? The Pew Research Center for People and the Press reveals that we may be wired in but we are tuned out. While 79 percent of Americans have cable or satellite television, 84 percent know very little about the Microsoft breakup. And although 59 percent have home computers, 71 percent are unaware of the federal budget surplus. And finally, while 53 percent have cell phones, 56 percent have no idea who Alan Greenspan is.
Even those individuals with the greatest technological skills often fail to communicate successfully. Sometimes it is our very technology that causes this failure. In many cases dashed off, scatter-shot e-mails have replaced well thought-out letters. “There are more avenues to reach people than ever before, but there's no substitute for face-to-face com-