Recently, on WEDWay Radio, we discussed Walt Disney and his vision for the “Global Village.” The following is a summary of our discussion. At the end of the article, we provide a link for you to listen along.
Technology fueled many of social-cultural changes of the mid-20th century and it’s one of the few eras of human history in which most of the social-cultural change is both directly or indirectly related to technology. In the mid-20th century, technology led to economic development, changing the way that we work, play and interact with one another.
In looking at the origins of Walt Disney’s ideas for E.P.C.O.T., we can’t ignore the thinkers and theorists of his era. The same thinkers and theorists that shaped the attitudes towards the way that solutions for social problems might have been formulated.
Civilization has had a direct relationship with technology throughout our existence. The Industrial Revolution was one of the most pronounced time periods for technological change. This was a time of rampant change and important challenges in society. We adapted and developed social solutions to improve working and living conditions.
The Medium is the Message
Technological Determinist Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase The Medium is the Message, which means that the technology itself becomes as much a part of how or why we respond to information. Who or what delivers information is a major factor in the effect of information, as well. So, if a government official gives you a message, you’re going to respond to it much differently than if a private citizen does.
The Global Village
Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase Global Village to describe how electronic media and mid-century technology worked to reshape our social experience in a positive manner. He made these ideas public in the 1960s and even predicted the internet thirty years before it came to be.
Disney believed in technology as well. He may not have had McLuhan’s foresight regarding predictions of things to come, but Walt likely saw the world very much the same way as a social scientist of that era. Walt had the keen ability to recognize where the world needed a band-aid or a fix, and like a true technological determinist, he believed technological innovation and American ingenuity could remedy it.
Its amazing how technology used to create the products in the postwar era were viewed as the saving grace of mankind. Today we understand that while technology is a means to an end to improve our economic, social, political, or cultural issues, its just as often used for recreation and leisure.
Walt was very much a product of this era in terms of how he viewed the future of technology. That’s not to take anything away from the man because if you think about it, the advancement of technology and industry, whether it was in animation, sound recording, the development radio and television networks he could utilize, or audio animatronics, always seemed to benefit him and the Disney company.