Work in the Electric Age

In his essay “The Typewriter: Into the Age of the Iron Whim,” Marshall Mc Luhan writes:

The mere interrelating of people by selected information is now the principal source of wealth in the electric age. In the preceding mechanical age, work had not been like that at all. Work had meant the processing of various materials by assembly-line fragmentation of operations and hierarchically delegated authority.

First of all, what does he mean? Second of all, what would Mashall McLuhan say is the “principal source of wealth” in the digital age? Remember, McLuhan was writing in the mid-60s. Please comment your thoughts.


  1. I think he means that information shared by people helps them interact. Information ends up becoming very important because the more information people have the better they tend to be. Marshal McLuhan would probably say that the “principle source of wealth” today is the internet. That is because the internet holds a lot of information and connects a lot of different people together. In the digital age, I could buy something online from a person who lives in Russia, or even Australia, both places being hours away by plane.

  2. I think that he’s saying this new-found ability to include all sorts of people in the production of knowledge is so much different from the way knowledge production had been. No longer are the only people who contribute to this base from an elite class, but the door has been open for more people to join the conversation and add their input. I also think that so many forms of production were delegated and fragmented in that one person could not solely be responsible for a complete product because there was no way for that to come about–the technology wasn’t stream-lined enough for self-production. Now I think he would say that the principal source of wealth in this digital age is the ability to dispense as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. We have at our disposal the almost limitless ability to create and to keep creating. The internet is so crucial in these productions and how that is shared to the rest of the world, therefore it becomes an integral part of the principal wealth.

  3. I think he meant that in the mechanical age and electric age the labor or what was valued was very different. Maybe in the mechanical age manual labor and being able to physically touch things was of value but in the electric age information was the most valued.
    The advancement of technology has created a contrast between what was in McLuhan’s time a gold mine to now a overflow. In today’s digital age information is of abundance and the wealth is the ability to share it. The ability to be able to integrate mass networks together is the the gold mine in today’s day.

  4. I think he’s saying that you would communicate with certain groups of people based on the information that was already together, instead of talking about anyone to gather this information. Once you know what information you’re to talk about it makes it easier to find what interests each specific person the most. As for the principal source of wealth in today’s age I would have to say it is most likely the opinions, retorts, comments, concerns and possible upgrades and updates to the information we know. For example, if we have a base idea or some base information there is always some type of update or collaborative input that could go along with that information and because of it we can improve what we know

  5. McCluhan means that work is becoming more people-centric. We don’t send telegrams to get the information to someone, you just pick up the phone and call them. Other technologies like this in the electric age allowed people to somewhat replace machines and so information became more focused through people. I think McCluhan would say that in the digital age collaboration is the principle source of wealth. Today, work is more collaborative because technology allows it to be. With something like Google Drive, multiple people can be working on a single document at the same time, and can even be in different states or even countries. Also, everyone in the workforce now knows how to use computers and other technologies, whereas back then, it was often just the stenographers or secretaries or typists who were the ones producing letters or other documents.

  6. Marshall McLuhan is saying that before the electric age, “sources of wealth” were tangible items that could be mass produced in a factory then shipped and sold to consumers. After the electric age, information became a commodity because words and images could be mass produced and distributed with ease.

    I think McLuhan would also say information is the principal source of wealth now, in the digital age. With the internet, there is way more circulating information now than there was in the sixties. I think the difference between digital age information and electric age information is authority, since people in the electric age were used to seeing information in print. People of the digital age are probably more discerning because we have so much more information available that doesn’t usually come from authoritative institutions.

  7. I think that he means that the advances of technology had changed the meaning of work and how selected information, due to technology, became a source of wealth. This advance in technology became a faster way for people to share information at the time. Today, McLuhan would not consider the type writer as being a major source of wealth in the digital age because technology has advanced so much since the 60’s and now we have much faster ways of sharing information. I still think that he would consider technology a source of wealth today because technology continues to make it easier to share information as quickly as possible. Although the type writer is no longer used, he is accurate when he explains that technology can lead to wealth.

  8. Marshall Mc Luhan is trying to emphasize that an avenue to make money electronically, focusing and articulating specific thoughts, was not available in the age prior to the electronic age. Before the electrical phase, work was primarily defined by the assembly line in factories. This societal notion of factory work being the major source of jobs in the masses is what Mc Luhan is referring to as the forgotten primary source of wealth. In the 60’s, jobs were beginning to rely on on electronics. Mc Luhan saw it coming, because in our digital age, most careers turn to electronically integrating people to reach a target market through social media. He would undoubtedly agree that the digital age relies on “interrelating” people to make money more than any age has done before.

  9. I think what the author is trying to say is that shared information helps them interact with each other. Information is the tool for people to people to become better off no matter what time period it is. Information is key in succeeding in life. The author would say that the principal source of wealth is the internet because it connects people to information all around the globe. Something such as Facebook could connect someone’s relatives in Europe and see and talk to how they are doing. This allows them to share pictures and other posts with each other even though they are far away from each other in distance.

  10. In his essay, Marshall Mc Luhan writes that there was a premium on improved means of communication in the 1960s. Prior to this age, work was fragmented and unidirectional. Work schedules often remained rigid and unchanging because a single set of orders passed down a hierarchy had to be followed. However, after the advent of better communication methods, work was far more productive and efficient. Communication allowed for a dynamic and versatile approach to completing work that was traditionally based on a single set of orders. Marshall would probably say that in the digital age, the principal source of wealth would be the internet. The internet has allowed for faster and cheaper means of communicating than any other time in history. Thus, this commodity has further enhanced work and productivity.

  11. I think McLuhan is just noting how the job field is or was different. Before, there was factory work and manual labor, now there are more options. This can be seen especially today; we have factory workers and we also have people who blog for a living. As more discoveries happen, more job options become available.

    I think he would say that it is still in a way the movement of information. We are still spreading information; because of the internet, it just goes exponentially faster than it used to. I think it’s just more focused on the movement of media-music, celebrities, tv shows, movies- because all of that is emphasized and idolized in our society today. Obviously, that depends on what websites you go to or what shows and radio stations you tune in to but the information that is made ready to you, the information that is put in your face and pushed onto you is usually the popular media. It is what sells and what gains money by influencing advertisements, popular topics, social issues, etc etc.

  12. I think McLuhan is commenting on the leveling of “wealth” throughout both periods. Advances in technology allowed for the larger spread of knowledge in the electric age, whereas the mechanical age saw physical labor as being its main source of this wealth. Information was being mass-produced and became the new commodity. The electric age gave people who hadn’t had the ability prior to publish something without going through someone who has access to a printing press.

    I think McLuhan would say the internet would be the principle source of wealth today. The internet really makes the world incredibly small; we can access any information readily- so much so that you can even find whole books and scholarly articles online.

  13. In this quote, the author is saying that the concept of work has changed. Before, work was considered physically changing raw materials into something else. Now, the meaning of work is the exchanging of electrical information. The “principal source of wealth” means that the easier and quicker it is for people to communicate, the more they can accomplish. I think that the principal source of wealth today is social media. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram all have made sharing multimedia and information very fast and easy.

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