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Friday, June 17, 2016

Labeling vs. Tagging: A McLuhanesque Perspective

Just finished being interviewed by WFUV's Zach Atanasoff for his Issues Tank podcast - I'll post the link here when the interview is up online, at the beginning of July - and Zach asked me to comment on why Millennials are more averse to being labeled as such than are Baby Boomers, Generation X'ers and the like about their generations.

I realized that very notion of "label" is something that comes from our print culture, in which we put written or printed labels on boxes and all kinds of things, including files in a cabinet and boxes of papers.   McLuhan would say that the very concept of labeling, and certainly the practice, comes from the output of the printing press, and keeping track of the pieces of civilization it generates.

In contrast, how do we identify posts in social media such Facebook, Instagram, etc?  We tag them. And a tag is a much less defining and confining tool than is a label.   Unsurprisingly,  Millennials who have come of age in a world of social media and its access to information anywhere, from anyplace, any time, are more comfortable with tags than with static and stationary/stationery labels. Tags can be much more easily changed and discarded than labels.

It's fascinating, once again, that Marshall McLuhan, who did most of his writing in the 1960s and died on the last day of 1980, at the doorstep of the digital age, has provided a way of thinking that is so useful in our understanding our Millennial age.

more about McLuhan and social media

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