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To some Westeners the written word has become a very touchy subject. It is true that more material is written, printed and read today than ever before, but there is also a new electronic technology that threatens this ancient technology of literacy built on the phonetic alphabet. Because of its action in extending our central nervous systems, electronic technology seems to favour the inclusive and participational spoken word over the specialist written word. Our western values built on the written word, have already been considerably affected by the electric media of telephone, radio and television. Perhaps this is the reason why many highly literate people in our time find it difficult to examine this question without getting into a moral panic. There is further the circumstance that, during his more than two thousand years of literacy, Western man has done little to study or to understand the effects of the phonetic alphabet in creating many of his basic patterns of culture. To begin now to examine the question may, therefore, seem to late.
- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964