In his theoretical-historical lecture, Oliver Zöllner explains how a widely received media theory of the 1960s, namely the speculative theses of the literary scholar Marshall McLuhan, who was stylized as a “media guru” and pop phenomenon in North America, with its leitmotif of a new, global, non-linear, holistic consciousness, influenced both popular music and authors/activists from the environment of the civil rights movement and civil disobedience around the year 1968. Zöllner analyzes the revolutionary gesture of the time centrally on the basis of three contemporary artifacts that were strongly influenced by the new media expressions of their time: the song triad “Revolution 1” / “Revolution 9” / “Revolution” by the Beatles (1968); the book “Revolution for the Hell of It” by Free (= Abbie Hoffman, 1968) and the book “Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution” by Jerry Rubin (1970). These artifacts will be used to examine how they received and incorporated McLuhan’s contemporary popular theses. Particular attention will be paid to McLuhan’s hypothesized shift in social consciousness away from a linear-hierarchical to a holistically networked, non-hierarchical (“acoustic”) structure.

This talk traces how a narrative of “revolutionary” change was popularized around 1968 that continues to shape perceptions of the cipher “1968” today and, beginning in the 1980s, finds its expression in the digital innovation or disruption ideologies of Silicon Valley. At its core, this narrative revolves around the topoi of networking and tribalization, behind which lies the question of visions of collectivization versus individualization; but it is also about the technological change that took place around 1968 and can be found in all three bundles of documents examined as examples. In his approach of tracing the habitus of “1968,” however, Zöllner also explained how non-committal and vague this “revolutionary” gesture appears – at least in the historical retrospective of the documents 50 years later. Accordingly, this gesture could and can be exploited commercially.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Zöllner teaches media research, international communication and digital ethics at the Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, where he heads the Stuttgart University Radio and, together with colleagues, the Institute for Digital Ethics. Zöllner is also an honorary professor at the University of Düsseldorf.

Oliver Zöllner’s review of his talk can be found here: