Marshall McLuhan

  • Canadian media theorist (1911-1980)
  • Coined the terms “the medium is the message” and “global village

The Gutenburg Galaxy (1962)

Full title: The Gutenburg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

  • Popularized the term global village, the idea that mass communication allows a village-like mindset to apply to the entire world
  • Popularized the term Gutenburg Galaxy, the accumulated body of recorded works of human art/knowledge, especially books
  • Unusual book design:
    • Develops a mosaic or field approach to its problems
    • Mosaic image would reveal “causal operations in history”
    • Main body of the book consists of 107 short “chapters,” many of which are 1-3 pages in length (fits the picture of a mosaic)
  • Book can also be understood as way fo describing 4 epochs of history:
    1. Oral tribe culture
    2. Manuscript culture
    3. Gutenberg galaxy
    4. Electronic age

Understanding Media (1964)

Full title: Understanding Media: The Extension of Man

  • Most widely known work
  • Source of the phrase “the medium is the message
    • Used the light bulb as an example
    • Has no content like a newspaper has articles, yet “creates an enviroment by its mere presence”
    • For McLuhan, the medium is “any extension of ourselves”

Hot vs. Cool Media

  • Source of the idea of hot and cool media
    • Cool media require high attention from user due to low definition/missing info
    • Hot media require low attention due to high defintion

Scratch vs. Itch

  • McLuhan claimed that there exists cultural tendency to “describe the scratch but not the itch
    • Scratch = reaction
    • Itch = cause

The Medium is the Massage (1967)

Full Title: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects

  • McLuhan’s bestseller
  • Argues that technologies are the messages, rather than the content of the communication
    • Technologies include clothing to the wheel to the book and beyond
  • Graphical and creative representation of his “medium is the message” thesis explored in Understanding Media
  • Suggests that modern audiences enjoy mainstream media as soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing
  • Originated as a typo of the famous phrase “The Medium is the Message”

War and Peace in the Global Village (1968)

  • Collage of images and text that illustrates the effects of electronic media and new technology on man
  • Study of war throughout history as an indicator as to how war may be conducted in the future
  • Used James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake as an inspiration
  • Claims Finnegans Wake is a gigantic cryptogram which reveals a cyclic pattern for the whole history of man through its Ten Thunders
  • Each “thunder” is a 100-character portmanteau of other words to create a statement he likens to an effect that each technology has on the society into which it is introduced
    • Reader must break each portmanteau into separate words and speak them aloud for the spoken effect of each word
    • Many are themselves portmanteaus of words taken from languages other than English
10 Thunders
  • Thunder 1: Paleolithic to Neolithic. Speech. Split of East/West. From herding to harnessing animals.
  • Thunder 2: Clothing as weaponry. Enclosure of private parts. First social aggression.
  • Thunder 3: Specialism. Centralism via wheel, transport, cities: civil life.
  • Thunder 4: Markets and truck gardens. Patterns of nature submitted to greed and power.
  • Thunder 5: Printing. Distortion and translation of human patterns and postures and pastors.
  • Thunder 6: Industrial Revolution. Extreme development of print process and individualism.
  • Thunder 7: Tribal man again. All choractors end up separate, private man. Return of choric.
  • Thunder 8: Movies. Pop art, pop Kulch via tribal radio. Wedding of sight and sound.
  • Thunder 9: Car and Plane. Both centralizing and decentralizing at once create cities in crisis. Speed and death.
  • Thunder 10: Television. Back to tribal involvement in tribal mood-mud. The last thunder is a turbulent, muddy wake, and murk of non-visual, tactile man.

From Cliche to Archetype (1970)

  • Collaboration with Canadian poet Wilfred Watson
  • Introduced global theatre, which succeeds the phrase global village
  • Cliché: “normal” action, phrase, etc. which becomes so often used that we are “anesthetized” to its effects
  • Archetype: “quoted extension, medium, technology or environment.”

The Global Village (1989)

Full title: The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in 21st Century

  • Posthumorous book and collaboration with Bruce R. Powers
  • Critiques 20th century communication models, such as the Shannon-Weaver model

Visual vs. Acoustic Space

  • Visual Space: linear, quantitative mode of perception that is characteristic of the Western world
  • Acoustic Space: the holistic, qualitative reasoning of the East
    • Illustrates how it feels to exist in acoustic space by quoting from Jacques Lusseyran’s autobiography And There Was Light
  • Global media network is pushing toward acoustic space (but it may not go smoothly)

Tetrad of Media Effects

  • In Laws of Media (1988), McLuhan summarized his ideas about media in a concise tetrad of media effects
    • Published posthumously by his son Eric
  • Means of examining the effects of any technology on society:
    1. Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies/intensifies
    2. Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence
    3. Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost
    4. Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits