- 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:
- Oral tribe culture
- Manuscript culture
- Gutenberg galaxy
- 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
- 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:
- Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies/intensifies
- Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence
- Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost
- Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits