Week 06 - Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan

Herbert Marshall McLuhan CC (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar — a professor of English literature, a literary critic, and a communications theorist. McLuhan's work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory. McLuhan is known for coining the expressions "the medium is the message" and the "global village".

Bibliography :

The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951)

The "mosaic approach" to writing a book. Each essay begins with a newspaper or magazine article or an advertisement, followed by McLuhan's analysis. Aesthetic considerations as well as on the implications behind the imagery and text

The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)

A pioneering study in the fields of oral culture, print culture, cultural studies, and media ecology.

Reveals how communication technology (alphabetic writing, the printing press, and the electronic media) affects cognitive organization, which in turn has profound ramifications for social organization.

Movable Type :

The invention of movable type greatly accelerated, intensified, and ultimately enabled cultural and cognitive changes that had already been taking place since the invention and implementation of the alphabet, by which McLuhan means phonemic orthography.

New technologies exert a gravitational effect on cognition, which in turn affects social organization: print technology changes our perceptual habits, which in turn affects social interactions.

The Global Village :

Electronic mass media collapse space and time barriers in human communication, enabling people to interact and live on a global scale. In this sense, the globe has been turned into a village by the electronic mass media.

The visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence," when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. Humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base."

Understanding Media (1964)

A study in media ecology. A medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.

"The medium is the message" :

The form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time.

Media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study; he said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.

Light bulb : "A light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence." It enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. The light bulb as a medium without any content.

All media have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways; for instance, a passage in a book could be reread at will, but a movie had to be screened again in its entirety to study any individual part of it. So the medium through which a person encounters a particular piece of content would have an effect on the individual's understanding of it.

Different media invite different degrees of participation on the part of a person who chooses to consume a medium.

A movie is thus said by McLuhan to be "hot", intensifying one single sense "high definition", demanding a viewer's attention, and a comic book to be "cool" and "low definition", requiring much more conscious participation by the reader to extract value.

This concentration on the medium itself is the focal point of "the medium is the message".

From "message" to "mass age", "mess age", and "massage"
The Medium is the Massage by McLuhan and Quentin Fiore was originally to be titled The Medium is the Message, but McLuhan preferred the new one which is said to have been a printing error.

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967)

Adopted the term "massage" to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium, taking inventory of the "effects" of numerous media in terms of how they "massage" the sensorium.

"The technique of invention was the discovery of the nineteenth [century]", brought on by the adoption of fixed points of view and perspective by typography, while "[t]he technique of the suspended judgment is the discovery of the twentieth century", brought on by the bard abilities of radio, movies and television.

War and Peace in the Global Village (1968)

Joyce's Wake is claimed to be a gigantic cryptogram which reveals a cyclic pattern for the whole history of man through its Ten 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. Last thunder = turbulent, muddy wake, and murk of non-visual, tactile man.

From Cliché to Archetype (1970)

A collaboration with Canadian poet Wilfred Watson.

Explorations, with Edmund Carpenter (1950s)

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