Marshall McLuhan

Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (21 July 191131 December 1980) was a Canadian philosopher, futurist, and communications theorist.

The medium is the message.


There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation.
The medium is the message.
There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.
The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.


  • America is 100% 18th Century. The 18th century had chucked out the principle of metaphor and analogy — the basic fact that as A is to B so is C to D. AB:CD. It can see AB relations. But relations in four terms are still verboten. This amounts to deep occultation of nearly all human thought for the USA.
  • Poetry and the arts can’t exist in America. Mere exposure to the arts does nothing for a mentality which is incorrigibly dialectical. The vital tensions and nutritive action of ideogram remain inaccessible to this state of mind.
    • Letter to Ezra Pound (21 December 1948)


  • There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation.
    • Letter to Harold Adam Innis (14 March 1951), published in Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 223
  • The young today cannot follow narrative but they are alert to drama. They cannot bear description but they love landscape and action.
    • Letter to Harold Adam Innis (14 March 1951), published in Essential McLuhan (1995), edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, p. 74
  • The business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern towards participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts.
    • Letter to Harold Adam Innis (14 March 1951), published in Essential McLuhan (1995), edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, p. 73
  • Ads represent the main channel of intellectual and artistic effort in the modern world.
    • Commonweal, Vol. 58 (1953), p. 557
  • Human perception is literally incarnation.
    • "Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters", in Christian Humanism in Letters, The McAuley Lectures (1954), p. 49-67

The Mechanical Bride (1951)

Full title: The Mechanical Bride : Folklore of Industrial Man
  • Nobody can doubt that the entire range of applied science contributes to the very format of a newspaper. But the headline is a feature which began with the Napoleonic Wars. The headline is a primitive shout of rage, triumph, fear, or warning, and newspapers have thrived on wars ever since.
    • p. 7
  • Even pacifist agitation or the nation-wide fever of big sports competitions acts as a spur to war fever in circumstances like ours. Any kind of excitement or emotion contributes to the possibility of dangerous explosions when the feelings of huge populations are kept inflamed even in peacetime for the sake of the advancement of commerce. Headlines mean street sales. It takes emotion to move merchandise. And wars and rumors of wars are the merchandise and also the emotion of the popular press.
    • p. 7
  • The ordinary person senses the greatness of the odds against him even without thought or analysis, and he adapts his attitudes unconsciously. A huge passivity has settled on industrial society. For people carried about in mechanical vehicles, earning their living by waiting on machines, listening much of the waking day to canned music, watching packaged movie entertainment and capsulated news, for such people it would require an exceptional degree of awareness and an especial heroism of effort to be anything but supine consumers of processed goods.
    • p. 21
  • Such is the content of the mental life of the Hemingway hero and the good guy in general. Every day he gets beaten into a servile pulp by his own mechanical reflexes, which are constantly busy registering and reacting to the violent stimuli which his big, noisy, kinesthetic environment has provided for his unreflective reception.
    • Eye Appeal, p. 79-80
  • For tribal man, space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.
    • p. 85; "Magic that Changes Mood")


  • Instead of scurrying into a corner and wailing about what media are doing to us, one should charge straight ahead and kick them in the electrodes.
    • from a 1960 report to the National Educational Broadcasters Association, quoted in Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger by Philip Marchand, p. 148
  • Media are means of extending and enlarging our organic sense lives into our environment.
    • "The Care and Feeding of Communication Innovation", Dinner Address to Conference on 8 mm Sound Film and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 8 November 1961
  • When new technologies impose themselves on societies long habituated to older technologies, anxieties of all kinds result.
    • Location, Volume 1 Issues 1-2, 1963, p. 44
  • New media are new archetypes, at first disguised as degradations of older media.
    • Arts in society, Volume 3, 1964, p. 240
  • The TV camera has no shutter. It does not deal with aspects or facets of objects in high resolution. It is a means of direct pick-up by the electrical groping over surfaces.
    • Arts in society, Volume 3, 1964, p. 242
  • My main theme is the extension of the nervous system in the electric age, and thus, the complete break with five thousand years of mechanical technology. This I state over and over again. I do not say whether it is a good or bad thing. To do so would be meaningless and arrogant.
    • Letter to Robert Fulford, 1964. Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 300
  • If a work of art is to explore new environments, it is not to be regarded as a blueprint but rather as a form of action-painting.
    • To Wilfred Watson, October 6 1965. Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 325
  • The mother tongue is propaganda.
    • The University of Windsor review, Volumes 1-2, 1965, p. 10
  • Environments are not just containers, but are processes that change the content totally.
    • American scholar, Volume 35, 1965, p. 200
  • In television, images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around you. You are the vanishing point.
    • The diplomat, Issues 197-208, 1966, p. 20
  • The present is always invisible because its environmental. No environment is perceptible, simply because it saturates the whole field of attention.
    • Mademoiselle: the magazine for the smart young woman, Volume 64, 1966, p. 114
  • People in new environments always produce the new preceptual modality without any difficulty or awareness of change. It is later that the psychic and social realignments baffle societies.
    • ARTnews annual, Volume 31, Art Foundation, 1966, p. 56
  • Native societies did not think of themselves as being in the world as occupants but considered that their rituals created the world and keep it operational.
    • College and University Journal, Volumes 6-7, American College Public Relations Association, 1967, p. 3
  • The new media are not bridges between man and nature - they are nature...The new media are not ways of relating us to the old world; they are the real world and they reshape what remains of the old world at will.
    • Media as the New Nature, 1969, p. 14
  • Language is a form of organized stutter.
    • Interview with John Lennon, December 1969, CBS Television
Full title: The Gutenberg Galaxy : The Making of Typographic Man
  • Literacy, in translating man out of the closed world of tribal depth and resonance, gave man an eye for an ear and ushered him into a visual open world of specialized and divided consciousness.
  • King Lear is a working model of the process of denudation by which men translate themselves from a world of roles to a world of jobs. (p. 16)
  • The anguish of the third dimension is given its first verbal manifestation in poetic history in King Lear. (p. 18)
  • The interiorization of the technology of the phonetic alphabet translates man from the magical world of the ear to the neutral visual world. (p. 21)
  • Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy. (p. 26)
  • Does the interiorization of media such as letters alter the ratio among our senses and change mental processes? (p. 28)
  • Civilization gives the barbarian or tribal man an eye for an ear and is now at odds with the electronic world. (p. 30)
  • What began as a "Romantic reaction" towards organic wholeness may or may not have hastened the discovery of electro-magnetic waves. But certainly the electro-magnetic discoveries have recreated the simultaneous "field" in all human affairs so that the human family now exists under conditions of a "global village." We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums. So that concern with the "primitive" today is as banal as nineteenth-century concern with "progress," and as irrelevant to our problems.
    The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village. (p. 36)
  • Literacy affects the physiology as well as the psychic life of the African. (p. 38)
  • Non-literate societies cannot see films or photos without much training. (p. 41)
  • African audiences cannot accept our passive consumer role in the presence of film. (p. 44)
  • When technology extends one of our senses, a new translation of culture occurs as swiftly as the new technology is interiorized. (p. 47)
  • A theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of our senses. (p. 49)
  • The twentieth century encounter between alphabetic and electronic forces of culture confers on the printed word a crucial role in staying the return to “the Africa within.” (p. 51)
  • Current concern with reading and spelling reform steers away from visual to auditory stress. (p. 54)
  • The alphabet is an aggressive and militant absorber and transformer of culture, as Harold Innis was the first to show. (p. 56)
  • The Homeric hero becomes a split-man as he assumes an individual ego. (p. 58)
  • The world of the Greeks illustrates why visual appearances cannot interest people before the interiorization of alphabetic technology. (p. 61)
  • The Greek “point of view” in both art and chronology has little in common with ours but was much like that of the Middle Ages. (p. 64)
  • The Greeks invented both their artistic and scientific novelties after the interiorization of the alphabet. (p. 66)
  • The increase of visual stress among the Greeks alienated them from the primitive art that the electronic age now reinvents after interiorizing the “unified field” of electric all-at-onceness. (p. 72)
  • A nomadic society cannot experience enclosed space. (p. 73)
  • The method of the twentieth century is to use not single but multiple models for experimental exploration – the technique of the suspended judgement. (p. 81)
  • Only a fraction of the history of literacy has been typographic. (p. 84)
  • Until now a culture has been a mechanical fate for societies, the automatic interiorization of their own technologies. (p. 86)
  • In antiquity and the Middle Ages reading was necessarily reading aloud. (p. 94)
  • Manuscript culture is conversational if only because the writer and his audience are physically related by the form of publication as performance. (p. 96)
  • The manuscript shaped medieval literary conventions at all levels. (p. 99)
  • The typographic lore of school children points to the gap between the scribal and typographic man. (p. 103)
  • The medieval student had to be paleographer, editor, and publisher of the authors he read. (p. 109)
  • Scribal culture and Gothic architecture were both concerned with light through, not light on. (p. 120)
  • For the oral man the literal text contains all possible levels of meaning. (p. 126)
  • The sheer increase in the quantity of information movement favoured the visual organization of knowledge and the rise of perspective even before typography. (p. 128)
  • The invention of typography confirmed and extended the new visual stress of applied knowledge, providing the first uniformly repeatable “commodity,” the first assembly-line, and the first mass-production. (p. 142)
  • A fixed point of view becomes possible with print and ends the image as a plastic organism. (p. 144)
  • The “natural magic” of the camera obscura anticipated Hollywood in turning the spectacle of the external world into a consumer commodity or package. (p. 146)
  • Scribal culture could have neither authors nor publics such as were created by typography. (p. 149)
  • Until more than two centuries after printing nobody discovered how to maintain a single tone or attitude throughout a prose composition. (p. 154)
  • Rabelais offers a vision of the future of print culture as a consumer's paradise of applied knowledge. (p. 167)
  • The celebrated earthy tactility of Rabelais is a massive backwash of receding manuscript culture. (p. 170)
  • Typography as the first mechanization of a handicraft is itself the perfect instance not of a new knowledge, but of applied knowledge. (p. 171)
  • Every technology contrived and “outered” by man has the power to numb human awareness during the period of its first interiorization. (p. 174)
  • With Gutenberg Europe enters the technological phase of progress, when change itself becomes the archetypal norm of social life. (p. 177)
  • Applied knowledge in the Renaissance had to take the form of translation of the auditory into visual terms, of the plastic into retinal form. (p. 180)
  • Typography tended to alter language from a means of perception and exploration to a portable commodity. (p. 183)
  • Typography is not only a technology but is in itself a natural resource or staple, like cotton or timber or radio; and, like any staple, it shapes not only private sense ratios but also patterns of communal interdependence. (p. 186)
  • Dantzig explains why the language of number had to be increased to meet the needs created by the new technology of letters. (p. 200)
  • The Greeks encountered the confusion of tongues when numbers invaded Euclidean space. (p. 203)
  • Aretino, like Rabelais and Cervantes, proclaimed the meaning of Typography as Gargantuan, Fantastic, Supra-human. (p. 220)
  • Marlowe anticipated Whitman's barbaric yawp by setting up a national PA system of blank verse – a rising iambic system of sound to suit the new success story. (p. 223)
  • Print, in turning the vernaculars into mass media, or closed systems, created the uniform, centralizing forces of modern nationalism. (p. 226)
  • The divorce of poetry and music was first reflected by the printed page. (p. 227)
  • Typography extended its character to the regulation and fixation of languages. (p. 229)
  • The printing press was at first mistaken for an engine of immortality by everybody except Shakespeare. (p. 230)
  • The portability of the book, like that of the easel-painting, added much to the new culture of individualism. (p. 233)
  • The typographic logic created “the outsider,” the alienated mass, as the type of integral, that is, intuitive and irrational, man. (p. 241)
  • Cervantes confronted typographic man in the figure of Don Quixote. (p. 242)
  • Typographic man can express but is helpless to read the configurations of print technology. (p. 245)
  • Typography extended its character to the regulation and fixations of languages. (p. 260)
  • Print altered not only the spelling and grammar but the accentuation and inflection of languages, and made “bad grammar” possible. (p. 263)
  • The levelling of inflexion and of wordplay became part of the program of applied knowledge in the seventeenth century. (p. 265)
  • Print created national uniformity and government centralism, but also individualism and opposition to government as such. (p. 267)
  • Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society. (p. 271)
  • The reduction of the tactile qualities of life and language constitute the refinement sought in the Renaissance and repudiated now in the electronic age. (p. 272)
  • Philosophy was as naive as science in its unconscious acceptance of the assumptions or dynamic of typography. (p. 278)
  • Heidegger surf-boards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode the mechanical wave. (p. 280)
  • Typography cracked the voices of silence. (p. 283)
  • The Gutenberg galaxy was theoretically dissolved in 1905 with the discovery of curved space, but in practice it had been invaded by the telegraph two generations before that. (p. 286)
  • Sheer visual quantity evokes the magical resonance of the tribal hoard. The box office looms as a return to the echo chamber of bardic incantation. (p. 288)
  • The world of visual perspective is one of unified and homogeneous space. Such a world is alien to the resonating diversity of spoken words. So language was the last art to accept the visual logic of Gutenberg technology, and the first to rebound in the electric age.
    • p. 136
  • The present volume to this point might be regarded as a gloss on a single text of Harold Innis: "The effect of the discovery of printing was evident in the savage religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Application of power to communication industries hastened the consolidation of vernaculars, the rise of nationalism, revolution, and new outbreaks of savagery in the twentieth century."
    • p. 216; McLuhan here quotes "Minerva's Owl" (1947), by Innis, an address to the Royal Society of Canada, published in The Bias of Communication (1951)
  • There is nothing willful or arbitrary about the Innis mode of expression. Were it to be translated into perspective prose, it would not only require huge space, but the insight into the modes of interplay among forms of organisation would also be lost. Innis sacrificed point of view and prestige to his sense of the urgent need for insight. A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding. As Innis got more insight he abandoned any mere point of view in his presentation of knowledge. When he interrelates the development of the steam press with 'the consolidation of the vernaculars' and the rise of nationalism and revolution he is not reporting anybody's point of view, least of all his own. He is setting up a mosaic configuration or galaxy for insight … Innis makes no effort to "spell out" the interrelations between the components in his galaxy. He offers no consumer packages in his later work, but only do-it-yourself kits...
    • p. 216; this paragraph was quoted as "context (0) - THE INNIS MODE" by John Brunner, the epigraph or first chapter in his novel Stand on Zanzibar (1968)
Understanding Media : The Extensions of Man
  • In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action. It is no longer possible to adopt the aloof and dissociated role of the literate Westerner. (p. 4)
  • It is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behaviour.
  • It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. (p. 9)
  • We are as numb in our new electric world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture. (p. 9)
  • If the criminal appears as a nonconformist who is unable to meet the demand of technology that we behave in uniform and continuous patterns, literate man is quite inclined to see others who cannot conform as somewhat. (p. 31)
  • War is never anything less than accelerated technological change. (p. 102)
  • Money is a corporate image depending on society for its institutional status. (p. 133)
  • All media exists to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values. (p. 199)
  • The press is a group confessional form that provides communal participation. The book is a private confessional form that provides a “point of view.” (p. 204)
  • One of the many effects of television on radio has been to shift radio from an entertainment medium into a kind of nervous information system. (p. 298)
  • The "message" of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. (p. 8)
  • The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message. (p. 8)
  • The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.
  • The alphabet, when pushed to a high degree of abstract visual intensity, became typography. The printed word with its specialist intensity burst the bonds of medieval corporate guilds and monasteries, created extreme individualist patterns of enterprise and monopoly. (p. 23)
  • Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and the body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement. (p. 113)
  • We are numb in our new electric world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture. (p. 16)
  • The book is a private confessional form that provides a “point of view.”
  • In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin. (p. 47)
  • We are no more prepared to encounter radio and TV in our literate milieu than the native of Ghana is able to cope with the literacy that takes him out of his collective tribal world and beaches him in individual isolation. (xx)
  • It is the poets and painters who react instantly to a new medium like radio or TV. (p. 53)
  • The hot radio medium used in cool or nonliterate cultures has a violent effect, quite unlike its effect, say in England or America, where radio is felt as entertainment. (p. 30)
  • The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving towards the grand fallacy. (p. 154)
  • All meaning alters with acceleration, because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information. (p. 178-179)
  • Radio comes to us ostensibly with person to person directness that is private and intimate, while in more urgent fact, it is really a subliminal echo chamber of magic power to touch remote and forgotten chords. (p. 302).
  • Today, computers hold out the promise of a means of instant translation of any code or language into any other code or language. (p. 80)
  • The mosaic form of the TV image demands participation and involvement in depth, of the whole being, as does the sense of touch. (p. 334)
  • A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters. (p. 245)
  • Radio provides a speed-up of information that also causes acceleration in other media. It certainly contracts the world to village size and creates insatiable village tastes for gossip, rumour, and personal malice. (p. 24)
  • Electric technology is directly related to our central nervous systems, so it is ridiculous to talk of "what the public wants" played over its own nerves. (p. 68)
  • Art is anything you can get away with.
  • Literate man, civilized man, tends to restrict and to separate functions, whereas tribal man has freely extended the form of his body to include the universe. (p. 117)
  • Literacy remains even now the base and model of all programs of industrial mechanization; but, at the same time, locks the minds and senses of its users in the mechanical and fragmentary matrix that is so necessary to the maintenance of mechanized society.
  • Radio affects most intimately, person-to-person, offering a world of unspoken communication between writer-speaker and the listener. That is the immediate aspect of radio. A private experience. The subliminal depths of radio are charged with the resonating echoes of tribal horns and antique drums. This is inherent in the very nature of this medium, with its power to turn the psyche and society into a single echo chamber. (p. 261)
  • The message of radio is one of violent, unified implosion and resonance. (p. 263)
  • If we sit and talk in a dark room, words suddenly acquire new meanings and different textures...and on the radio. Given only the sound of a play, we have to fill in all of the senses, not just the sight of the action. So much do-it-yourself, or completion and “closure” of action, develops a kind of independent isolation in the young that makes them remote and inaccessible.” (p. 264)
  • Although the medium is the message, the controls go beyond programming. The restraints are always directed to the “content,” which is always another medium. The content of the press is literary statement, as the content of the book is speech, and the content of the movie is the novel. So the effects of radio are quite independent of its programming. (p. 267)
  • At no period of human culture have men understood the psychic mechanism involved in invention and technology. (p. 300)
  • Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. (p.73 of the 1966 Signet paperback edition)
  • Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. The machine world reciprocates man's love by expediting his wishes and desires, namely, in providing him with wealth. One of the merits of motivation research has been the revelation of man's sex relation to the motorcar. (p.46)
  • A man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a metaphor? (p.7)
    • A play on the line's in Robert Browning's poem "Andrea del Sarto":
      Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
      Or what's a heaven for?

The Medium is the Massage (1967)

Full title: The Medium is the Massage : An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

  • All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments. All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical. (p. 26)
  • Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perception...When these ratios change, men change.
  • Electric circuitry profoundly involves men with one another. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously.
  • Environments are invisible. Their groundrules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception.
  • History as she is harped. Rite words in rote order. (pp. 108-109)
  • The invention of printing did away with anonymity, fostering ideas of literary fame and the habit of considering intellectual effort as private property. (p. 122)
  • Youth instinctively understand the present environment – the electric drama. It lives mythically and in depth.
  • In television, images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around you. You are the vanishing point. (p. 125)
  • Until writing was invented, man lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion, by primordial intuition, terror. Speech is a social chart of this bog. (p. 48)
  • We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.
  • The professional tends to classify and to specialize, to accept uncritically the ground rules of the environment. The ground rules provided by the mass response of his colleagues serves as a pervasive environment of which he is contentedly unaware. (p. 93)
  • All media are extensions of some human faculty -- psychic or physical.
  • There is absolutely no inevitability, so long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening. [A chapter sub-heading attributed by McLuhan to Alfred North Whitehead]
  • Art is whatever you can get away with.

Hot & Cool (1967)

  • It's misleading to suppose there's any basic difference between education & entertainment. This distinction merely relieves people of the responsibility of looking into the matter.
    • (1957) from "Classroom Without Walls", Explorations Vol. 7, 1957; reprinted in Explorations in Communication ed. E. Carpenter & M. McLuhan, (Boston: Beacon, 1960); and again in McLuhan: Hot and Cool ed. G. E. Stearn (NY: Dial, 1967).
  • When we invent a new technology, we become cannibals. We eat ourselves alive since these technologies are merely extensions of ourselves. The new environment shaped by electric technology is a cannibalistic one that eats people. To survive one must study the habits of cannibals. (p. 261)
  • I don't explain—I explore.
  • Casting my perils before swains.

Through the Vanishing Point (1968)

  • Perhaps the most precious possession of man is his abiding awareness of the Analogy of Proper Proportionality, the key to all metaphysical insight, and perhaps the very condition of consciousness itself. This analogical awareness is constituted of a perpetual play of ratios among ratios. A is to B, what C is to D, which is to say the ratio between A and B, is proportionable to the ratio between C and D, there being a ratio between these ratios, as well, this lively awareness of the most exquisite delicacy depends upon there being no connection whatsoever between the components. If A were linked to B, or C to D, mere logic would take the place of analogical perception, thus one of the penalties paid for literacy and a high visual culture is a strong tendency to encounter all things through a rigorous storyline, as it were. Paradoxically, connected spaces and situations exclude participation, whereas discontinuity affords room for involvement. Visual space is connected and creates detachment or non-involvement. It also tends to exclude the participation of the other senses. (p.240)
  • Sentimentality, like pornography, is fragmented emotion; a natural consequence of a high visual gradient in any culture.

Counterblast (1969)

  • Headlines are icons, not literature. (p. 5)
  • We live invested in an electric information environment that is quite as imperceptible to us as water is to fish. (p. 5)
  • The city no longer exists except as a cultural ghost for tourists. Any highway eatery with its TV set, newspaper and magazine is as cosmopolitan as New York or Paris. (p.12)
  • The metropolis today is a classroom; the ads are its teachers. The traditional classroom is an obsolete detention home, a feudal dungeon. (p. 12)
  • Until writing was invented, we lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, the dark of the mind, the world of emotion, primordial intuition, terror. Speech is a social chart of this bog. (p. 13)
  • By surpassing writing, we have regained our wholeness, not on a national or cultural but cosmic plane.
  • The stock market was created by the telegraph and the telephone, and its panics are engineered by carefully orchestrated stories in the press. (p. 106)
  • Speech structures the abyss of mental and acoustic is a cosmic, invisible architecture of the human dark. (p. 13)
  • Writing turned a spotlight on the high, dim Sierras of speech; writing was the visualization of acoustic space. It lit up the dark. (p. 14)
  • The potential of any new technology is always dissipated by its users involvement in its predecessors. (p. 210)
  • The new media are not bridges between man and nature: they are nature. (p. 14)
  • Gutenberg made all history available as classified data: the transportable book brought the world of the dead into the space of the gentlemen's library; the telegraph brought the entire world of the living to the workman's breakfast table. (p. 15)
  • We begin again to structure the primordial feelings...from which 3000 years of literacy divorced us. We begin again to live a myth. (p. 17)
  • Bless advertising art for its pictorial vitality and verbal creativity. (p. 18)
  • Environment is process, not container. (p. 30)
  • Each new technology is a reprogramming of sensory life. (p. 33)
  • To the blind all things are sudden. (p. 41)
  • The future masters of technology will have to be lighthearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb. (p. 55)
  • People never remember but the computer never forgets. (p. 69)
  • All of the new media have enriched our perceptions of language and older media. They are to the man-made environment what species are to biology. (p. 84)
  • Blast Sputnik for closing terrestrial nature in a man-made environment that transfers the evolutionary process from biology to technology. (p. 85)
  • Our book technology has Gutenberg at one end and the Ford assembly lines at the other. Both are obsolete. (p. 99)
  • Bless Madison Ave for restoring the magical art of the cavemen to suburbia. (p. 130)
  • Faced with information overload, we have no alternative but pattern-recognition. (p. 132)

Playboy Interview (1969)

"A Candid Conversation with the High Priest of Popcult and Metaphysician of Media" by Eric Norden, Playboy (March 1969)
  • PLAYBOY: A Columbia coed was recently quoted in Newsweek as equating you and LSD. “LSD doesn’t mean anything until you consume it,” she said. “Likewise McLuhan.” Do you see any similarities?
McLUHAN: I’m flattered to hear my work described as hallucinogenic, but I suspect that some of my academic critics find me a bad trip.
  • Unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitutes a total and near-instanteous transformation of culture, values and attitudes.
  • The inner trip is not the sole prerogative of the LSD traveler; it’s the universal experience of TV watchers.
  • Psychic communal integration, made possible at last by the electronic media, could create the universality of consciousness foreseen by Dante when he predicted that men would continue as no more than broken fragments until they were unified into an inclusive consciousness...This is a new interpretation of the mystical body of Christ; and Christ, after all, is the ultimate extension of man.


  • I've always been careful never to predict anything that had not already happened.
    • Interview: Tom Wolfe, TVOntario, August 1970
  • In an age of multiple and massive innovations, obsolescence becomes the major obsession.
    • "Innovation is obsolete", Evergreen review, Volume 15, Issues 86-94, Grove Press, 1971, p. 64
  • The reader is the content of any poem or of the language he employs, and in order to use any of these forms, he must put them on.
    • "Roles, Masks, and Performances", New Literary History, Vol. 2, No. 3, Performances in Drama, the Arts, and Society (Spring, 1971), p. 520
  • The user of the electric light -- or a hammer, or a language, or a book -- is the content. As such, there is a total metamorphosis of the user by the interface. It is the metamorphosis that I consider the message.
    • Letter to Edward T. Hall, 1971, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 397
  • The percept takes priority of the concept.
    • Letter to Edward T. Hall, 1971, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 397
  • After childhood, the senses specialize via the channels of dominant technologies and social weaponries.
    • Letter to The Listener October 1971, Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 443
  • My method is vertical rather than horizontal so the scenery does not change but the texture does.
    • Letter to The Listener October 1971, Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 318
  • Obsolescence is the moment of superabundance.
    • Yeats studies, Issue 2, Irish University Press, 1972, p. 135
  • The bias of each medium of communication is far more distorting than the deliberate lie.
    • JQ. Journalism quarterly, Volume 50, Association for Education in Journalism, 1973, p. 145
  • The media have substituted themselves for the older world.
    • "Education, Language, and Media". Cycle 7, 1973, p. 232
  • The most human thing about us is our technology.
    • Man and the future of organizations, Volume 5, School of Business Administration, Georgia State University, 1974, p. 19
  • The bible belt is oral territory and therefore despised by the literati.
    • The Critic, Volume 33, Thomas More Association, 1974, p. 12
  • Pornography and violence are by-products of societies in which private identity has been...destroyed by sudden environmental change.
    • Letter to Clare Westcott, November 26 1975. Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 514
  • Pornography and by specialism and fragmentation. They deal with a figure without a ground -- situations in which the human factor is suppressed in favor of sensations and kicks.
    • Letter to Clare Westcott, November 26 1975. Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 514
  • Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction.
    • Letter to Clare Westcott, November 26 1975. Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 514
  • Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence.
    • "Violence in the media." Canadian Forum. Volume 56, 1976, p. 9
  • Advertising is the greatest art form of the twentieth century.
    • quoted in Advertising Age, Sep. 3, 1976
  • Try not to have Emily exposed to hours and hours of TV. It is a vile drug which permeates the nervous system, especially in the young.
    • Letter to son Eric McLuhan, regarding one of Eric's daughters, 1976
  • I heard what you were saying. You - you know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.
  • One of the things that happens at the speed of light is that people lose their goals in life. So what takes the place of goals and objectives? Well, role-playing is coming in very fast.
    • Interview between Californian Governor Jerry Brown and Marshall McLuhan, 1977
  • The discarnate TV user lives in a world between fantasy and dream, and is in a typically hypnotic state, which is the ultimate form and level of participation.
    • "A Last Look at the Tube." New York Magazine, 17 March 1978, p. 45-48

From Cliché to Archetype (1970)

  • Since Sputnik and the satellites, the planet is enclosed in a manmade environment that ends "Nature" and turns the globe into a repertory theater to be programmed. Shakespeare at the Globe mentioning "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7) has been justified by recent events in ways that would have struck him as entirely paradoxical. The results of living inside a proscenium arch of satellites is that the young now accept the public spaces of the earth as role-playing areas. Sensing this, they adopt costumes and roles and are ready to "do their thing" everywhere." (p.9-10)
  • The "tragic flaw" is not a detail of characterization, a mere "fly in the ointment", but a structural feature of ordinary consciousness. (p.45)
  • Jacques Ellul observes in Propaganda: When dialogue begins, propaganda ends. His theme, that propaganda is not this or that ideology but rather the action and coexistence of all media at once, explains why propaganda is environmental and invisible. The total life of any culture tends to be "propaganda", for this reason. It blankets perception and supresses awareness, making the counter environments created by the artist indispensable to survival and freedom. (p.77)
  • All media of communications are cliches serving to enlarge man's scope of action, his patterns of associations and awareness. These media create environments that numb our powers of attention by sheer pervasiveness.
  • Another theme of the Wake that helps in the understanding of the paradoxical shift from cliché to archetype is "pastimes are past times". The dominant technologies of one age become the games and pastimes of a later age. In the twentieth century the number of past times that are simultaneously available is so vast as to create cultural anarchy. When all the cultures of the world are simultaneously present, the work of the artist in the elucidation of form takes on new scope and new urgency. Most men are pushed into the artist role. The artist cannot dispense with the principle of doubleness and interplay since this kind of hendiadys-dialogue is essential to the very structure of consciousness, awareness, and autonomy. (p.99)
  • Disarmament is illogical and futile, unless one is prepared to regard the available means of production and social organization as affording unique social ends. To divert electrical energy and circuitry into atomic bombs shows the same imaginative power as wiring the dining-room chairs to enable one to electrocute the sitter in the event that he might prove hostile. It is part of the age-old habit of using new means for old purposes instead of discovering what are the new goals contained in the new means. (p.202)

Culture Is Our Business (1970)

  • World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. (p.66)
  • The newspaper is a corporate symbolist poem, environmental and invisible, as poem.
  • Since Sputnik there is no Nature. Nature is an item contained in a man-made environment of satellites and information.
  • The telegraph press mosaic is acoustic space as much as an electric circus.
  • Acoustic space is totally discontinuous, like touch. It is a sphere without centers or margins.
  • One touch of nature makes the whole world tin.
  • Privacy invasion is now one of biggest knowledge industries. (p. 24)
  • The content or time-clothing of any medium or culture is the preceding medium or culture. (p. 168)
  • Chinese script is not visual but iconic and tactile. It does not disturb the tribal bonds. (p. 72)
  • The only cool PR is provided by one's enemies. They toil incessantly and for free. (88)
  • When the evolutionary process shifts from biology to software technology the body becomes the old hardware environment. The human body is now a probe, a laboratory for experiments. (p. 180)
  • Tactility is space of the interval.
  • Visual space is the space of detachment. Audile-tactile space is the space of involvement. (p. 194)
  • Audile-tactile space is the space of involvement. We lose "touch" without it. Visual space is the space of detachment.
  • The existential trauma had a physical basis in the first electric extension of our nervous system.
  • Since Sputnik, the earth has been wrapped in a dome-like blanket or bubble. Nature ended.
  • Color is not so much a visual as a tactile medium.
  • The young are really the heirs to a generation of incompetence.

Take Today : The Executive as Dropout (1972)

  • In this book we turn to the study of new patterns of energy arising from man’s physical and psychic artifacts and social organizations. The only method for perceiving process and pattern is by inventory of effects obtained by the comparison and contrast of developing situations. (p. 8)
  • Hypnotized by their rear-view mirrors, philosophers and scientists alike tried to focus the figure of man in the old ground of nineteenth-century industrial mechanism and congestion. They failed to bridge from the old figure to the new. It is man who has become both figure and ground via the electrotechnical extension of his awareness. With the extension of his nervous system as a total information environment, man bridges art and nature. (p. 11)
  • By involving all men in all men, by the electric extension of their own nervous systems, the new technology turns the figure of the primitive society into a universal ground that buries all previous figures. (p. 25)
  • Paradox is the technique for seizing the conflicting aspects of any problem. Paradox coalesces or telescopes various facets of a complex process in a single instant. (p. 106)
  • Every process pushed far enough tends to reverse or flip suddenly. Chiasmus – the reversal to process caused by increasing its speed, scope or size. (p. 6)
  • New technological environments are commonly cast in the molds of the preceding technology out of the sheer unawareness of their designers. (p. 47)
  • Marx shared with economists then and since the inability to make his concepts include innovational processes. It is one thing to spot a new product but quite another to observe the invisible new environments generated by the action of the product on a variety of pre-existing social grounds. (p. 63)
  • Environments work us over and remake us. It is man who is the content of and the message of the media, which are extensions of himself. Electronic man must know the effects of the world he has made above all things. (p. 90)
  • Only puny secrets need protection. Big secrets are protected by public incredulity. You can actually dissipate a situation by giving it maximal coverage. As to alarming people, that's done by rumours, not by coverage. (p. 92)
  • Computers can do better than ever what needn’t be done at all. Making sense is still a human monopoly. (p. 109)
  • Although meaningless in a tribal context, numbers and statistics assume mythic and magical qualities of infallibility in literate societies. (p. 114)
  • The new overkill is simply an extension of our nervous system into a total ecological service environment. Such a service environment can liquidate or terminate its beneficiaries as naturally as it sustains them. (p. 152)
  • World War I a railway war of centralization and encirclement. World War II a radio war of decentralization concluded by the Bomb. World War III a TV guerrilla war with no divisions between civil and military fronts. (p. 152)
  • The automated presidential surrogate is the superlative nobody. (p. 157)
  • In Catch-22, the figure of the black market and the ground of war merge into a monster presided over by the syndicate. When war and market merge, all money transactions begin to drip blood. (p. 211)

Forces interview (1973)

Interviewed by Jean Paré (1973) Forces
  • The coverage is the war. If there were no coverage, there'd be no war. Yes, the newsmen and the mediamen around the world are actually the fighters, not the soldiers anymore.
  • At the very high speed of living, everybody needs a new career and a new job and a totally new personality every ten years.
  • Omnipresence has become an ordinary human dimension.

The argument: causality in the electric world (1973)

"The argument: causality in the electric world", Technology and Culture: Symposium Vol. 14, Issue 1 (January 1973)
  • Every innovation scraps its immediate predecessor and retrieves still older figures – it causes floods of antiques or nostalgic art forms and stimulates the search for museum pieces.
  • Each of our senses makes its own space, but no sense can function in isolation. Only as sight relates the touch, or kinaesthesia, or sound, can the eye see.

Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder (1976)

Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, NBC (6 September 1976)
  • At the speed of light there is no sequence; everything happens at the same instant.
  • TV is not good at covering single events. It needs a ritual, a rhythm, and a pattern...[TV] tends to fosters patterns rather than events.

The Education of Mike McManus, TVOntario, December 28 1977

  • The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.
  • All forms of violence are quests for identity. When you live on the frontier, you have no identity. You're a nobody.
  • Everybody tends to merge his identity with other people at the speed of light. It's called being mass man.
  • Attention spans get very weak at the speed of light, and that goes along with a very weak identity.
  • The hardware world tends to move into software form at the speed of light.
  • The literate man is a sucker for propaganda...You cannot propagandize a native. You can sell him rum and trinkets, but you cannot sell him ideas.


  • The public has yet to see TV as TV. Broadcasters have no awareness of its potential. The movie people are just beginning to get a grasp on film.
    • quoted in "Marshall McLuhan, Author, Dies; Declared 'Medium Is the Message'" by Alden Whitman, The New York Times, January 1, 1981
  • The criminal, like the artist, is a social explorer.
    • quoted in "Marshall McLuhan, Author, Dies; Declared 'Medium Is the Message'" by Alden Whitman, The New York Times, January 1, 1981
  • Boyoboy oboyoboy oboyoboyoboyoboyoboyoboy...
    • McLuhan after his September 1979 stroke. Brand, Stewart. "McLuhan's last words." New Scientist, 29 Jan 1981.
  • [On Jimmy Carter] "Huck Finn. Loss of identity drives people to nostalgia. Electronic man has no physical body, so he puts nostalgia in its place."
    • Brand, Stewart. "McLuhan's last words". New Scientist, 29 Jan 1981.
  • The meaning of experience is typically one generation behind the experience. The content of new situations, both private and corporate, is typically the preceding situation.
    • quoted in "The Prospects of Recording" by Glenn Gould, The Glenn Gould reader, 1984, p. 345
  • Mass man is a phenomenon of electric speed, not of physical quantity.
    • Access, Issues 165-176, National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting, 1984, p. xxiii
  • The tribalizing power of the new electronic media, the way in which they return to us to the unified fields of the old oral cultures, to tribal cohesion and pre-individualist patterns of thought, is little understood. Tribalism is the sense of the deep bond of family, the closed society as the norm of community.
    • Tyuonyi, Volumes 1-2, 1985, p. 60
  • I am not a "culture critic" because I am not in any way interested in classifying cultural forms. I am a metaphysician, interested in the life of the forms and their surprising modalities. That is why I have no interest in the academic world.
    • Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), p. 413
  • For me any of the little gestures I make are all tentative probes. That's why I feel free to make them sound as outrageous or extreme as possible. Until you make it extreme, the probe is not very efficient.
    • Marshall McLuhan: the man and his message, edited by George Sanderson and Frank MacDonald, Fulcrum, 1989, p. 32
  • All words at every level of prose and poetry and all devices of language and speech derive their meaning from figure / ground relation.
    • quoted in McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed by W. Terrence Gordon, 2010, p. 167

Laws of Media: The New Science (with Eric McLuhan) (1988)

  • By phonemic transformation into visual terms, the alphabet became a universal, abstract, static container of meaningless sounds.
    • p. 15
  • Prolonged mimesis of the alphabet and its fragmenting properties produced a new dominant mode of perception and then of culture.
    • p. 17
  • Formal logic and the logical syllogism encapsulate connectedness in reasoning.
    • p. 20
  • Tactility is the space of the interval; acoustic space is spherical and resonant.
    • p. 33
  • The pre-atomist multisensory void was an animate, pulsating, and moving vibrant interval, neither container nor contained, acoustic space penetrated by tactility.
    • p. 34
  • The space of early Greek cosmology was structured by logos – resonant utterance or word.
    • p. 35
  • Logos is the formal cause of the kosmos and all things, responsible for their nature and configuration.
    • p. 37
  • To say that a body or its gravitational field 'bends in space' in its vicinity is the discuss visual space in acoustic terms.
    • p. 40
  • The victory over Euclidean space was not achieved by isolated individuals, but by a field of young rebels opposed to all absolutes.
    • p. 42
  • Relativity theory forced the abandonment, in principle, of absolute space and absolute time.
    • p. 43
  • Once introduced discontinuity, once challenge any of the properties of visual space, and as they flow from each other, the whole conceptual framework collapses.
    • p. 43
  • Interdeterminacy was a figure-ground problem arising from incongruity between the visual bias of classical science and the new acoustic sensibilities.
    • p. 44
  • The artists of our culture, 'the antennae of the race,' had tuned in to the new ground and begun exploring discontinuity and simultaneity.
    • p. 47
  • The audience, as ground, shapes and controls the work of art.
    • p. 48
  • Newton, and 'proper scientific method' after him, conducted attention to 'continuous description' of experimental phenomena instead of to causes.
    • p. 50
  • While Poe and the Symbolists were exploring the irrational in literature, Freud had begun to explore the resonant figure/ground double-plot of the conscious and unconscious.
    • p. 52
  • Cubism ('multi-locationalism') is one of the painterly forms of acoustic space.
    • p. 55
  • There is no individualism in Eastern or oral cultures.
    • p. 60
  • Phenomenology is dialectic in ear-mode – a massive and decentralized quest for roots, for ground.
    • p. 62
  • We are not Argus-eyed, but Argus-eared.
    • p. 69
  • Technologies themselves, regardless of content, produce a hemispheric bias in the users.
    • p. 71
  • Cultural dominance by either the left or the right hemisphere is largely dependent upon environmental factors.
    • p. 72
  • The visual power of the phonetic alphabet is the translate other languages into itself is part of its power to invade right hemisphere (oral) cultures.
    • p. 74
  • The Chinese used the intervals between things as the primary means of getting 'in touch' with situations.
    • p. 77
  • The culture-heroes of preliteracy and postliteracy alike are robots.
    • p. 79
  • Left hemisphere industrialism has blinded the Chinese to the effects of our alphabet: pattern recognition is in the right hemisphere.
    • p. 81
  • It is always the psychic and social grounds, brought into play by each medium or technology, that readjust the balance of the hemispheres and of human sensibilities into equilibrium with those grounds.
    • p. 82
  • Radical changes of identity, happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time, have proved more deadly and destructive of human values than wars fought with hardware weapons.
    • p. 97
  • The artist is the person who invents the means to bridge biological inheritance and the environments created by technological innovation.
    • p. 98
  • In tetrad form, the artefact is seen to be not netural or passive, but an active logos or utterance of the human mind or body that transforms the user and his ground.
    • p. 99
  • Interface, of the resonant interval as 'where the action is', whether chemical, psychic or social, involves touch.
    • p. 102
  • The fall or scrapping of a cultural world puts us all into the same archetypal cesspool, engendering nostalgia for earlier conditions.
    • p. 103
  • Older cliches are retrieved both as inherent principles that inform the new ground and new awareness, and as archetypal nostalgia figures with transformed meaning in relation to the new ground.
    • p. 105
  • At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.
    • p. 109
  • The field of 'information theory' began by using the old hardware paradigm of transportation of data from point to point.
    • p. 111
  • When Coleridge said that all men are born either Platonists or Aristotelians, he was saying that all men tend to be either acoustic or visual in their sensory bias.
    • p. 113
  • The task confronting contemporary man is to live with the hidden ground of his activities as familiarly as our literate predecessors lived with the figure minus ground.
    • p. 114
  • All words, in every language, are metaphors.
    • p. 120
  • Language always preserves a play or figure/ground relation between experience, and perception and its replay in expression.
    • p. 121
  • The laws of the media, in tetrad form, bring logos and formal cause up to date to reveal analytically the structure of all human artefacts.
    • p. 127
  • The logos of creation, 'And God Said ...' formed the basis of Christian interpretation of the 'Book of Nature.'
    • p. 217
  • With [Francis] Bacon, Vico continuously asserts the claims of grammar as true science precisely because it has not yielded to specialism and method.
    • p. 220
  • Each tetrad gives the etymology of its subject, as an uttering or outering of the body physical or mental, and provides its anatomy in fourfold exegetical manner.
    • p. 224
  • Medieval and ancient sensibility now dominates our time as acoustic and multisensory awareness displaces the merely visual.
    • p. 225
  • Formal cause, as logos, incorporates the patterns of side-effects as part of essential nature: tetrads restore poesis and the making process to the study of artefacts.
    • p. 227
  • New media are new languages, their grammar and syntax yet unknown.
    • p. 229
  • Metaphor has traditionally been regarded as the matrix and pattern of the figures of speech.
    • p. 231

1990s and beyond


A McLuhan Sourcebook (1995)

Key Quotations from the Writings of Marshall McLuhan, Assembled by William Kuhns from Essential McLuhan (1995), edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, p. 270 - 297
  • Today we experience, in reverse, what pre-literate man faced with the advent of writing.
    • p. 273
  • The media themselves are the avant-garde of our society. Avant-garde no longer exists in painting, music and poetry, it's the media themselves.
    • p. 274
  • We now live in a technologically prepared environment that blankets the earth itself. The humanly contrived environment of electric information and power has begun to take precedence over the old environment of "nature." Nature, as it were, begins to be the content of our technology.
    • p. 276
  • The unformulated message of an assembly of news items from every quarter of the globe is that the world today is one city. All war is civil war. All suffering is our own.
    • p. 291

"The Agenbite of Outwit" (1998)

"The Agenbite of Outwit", published posthumously in McLuhan Studies, Volume 1 Issue 2 (January 1998)
  • Literacy, the visual technology, dissolved the tribal magic by means of its stress on fragmentation and specialization and created the individual.
  • By simply moving information and brushing information against information, any medium whatever creates vast wealth.
  • Man in the electronic age has no possible environment except the globe and no possible occupation except information-gathering.
  • Man works when he is partially involved. When he is totally involved he is at play or leisure.
  • We have become like the most primitive Palaeolithic man, once more global wanderers, but information gatherers rather than food gatherers. From now on the source of food, wealth and life itself will be information.
  • As Narcissus fell in love with an outering (projection, extension) of himself, man seems invariably to fall in love with the newest gadget or gimmick that is merely an extension of his own body.
  • When we put our central nervous system outside us we returned to the primal nomadic state.
  • The ways of thinking implanted by electronic culture are very different from those fostered by print culture. Since the Renaissance most methods and procedures have strongly tended towards stress on the visual organization of knowledge.

The Book of Probes : Marshall McLuhan (2011)


Designed by David Carson, edited by Marshall McLuhan project, W. Terrance Gordon, Eric McLuhan, Philip B. Meggs

These excerpts are not just references. They are structures that embody special kinds of perceptions and awareness. Each is a kind of example or anecdote. Each is a kind of little world that has to be apprehended in depth. For this reason its not at all necessary to read them in any special sequence. They are, however a mosaic, and like a mosaic, they are not just to be seen, but to be perceived by all our senses. (p. 397)

  • While people are engaged in creating a totally different world, they always form vivid images of the preceding world. (p. 21)
  • Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which humans communicate than by the content of the communication. (p. 23)
  • The role of the artist is to create an Anti-environment as a means of perception and adjustment. (p. 31)
  • Without an anti-environment, all environments are invisible. (p. 33)
  • Any new technology is an evolutionary and biological mutation opening doors of perception and new spheres of action to mankind. (p. 67)
  • The unique innovation of the phonetic alphabet released the Greeks from the universal acoustic spill of tribal societies. (p. 70)
  • There are no connections in resonant space. There are only interfaces and metamorphoses. (p. 75)
  • The electronic age is a world in which causes and effects become almost interchangeable, as in music structures. (p. 99)
  • When you move into a new area, a new territory and learn a new language, the language is not a new subject, it is an environment, it is total. (p. 105)
  • Q: Do you feel a need to be distinctive and mass-produced? Q: Are you in the groove? That is, are you moving in ever-diminishing circles? Q: How often do you change your mind, your politics, your clothes? (p. 121-125)
  • The more you make people alike, the more competition you have. Competition is based on the principle of conformity. (p. 135)
  • Q: Why is America the land of the overrated child and the underrated adult? Q: How can children grow up in a world in which adults idolize youthfulness? Q: What happens when the ad makers taker over all the popular myths and poetry? (p. 141)
  • All advertising advertises advertising – no ad has its meaning alone. (p. 145)
  • Languages are environments to which the child related synesthetically. (p. 166)
  • Every mode of technology is a reflex of our most intimate psychological experience. (p. 171)
  • People don't actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath. (p. 184)
  • With TV, came the icon, the inclusive image, the inclusive political posture or stance. (p. 191)
  • The TV generation is postliterate and retribalized. It seeks by violence to scrub the old private image and to merge in a new tribal identity, like any corporate executive. (p. 201)
  • All of man's artefacts, whether hardware or software, whether bulldozers or laws of chemistry, are alike linguistic in structure and intent. (p. 227)
  • Logic is figure without a ground. (p. 241)
  • Language alone includes all the senses in interplay at all times. (p. 253)
  • Our senses are not receptors so much as reactors and makers of different modalities of space. Perhaps touch is not just skin contact with things, but the very life of things in the mind. (p. 256)
  • There is no connection between the elements in an electric world, which is equivalent to being surrounded by the human unconscious. (p. 260)
  • Language is a sense, like touch. (p. 271)
  • The 4 aspects of each of the media actually constitute the four features of all metaphors. In other words, all human technologies whatever are, in the fullest sense, linguistic outerings, or utterings, of man. (p. 275)
  • Prose is private drama; poetry is corporate drama. (p. 275)
  • Dialectic functions by converting everything it touches into figure but metaphor is a means of perceiving one thing in terms of another. (p. 298)
  • Effects are perceived, whereas causes are conceived. Effects always preceed causes in the actual developmental order. (p. 303)
  • Great ages of innovation are the ages in which entire cultures are junked or scrapped. (p. 309)
  • I am a pattern watcher. (p. 311)
  • In Chinese, honesty is the figure of a man standing, physically standing, beside his work. That means honesty: a man stands by his work. Two things: figure / ground. (p. 314)
  • The images of mankind have become the most basic thing about them. And they're all software, and disembodied. (p. 346)
  • The magic of the cave image lies in its being, not in its being seen. The symbolic does not refer. It is. (p. 350)
  • The mask, like the side-show freak, is mainly participatory rather than pictorial in its sensory appeal. (p. 352)
  • The new science of communication is percept, not concept. (p. 259)
  • The nuclear bomb will turn warfare into the juggling of images. (p. 360)
  • Without an understanding of causality there can be no theory of communication. What passes as information theory today is not communication at all, but merely transportation. (p. 362)
  • The sculptural qualities of the image dim down the purely personal identity. (p. 369)
  • The sociologist permits himself to see only what is acceptable to his colleagues. (p. 370)
  • By electricity we have not been driven out of our senses so much as our senses have been driven out of us. (p. 375)
  • Violence is the effort to maintain and restore a weakened psyche. (p. 377)
  • War has become the environment of our time if only because it is an accelerated form of innovation and education. (p. 381)
  • We are swiftly moving at present from an era where business was our culture into an era when culture will be our business. Between these poles stand the huge and ambiguous entertainment industries. (p. 384)

Quotes about McLuhan

  • It is perhaps typical of very creative minds that they hit very large nails not quite on the head.
  • The digital divide is alive and growing stronger. This reality has made it imperative not to lose sight of the political economic infrastructures of media technologies and certainly never to take McLuhan's metaphors too literally.
    • Janine Marchessault, Marshall McLuhan, Cosmic Media p. 221
  • 1968 was a time of shocking modernism, and modernism always fascinates the young and perplexes the old, yet in retrospect it was a time of an almost quaint innocence. Imagine Columbia students in New York and University of Paris students discovering from a distance that their experiences were similar and then meeting, gingerly approaching one another to find out what, if anything, they had in common. With amazement and excitement, people learned that they were using the same tactics in Prague, in Paris, in Rome, in Mexico, in New York. With new tools such as communication satellites and inexpensive erasable videotape, television was making everyone very aware of what everyone else was doing, and it was thrilling because for the first time in human experience the important, distant events of the day were immediate. It will never be new again. “Global village” is a sixties term invented by Marshall McLuhan. The shrinking of the globe will never be so shocking in the same way that we will never again feel the thrill of the first moon shots or the first broadcasts from outer space. We now live in a world in which we await a new breakthrough every day. If another 1968 generation is ever produced, its movements will all have Web sites, carefully monitored by law enforcement, while they are e-mailing one another for updates. And no doubt other tools will be invented. But even the idea of new inventions has become banal.
  • Marshall McLuhan prophesized that the global electronic age would bring about a rebirth of oral culture. He wrote that orality breeds complexity while literacy breeds homogeneity. The nonlinear understanding of space-time characteristic of oral cultures is making a comeback in the new context created by the Internet and globalization. Latin America, with its immense diversity of languages and cultures, offers a prolific reservoir for the future. The richness of its poetry stems from the interaction between oral culture and literacy, which creates fertile ground for experimentation. The new historical developments point to a much wider participation by women and indigenous poets writing in their own languages. A wide range of migrant or nomadic voices add to its complexity. Dante Alighieri wrote in the fourteenth century that the spirit of poetry abounds "in the tangled constructions and defective pronunciations" of vernacular speech where language is renewed and transformed. His vision resonates today with the faulty speech of migrants creating the sounds and intonations of the future.
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