Marshal McLuhan

April 10, 2010

Marshal McLuhan was best known for his work in analyzing the media. As a professor he couldn’t quite understand how different his students were than when he went to school. He suspected it was the methods of learning that was the difference in this younger generation and he set out to investigate it. He was most interested in how  Western culture was dominated by electric technology.He was credited with coining the term “global village’ and The Media is the Message which he later published.

Understanding Media, first published in 1964, focused on how the media affects and infiltrates our society and culture.  It brought him to prominence during the flower power-counter culture days of the sixties. His call to re-evaluate the electronic media’s mental conditioning of our children fit it nicely with Timothy Leary’s  “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out” message. San Francisco even held McLuhan festivals. He was the subject of a 1967 NBC special called “This is Marshall McLuhan” . McLuhan later became very popular among the 1990’s cyberpunk culture and was given the title of “Patron Saint of Wired Magazine”.

Oddly enough, however, he also became quite the guest speaker for groups and companies like the American Marketing Association, AT&T and IBM. tThe advertising and business world loved him calling his 4 Laws of the Media (every technology (1) amplifies part of our culture, (2) obsolesces aspects previously amplified, (3) retrieves elements previously obsolesced, and (4) eventually reverses or “flips” into something else entirely) the best predictor of change in their worlds.

And the parents and teachers loved him as well, agreeing with his stance that too much television was turning our children into passive observers.

Many believe that McLuhan foresaw the internet and its ability to create a global village well before its actual arrival:

Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. – Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.


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