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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0262631594 ISBN-10: 0262631598 Edition: Reprint

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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man + The Medium is the Massage + Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (October 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262631598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262631594
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...the most brilliant marketing mind of all belonged to Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media is a timeless analysis of how language, speech and technology shape human behavior in the era of mass communication. The book is a cautionary tale for marketers today who hear the Web's siren call and ignore the power of the spoken word." Wall Street Journal

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The book is challenging and it is scattered and chaotic but there is a cohesiveness to it.
A. Ort
In this book, Marshall McLuhan expands on the scattered ideas of his book 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' into a systematic theory of media.
Vinay Varma
One thing is for certain, if you take the time to read the book twice, it will be different than the first read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although we're just beginning to realize it, the world that Marshall McLuhan foresaw is beginning to take place. When you hear that an insurance company or ad agency is not primarily in the business of producing ads or insurance, but of "putting people in touch" or "communicating," that rhetoric was stolen straight from Mr. McLuhan. Likewise the (slightly misunderstood but still relevant) cliche "global village," was coined back in 1964 when UNDERSTANDING MEDIA first appeared.
Most academic books are about ten percent new. Inovative ones are about 20 percent new. McLuhan claimed his was about 40 percent new, which is what makes is such a rough read. It isn't his prose style, which is charming and felicitous. But when introducing a new discipline, there must needs be enough bridges left to the old ones (in this case sociology, history, rhetoric, etc.) that redundancy occurs. That explains why you'll see some repetition in this book, as well as what appears to be disorganiztion. This leads some reader/critics to assume that UNDERSTANDING MEDIA is simply sloppy and poorly edited but far from it: it's a powerful, almost radical way to restructure our view of American (and hence the world's) society.
For what it's worth, I was a communications major in college (UVA 1977) with several McLuhan papers to my credit. charess@ync.net
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on April 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Marshall McLuhan is perhaps one of the most influential authors I have read along with Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and Eliphas Levi. What McLuhan does like the authors stated is not explain in descriptive terms the media, but process oriented direction of experience. I will explain that momentarily.
This book, "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" is by far McLuhan's greatest book. It is set up like any useful text with the first part being the theory, while the second part contains the practice. He explains in the theoretical part that media is the extension of man. That all things created by man have come from man's own experience. This is like a dream, in one sense, where one must determine at some point that they are creators of the dream, and therefore, all content of the dream must apply to the dreamer's existence, and no one elses. Likewise, all inventions and discoveries are aspects of human dimensions that have been created by man, and therefore must come from man's inner experiences. These inventions are ultimately what McLuhan calls extensions, as they extend our human capacity for that movement or experience. The foot can travel so fast, while the tire is the extension of the foot, and therefore can move at a much higher rate of speed than the foot.
It seems that the most confusing aspect of McLuhan's theories is the idea of content versus context. The assumption of media study is to psychologize advertisments or the like. This way of approach is far from his point. He says, "My own way of approaching the media is perceptual not conceptual." What he is saying is that he uses his senses to gain understanding of the media, not theoretical concepts.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this book in a second-hand bookstore for under one dollar. Had never heard of it, had never heard of him but I am fascinated by the media, specifically advertising. I wore this book out and replaced it with the new edition from MIT Press. I love this book. I still can't understand it in places (this makes me study it even more to try and understand where he is coming from) but it definitely changed the way I view the media and my place within it. We are definitely beyond being influenced by the media; the media has become the ground from which we operate.
The book is challenging and it is scattered and chaotic but there is a cohesiveness to it. I suppose that style of writing was supposed to be symbolic of the way the world is (or is becoming). This book will help you to regain your ability to reintegrate yourself with the real world and stop living life as if you have "autoamputated" your true self only to watch it live on television.
While many of the analogies are "out there," most are poignant and relevent. One example is McLuhan's interpretation of the Narcissus myth from Greek mythology. Narcissus did not fall in love with his own reflection. Narcissus had no idea that the reflection he saw was himself; he thought that what he saw was something other than himself. He became transfixed by the image; it was not love, it was numbness. The television screen is our reflection; we are not separate from it -- it is merely what is inside of us extended to the outside for us to look at, thus the subtitle, The Extensions of Man. We have become Narcissus; the media is the reflection we see and, instead of falling in love with the reflection, we have become numb, forgetting (or not aware) that what we are seeing is really us. Tell me that is not relevant today.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William Gawthrop on July 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
McLuhan, who served as the Director for the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto in the mid 1960s, wrote four major works focusing focus on media's impact on society. The Mechanical Bride assesses the impacts of advertising on societal behavior and structures. The Gutenberg Galaxy assesses the influence of movable type (and the proliferation of books) on the individual. Understanding Media assesses the influence of a wide variety of media on man, his senses and his culture, and gives insight to the direction that it is taking. The Medium is the Massage explores the view that regardless of the content, the media conveying a message impacts society more heavily than the message being conveyed. Understanding Media, then, is not a solitary work. Written in 1964, it encapsulates the evolving thoughts of a futurist who is acutely aware that a variety of technological forces shape society and culture. McLuhan is not easy to read. He frequently buries his points by using analogies and historical examples that, on the surface, seem oblique to the issue under discussion. However, in McLuhan's mind, the analogies and examples are precisely on point. There is a key to comprehending McLuhan. McLuhan is a futurist.Read more ›
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