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Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message Hardcover – March 1, 1988
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Top Customer Reviews
There are brief sections of such probes in this book, and another of slightly longer bits called A McLuhan Mosaic. There are twelve more sections or chapters by McLuhan. The other thirteen or so are by others writing about the effect of his life and ideas on their lives and thinking. Sometimes this approach sheds a lot of light. One could find out from reading this book (or numerous others by and about him) that he regards media as "extensions of man", but what he's remembered for concerns what we call 'media' now as a household term, and he called "electric culture".
That dates back to the telegraph, and then telephone, radio, and on like that. But it began in earnest with Sputnik in 1957. That orbiting satellite changed everything for ever, and heralded the age of electric culture. Consider these remarks about TV, which, he maintained, changes us from a spectator to an actor. TV, he said, creates "dis-incarnate man"-- weightless, with no body, instantly everywhere. TV, he said, returns us from a sequential, linear, progressive, literate culture of reading and reasoning to a pre (or post) literate oral culture dominated not by the eye but the ear, in which everything happens at once, and in all directions. Many of these remarks don't really seem to apply to TV, where we are still the audience, but they do to the Internet and the iPhone, where we are all actors, instantly present, weightless, without a body, everywhere at once. Which is why people say he predicted the Internet, and perhaps why people still read him.
The bits by MM in this book range from v. simple to quite dense, but readers may have an Aha! moment from a probe or paragraph. The idea is not to "get" McLuhan: it's to see what he saw, to look with him. It's both illuminating and enjoyable to read the reflections by others who knew him, and how they grappled with MM's ideas. That said, I don't have any closure for this review, no tidy tying up, because McLuhan is not safely archived in the past. His predictions have come true. We all live in that world he envisioned. But he enables us to do so awake.