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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition Hardcover – November 1, 2003
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Marshall McLuhan is now a power in more than one land. --The New Statesman
His critics are infuriated by his ideas...but some think his foretell our real future. --Harper's
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The fact is that inventing dichotomies is like asserting theories without any evidence. How can you prove the validity of a dichotomy? Couldn't these dichotomies become distortions, even an abuse of language? And although Marshall doesn't proclaim any morality involved by using his dichotomies, it is implicitly there.
McLuhan's linguistic technique was to use dichotomies such as media and message, such as hot and cold media, such as electric and pre-electric culture. He placed his dichotomies like stones across a river. Once the readers step off the shore they must keep stepping on these stones, these dichotomies, or go splash. There is no way to turn around.
The problem with McLuhan's message, with his vocabulary, with particularly his terms "extensions" and "media" is that he implied a rather ridiculous metaphor with them. His term, "extensions" depicted man being jerked by the unseen puppeteer, outside strings attached to the numb puppet to make him dance.
As he discussed at length in Chapter 21, The Press, McLuhan was very aware that he was spinning the words. He had a corporate image of his own to enhance, UNDERSTANDING MEDIA, itself. He was his own press agent. Listen to him on P. 213,: "Today's press agent regard the newspaper as a ventriloquist does his dummy." McLuhan was both writing a book and advertising that book at the same time. He wasn't hung up on being accurate -- he knew the spinning power of fiction. On P. 216 he speaks of "dressing up language." It becomes obvious that he used all the techniques he discussed in advertising while writing this book.
His idea that man's brain was a blank tableau, a tabula rasa, set the reader up for his dichotomies that all media were extensions of man's brain or central nervous system, CNS. But is man's CNS a tabula rasa? One thinks not. The various media he listed are all part and parcel of man's CNS. It would have been more accurate to term McLuhan's so called "extensions" as dimensions. These "extensions" never actually existed outside McLuhan's thesis and vocabulary.