- File Size: 2671 KB
- Print Length: 402 pages
- Publisher: Gingko Press; Critical edition (June 14, 2013)
- Publication Date: June 14, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00DIEZI7U
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,098 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$24.99|
|Print List Price:||$24.95|
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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man Kindle Edition
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About the Author
McLuhan coined the expression "the medium is the message" and the term global village. He also predicted the World Wide Web almost 30 years before it was invented. He was a fixture in media discourse in the late 1960s. In the years after his death, he continued to be a controversial figure in academic circles. With the arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web, interest was renewed in his work and perspective, both of which are frequently referenced today in both academia and pop culture. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
"...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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
Although this may be McLuhan's great work, it is not best place to start. It is long and often incoherent. On page 39, McLuhan introduces a notoriously difficult metaphor that he uses through the book. It concerns hot and cool media. "Hot media are ... low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience." So, he explains, hieroglyphics and photographs are hot, but the phonetic alphabet and cartoons are cool. Radio and movies are hot, but the TV and the telephone are cool.
Does that make any sense? If not, the better place to start is his earlier work, The Gutenberg Galaxy. It is shorter, and the logic is much easier to follow. It lays out the basis of McLuhan's thinking about how changes in media reshape culture. If you are a systematic thinker like me, it is a far better book to get the basics of McLuhan's analytical method and ideas.
Even if you have the basics, UM is a dense, inspiring, and unsettling work. In each of the 33 chapters, McLuhan makes connections that change the way I think about culture. But just as often, he makes some nonsensical analogy or leap of logic and then fails to explain it.
In the end, it helps to stop trying to understand UM and let it inspire you to think.
In other words, it is very cool.
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In other words, and in acknowldgement of Nicholas Carr's own work, how shallow can you get?