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Showing 1-10 of 53 reviews(5 star). See all 77 reviews
on January 5, 2018
If you read this you will understand "what" is going on with cable, internet, computer stream news. It is "pooh poohed" NOW by the very people who raved about it when it was published because it EXPOSED before it's time how "media" influences people and the "media" does not want you to know. This was, and IS, a "seminal" book about how the different types of media INFLUENCE you by it's PRESENCE, not just the "content".
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on August 15, 2017
OutStanding. Magnificent work by McLuhan. First book I read by him and from now on that's all I'm ever gonna rhyme about. He lead me down the rabbit hole and I don't plan on ever climbing out.
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on June 14, 2015
Very difficult to read. Only understood about a third of it the first time through. But there is so much original thought in it that it is great food for thought. The author has understanding of the relationship between "media" and man that is found nowhere else. McLuhan is essential to understand what the electric technology means for us.
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on November 30, 2006
With all the ink spilt over UNDERSTANDING MEDIA it is easy to forget that it is just a book full of printed words, one of the media McLuhan discussed. Wait one second, if the message, in itself, doesn't really matter, if the media is the message, what differentiated this book from any other? It was his literary style, his dichotomies, his analogies and his metaphors.

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.
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on November 6, 2017
Love this book - read it first many years ago. What a great mind he had, and this book is still as relevant today as every.
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on May 29, 2017
This is a great edition of an important work in media studies.
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VINE VOICEon April 8, 2003
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. This is what I mean about process oriented experience, where McLuhan discusses the experience one has by, say watching television, the mode of thought one has, the patterns of thought and behavior created by television.
In other words, we become the media that we have been shaped by in our culture and time. The spoken word, the written word and the telegraph, McLuhan noted, has had the largest impact on our society. Not because of their usefulness, or whether they work or not, but because society has patterned themselves after the respective media. Are not we becoming a computerized society? Does this mean we have lots of computers that run things? Or are the people becoming computer like in their behavoir and thinking? The latter expresses more accurately McLuhan's ideas.
The second part runs over a select group of specific media and their implications on the human mind. The context in which they were placed in is by far the most important aspect as it predicts when a new media might arise. All media have their logical origins. If one determine the state of the world now, as it is, one can determine the way of the media. McLuhan discusses the written and printed word, automobile, telegraph, aeroplanes, bikes, routes, newspapers, automation, games, weapons, and many others that make for a highly evocative read.
Is McLuhan a modern mystic? It might be a heavy title for some. If one reads well enough into his work, they may get the sense he is not talking about media at all.
Understanding McLuhan's approach is about upsetting the whole sensory environment. The appeal McLuhan has had on the ages from 1964, when the book was published, is in his aphorism, "Media is the message." This little phrase scratched many heads. Most of McLuhan's writings are like this. It is not about explaining it, but involving the reader to think for himself. To evoke, as in, evocative. So the conclusions must be the readers choice, either by intuition, study, assumption, or first hand experience. One thing is for certain, if you take the time to read the book twice, it will be different than the first read.
I can say, "if you only read one book..." but those that read this book are usually of the literate group. But for me, this book has not been an informative text, but a work book, a guide, an insightful prayer book, a reference, a resource, a magical text. I cannot reccomend this book highly enough.
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on March 4, 2017
Today's social upheaval was predicted by Master McLuhan back in 1964. He warns of the consequences of the Internet before it was born. Had he a better editor, we might have been better prepared.
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on July 27, 2015
McLuhan saw where we were going decades ago. A must read.
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on January 26, 2015
A classic and a constant inspiration for me as someone who works in media. So useful to me that I bought the ebook so I could stop traveling with it. I'm always worried about how much is lost in the format translation, but this one works for my purposes. I had trouble with the TOC on iPad, but it works everywhere else. Don't know what to make of that.
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