Much more than a media theorist, Marshall McLuhan was like a wizard who understood the magic of words and the power of electronic mediums to change the way we perceive ourselves and the world.
He was a man before his time who was derided by the intellectual guardians of his day as a crackpot but he had a strange allure to the mass media and general public who could feel these electronic devices were changing their minds.
Since McLuhan died in 1980, a lot has changed technologically but remarkably his ideas are in many ways more relevant today than when he was alive.
Understanding our media shapes your perception can help you better navigate the confusing media landscape we inhabit today where so much time is spent being hyper-stimulated by hypnotic screens.
If you find yourself struggling to pay attention to anything but screens then it has a lot to do with how constant multitasking and an endless stream of new information on your smartphone is rewiring your brain.
To better understand how your brain and perceptual neurons are being rewired by the dominant technological medium of the smartphone, I highly recommend watching these short interviews and documentaries exploring the fascinating ideas of Marshall McLuhan.
The Life and Times of Marshall McLuhan:
Deeply conservative, reserved, difficult, uncomfortable with the fame he sought, Marshall McLuhan was a very private man who remained an enigma for most of his life.
The Medium Is The Message:
An avant-garde mashup of McLuhan’s ideas that explores how electronic media colonizes and transforms our consciousness.
The Best of Mashall McLuhan
I think I’ve watched nearly all of his talks found online, here are some of his best ones.
Great Marshall McLuhan Quotes:
“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
“Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools!”
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
“One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.”
“Many a good argument is ruined by some fool who knows what he is talking about.”
“Once you see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.”
“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.”
“Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media with which people communicate than by the content of the communication.”
“All words, in every language, are metaphors.”
“All media are extensions of some human faculty- psychic or physical.”
“For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.”
“The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
“Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.”
“The school system, custodian of print culture, has no place for the rugged individual. It is, indeed, the homogenizing hopper into which we toss our integral tots for processing.”
“Good taste is the first refuge of the non creative. It is the last ditch stand of the artist.”
“We have become like the most primitive paleolithic man, once more global wanderers, but information gatherers rather than food gatherers. From now on the source of food, wealth and life itself will be information.”
“The present is always invisible because it’s environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone but the artist, the man of integral awareness, is alive in an earlier day.”
“The artist is a person who is expert in the training of perception.”
“The business of the advertiser is to see that we go about our business with some magic spell or tune or slogan throbbing quietly in the background of our minds.”
“Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.
We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.
As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of ‘do it yourself.’
Persons grouped around a fire or candle for warmth or light are less able to pursue independent thoughts, or even tasks, than people supplied with electric light. In the same way, the social and educational patterns latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy.
“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”