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Why is McLuhan important? What use can we make of his approach to the media today? In this insightful critical introduction, McLuhan's contribution is carefully explained and his reputation reassessed. The book:. Illustrated with many examples from the network society, the book works as a guide to anyone who wants to know why McLuhan is important. Marshall McLuhan. Janine Marchessault. Marchessault gives a balanced and carefully considered appraisal of McLuhan s contribution to cultural theory, which may be even more pertinent now, in the early twenty-first century, than when he originally formulated it in the s and 60s' Jim McGuigan , Professor of Cultural Analysis, Loughborough University Why is McLuhan important?

Experimental Seminar.

The Project For Understanding Media. Evidence Of Things Not Seen. When the motorcar was new, it exercised the typical mechanical pressure of explosion and separation of functions.

Marshall McLuhan - Janine Marchessault - Google книги

It broke up family life, or so it seemed, in the s. It separated work and domicile, as never before. It exploded each city into a dozen suburbs, and then extended many of the forms of urban life along the highways until the open road seemed to become non-stop cities. It created the asphalt jungles, and caused 40, square miles of green and pleasant land to be cemented over.

With the arrival of plane travel, the motorcar and truck teamed up together to wreck the railways.

Virtual war

Seeing McLuhan in his true light as a technological environmentalist exposes the narrowness of his misperceiving critics who saw him as a booster of technology; in truth, he was no more so than Rachel Carson was a promoter of DDT, or than Jane Holtz Kay is a flack for General Motors. By contrast, working in the humanities, where no similar procedures of verification and falsification exist, McLuhan was working in a profoundly different mode of inquiry, that created by literary criticism; most particularly, the so-called Practical Criticism, with whose avatars I.

Leavis McLuhan studied at Cambridge. Verbal artistry lies in having the form of the utterance enact in the audience a psychic response that mirrors or reinforces its sense. However, such an appreciation can be and has been taught, and the principles that underlie it are capable of a degree of demonstration and certain forms of inductive logic.

Media ecology

But the evidence used in such inductive processes has its roots not in logical positivism but in the humanistic tradition embodied in the unification of the three branches of the medieval trivium—grammar study of language and literature , dialectic logic and disputation , and rhetoric moving an audience through the shape of language.

Contemporary students not to mention many, if not most, professors are unaware that the trivium was the foundation of higher education in the West from before the time of Cicero up through the latter part of the nineteenth century, when American universities began to adopt the fragmented departmental structures established by the German concept of the university. For McLuhan, in sympathy with his religious convictions he was raised a Protestant and converted to Catholicism at twenty-six , in the beginning truly is the Word—and in the end, as well as in between.

Indeed, this has been the stance of Western education from its beginnings up through all but the last hundred and twenty-five years, but our subsequently compartmentalized system of knowledge—not only in the sciences and social sciences but the humanities as well—has alienated us from the wellsprings of this tradition. In light of the intellectual traditions not only of the West but of all great cultures, it is we who are the oddballs in thinking that knowledge and experience can be subdivided and dissected without somehow being made whole once again.

Technologies, whether they be devoted to communication or not, are thus extensions of our humanity, not the cold, alien, external forces envisioned by the paranoia of bad science fiction.

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True also to the medieval philosophy he knew so well, he wanted us to see that Nature, including humankind, is a book that we can read, if we can only know and decode its language and analyze its significance. Such a methodology should have an interpretive power akin to that of the medieval four-level exegesis of the Book of God—the literal, the figurative allegorical , the tropological moral , and the anagogical eschatological levels.

We will see later a method of analysis based on what McLuhan terms the tetrad as his contribution to such an interpretive effort. But McLuhan created a more fundamental means to a more organic understanding in the very aphoristic style in which he chose to convey his ideas—one consciously embodying the concept that the medium is the message.

Its means is not to follow a continuous, linear, and unbroken line of thought, but to create a tessellated pattern of ideas, with each of the tiles in the mental mosaic a particular facet of the overall pattern. McLuhan chose this style because he saw it as organic to the modern era, which is under the invisible stresses created by the pressures of electronic communication on the smooth continuities of thought fostered by the visual bias of print. The extension of human senses will change our thoughts and behaviors and the ways we perceive the world.

The paradoxical character of technological media as both amplifications and cancellations was, of course, one basic theme of Understanding Media. The audience is normally focused on the content and overlook the medium.

Processed World

Globalization through a media ecology lens". They are environments - like language itself, symbolic environments with in which we discover, fashion, and express humanity in particular ways.

Marshall McLuhan Primer - Understanding Media

Robert Logan summarizes a general system as "one that is composed of interacting and interrelated components such as an understanding of it must entail considering the general system as a whole and not as a collection of individual components". Hence, his use of slogan, aphorism, bon mot , repetition, and probe as ways of jolting his audience into new modes of awareness necessary for perceiving such changes in their cognitive environment.

The style of UM [ Understanding Media ] had been deliberately chosen for its abrasive and discontinuous character, and was forged over many redraftings. It was designed deliberately to provoke the reader, to jar the sensibilities into a form of awareness that better complemented the subject-matter. This is poetic technique science, if you will of a high sort — satirizing the reader directly as a means of training him.


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Hence, in order to make sense of the modern world, McLuhan himself would take a similar approach. But it may fairly be asked why these methods of discontinuity should be appropriate to, and be an outgrowth of, the modern age and the supposed clash between print and electronic sensibilities. The answer to this question hinges on two ideas: The first idea can be explored in modern ethnographic, literary, and linguistic research done on primary oral cultures and on literatures containing residues of their origins in orality.

A cool medium like hieroglyphic or ideogrammatic written characters has very different effects from the hot and explosive medium of the phonetic alphabet. The alphabet, when pushed to a high degree of abstract visual intensity, became typography. The printed word with its specialist intensity burst the bonds of medieval corporate guilds and monasteries, creating extreme individualist patterns of enterprise and monopoly.

But the typical reversal occurred when extremes of monopoly brought back the corporation, with its impersonal empire over many lives. The hotting-up of the medium of writing to repeatable print intensity led to nationalism and the religious wars of the sixteenth century.


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  • The nonspecialist electric technology retribalizes. Awareness of the contrasts between purely oral cultures and those in which literacy has either been developed or introduced has never been part of the academic and scholastic mainstream, and in fact in modern times there have been strong pressures to marginalize this type of inquiry.

    Ever since Milman Parry was told by the classics faculty at Berkeley in the s that there was no chance he would get a Ph. The notion that high literacy is the normative state of language and civilization, and that its only alternative is the fallen state of illiteracy, and hence darkness and ignorance, seems to occupy the vital center of humanistic studies with remarkable energy and intensity.