McLuhan, (Herbert) Marshall
McLUHAN, (Herbert) Marshall
(b. 21 July 1911 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; d. 31 December 1980 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), professor of English literature and media analyst whose controversial theories had a strong impact on views of the expanding media in the 1960s.
McLuhan was one of two sons of Herbert Ernest McLuhan, a real estate agent and insurance salesman, and Elsie Naomi, an actress. He grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, and attended the University of Manitoba, from which he earned both a B.A. in English (1933) and an M.A. in English (1934). McLuhan then enrolled at Cambridge University in England, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1936, a master's degree in 1939, and a doctorate in English literature in 1942. He married Corinne Keller Lewis in 1939; they had two sons and four daughters. McLuhan began his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1936 and taught at various colleges and universities in the United States and Canada for the next four decades.
If McLuhan needed a catalyst to move him toward media analysis, it came from the shock he experienced in his first teaching post. The students he faced at the University of Wisconsin were his juniors by no more than five to eight years, but he felt he was teaching them across a gap. He sensed this had something to do with ways of learning and understanding, and he felt compelled to investigate it. The investigation led him back to the subtlest of lessons on the training of perception from his Cambridge professors, such as I. A. Richards (The Meaning of Meaning, Practical Criticism), and forward to James Joyce's experiments in literature (Finnegans Wake), then back to antiquity and the myth of Narcissus, the beautiful youth who so admired his reflection in a pool that he took root on the bank and became a flower. Along the way he detoured through the workaday world of the comic-strip character Dagwood and the rich linguistic world of the Trobriand Islanders of the South Pacific.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, written in 1960 and first published as a report to the U.S. Office of Education, focuses on media effects in all areas of society and culture, but McLuhan's starting point is always the individual, because he defines media as technological extensions of the body. McLuhan often puts both his inquiry and his conclusions in terms of the ratio between our physical senses (the extent to which we depend on each relative to the others) and the result of modifications to that ratio. This inevitably involves a psychological dimension. For example, when the alphabet was invented, thus intensifying the role of the visual sense in the communication process, sight took such precedence over hearing that the effect carried over from language and communication to reshape literate society's conception and use of space.
McLuhan stresses sense ratios and the effects of altering them. In Africa the introduction of radio distorted the sensory balance of oral culture, produced an inevitable disorienting effect, and rekindled tribal warfare; in dentistry a device called an audiac consists of headphones bombarding the patient with enough noise to block pain from the dentist's drill; in Hollywood the addition of sound to silent pictures impoverished and gradually eliminated the role of mime, with its emphasis on the sense of touch.
These examples involve the relationships among the five physical senses, which may be ranked in order of the degree of fragmentation of perceptions received through them. Sight comes first, because the eye is such a specialized organ. Then come hearing, touch, smell, and taste, progressively less specialized senses. In contrast to the enormous power of the eye and the distances from which it can receive a stimulus, the tongue is thought capable of distinguishing only sweet, sour, bitter, and salt, and only in direct contact with the substance providing the stimulus.
Western culture, with its phonetic literacy, when transplanted to oral, nonliterate cultures, fragments their tribal organization and produces the prime example of media hybridization and its potent transforming effects. At the same time electricity has transformed Western culture, dislocating its visual, specialist, fragmented orientation in favor of oral and tribal organization. McLuhan retains the metaphors of violent energy in speculating on the final outcome of these changes—the fission of the atomic bomb and the fusion of the hydrogen bomb.
The hybridization of cultures occupies McLuhan's writing most fully, but he offers other examples, such as electric light restructuring existing patterns of social and cultural organization by liberating the activities of that organization from dependence on daylight.
McLuhan emphasizes that media, as extensions of the body, not only alter the ratios among our physical senses but also, when combined, establish new ratios among themselves. This happened when radio changed the way news stories were presented and the way film images were presented in the talkies. Then television came along and brought big changes to radio.
When media combine, both their form and use change. So do the scale, speed, and intensity of the human endeavors affected, and so do the environments surrounding the media and their users. The hovercraft is a hybrid of the boat and the airplane. As such, it eliminates not only the need for the stabilizing devices of wings and keels but the interfacing environments of landing strips and docks.
These are some of the basic lessons of Understanding Media, the book that brought McLuhan to prominence in the same year that the global village first heard the name Haight-Ashbury and a year before San Francisco hosted the first McLuhan Festival, featuring the man himself. The saying "God is dead" was much in vogue in the counter-culture that quickly adopted McLuhan's ideas but missed the irony of giving a man of deep faith—he was an adult convert to Roman Catholicism—the status of an icon.
Spectacular sales of Understanding Media, in hardback and then in paperback editions, and the San Francisco symposium brought McLuhan a steady stream of speaking engagements. He addressed countless groups, from the American Marketing Association and the Container Corporation of America to American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and International Business Machines (IBM). In March 1967 the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) aired "This Is Marshall McLuhan" in its Experiment in TV series. He played on his own famous saying, publishing The Medium Is the Massage (co-produced with Quentin Fiore and Jerome Agel, 1967) even as he was signing contracts for Culture Is Our Business and From Cliché to Archetype (with the Canadian poet Wilfred Watson) with publishers in New York. Dozens of universities awarded McLuhan honorary degrees, and he secured the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at Fordham University in 1967. At the University of Toronto's Center for Culture and Technology, where McLuhan was director, a steady stream of visitors arrived from around the world to absorb his lessons on media or just to see him and be seen with him. The artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol was scheduled to visit but did not show (when McLuhan finally met Warhol, he pronounced Warhol a "rube"); the singer John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, arrived unannounced. Understanding Media, which was eventually translated into more than twenty languages, overshadowed the only McLuhan book-length publication from the 1960s that took him back squarely to his roots as a professor of English literature, the two-volume Voices of Literature (1964–1965, edited with Richard J. Schoeck). By the time the decade ended, he had collaborated with the Canadian artist Harley Parker on Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (1968) and once more with Fiore and Agel on War and Peace in the Global Village. This popular paperback, exploding at every page with McLuhan's observations juxtaposed with a visual chronicle of twentieth-century happenings, bore the improbable subtitle an inventory of some of the current spastic situations that could be eliminated by more feedforward. The book looks and feels light-years away from the Cambridge University of the 1930s where he trained, but that was just where McLuhan had picked up the idea of feedforward from his teacher I. A. Richards.
On 21 July 1969 Apollo 11, the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon, was on the launchpad, and McLuhan was blithely ignoring his camera cue at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) studios in New York. He explained to the whole world how the space exploration program had for all practical purposes scrapped Earth and "turned it into planet Polluto." Nature, he observed, had ended with Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Here the lesson he had been teaching about technology as a new environment was clear. Everyone could understand that the old environment of Planet Earth was now surrounded by Earth-orbiting satellites. The symbolism of the Moon shot seemed to have more importance for McLuhan than the actual journey of three men a quarter of a million miles from Earth. In private he spoke of the necessity for humans to learn to laugh at the pomposity of Moon shots. The Apollo 11 astronauts set foot on the moon on McLuhan's fifty-eighth birthday. He died of a stroke at the age of sixty-nine.
McLuhan wrote with no knowledge of galvanic skin response technology, terminal node controllers, or the Apple Newton. He might not have been able to imagine what a biomouse is. But he pointed the way to understanding all of these, not in themselves but in their relation to each other, to older technologies, and above all in relation to ourselves—our bodies, our physical senses, our psychic balance. When he published Understanding Media in 1964, McLuhan was disturbed about mankind shuffling toward the twenty-first century in the shackles of nineteenth-century perceptions. He might be no less disturbed today. And he would continue to issue the challenge that confronts the reader on every page of his writings to cast off those shackles.
W. Terrence Gordon's McLuhan for Beginners (1997), a documentary comic book, brought the author the invitation to write McLuhan's biography, Escape into Understanding: A Biography of Marshall McLuhan (1997). Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant (1984) offers an excellent discussion of McLuhan's thought in relation to that of the political economist Harold Innis and the philosopher George Grant. Other books on McLuhan include Sam Neill, Clarifying McLuhan (1993), which discusses aspects of McLuhan's work that are all but ignored by other commentators; Barrington Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan, eds., Who Was Marshall McLuhan? (1995), an eclectic overview of McLuhan by numerous authors; Judith Stamps, Unthinking Modernity: Innis, McLuhan, and the Frankfurt School (1995), which seeks to locate McLuhan's place in intellectual history in relation to Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno; and Glen Willmott, McLuhan, or Modernism in Reverse (1996), an interesting discussion of the thesis that McLuhan's place in intellectual history is at the break point between modernism and postmodernism. Obituaries of McLuhan are in the Chicago Tribune and New York Times (both 1 Jan. 1981).
W. Terrence Gordon
Mcluhan, Marshall 1911-1980
In 1964, when Canadian educator and social theorist Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media appeared, the terms medium and media were generally understood in the sense of intermediary or intermediate. The media were not recognized as a subject of study; reviewers and teachers cautioned that the word was obscure and needed definition. McLuhan’s radical observation was that it is the medium (not the program content) that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action:
The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium. (McLuhan 1964, p. 8)
This is essentially a sociological outlook, though it has not been adopted by that field. Yet Understanding Media did serve to found the field of media study in North America and ultimately throughout the world.
Among its groundbreaking insights were that some media involve the user deeply (“cool media”), while others (“hot media”) do not: The involvement takes place on the sensory level, below consciousness. For example, the movie viewer must supply all of the movement that occurs on the screen between frames while the screen is black. The television viewer or computer user supplies most of the mosaic image from moment to moment and nearly all of the color. These effects, which occur independently of the content or uses, shape the sensory preferences of the users and supply new perceptual biases that affect how they construe their cultures and societies.
McLuhan was the first to study advertising seriously: In his first book, The Mechanical Bride (1951), he called advertising the “Folklore of Industrial Man.” This work applies then-new critical techniques (practical criticism, developed in England) for the first time to ads and other facets of North American popular culture. McLuhan followed it with Culture Is Our Business (1970), a companion study of advertising after television.
The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) delved into the manner in which print and the press reshaped culture and sensibility in the centuries that followed their introduction and showed how to study the social-environmental actions of new media. Take Today: The Executive as Dropout (1972) examined the effects of electric media on management practice and business culture.
Laws of Media: The New Science (1988), written with his son Eric, sought to place McLuhan’s style of environmental media study on a scientific basis for the first time. In it, the authors proposed that four invariable laws govern the action of all media—and also of all human artifacts. Briefly, every human artifact extends or amplifies some process or faculty; obsolesces some established pattern; reinvigorates or retrieves some older, previously obsolesced form that now returns in a new shape or guise; and reverses its characteristics when pushed to its limit. The four laws exhibit an inner relation to each other as A is to B as C is to D.
During his life, McLuhan was a controversial figure, not least because his techniques of media study departed so radically from the established methods, which focused on content analysis and research into the desires and motivations of audiences. McLuhan, in contrast, approached media study from the angle of perception and changes in sensibility occasioned by media as forms and as extensions of the users’ senses. Although McLuhan’s work remains controversial, his techniques work as well now as they did in his time, to the chagrin of those who have tried to apply them superficially, without first understanding how perception is modified by media.
SEE ALSO Critical Theory; Cultural Studies; Film Industry; Journalism; Media; Popular Culture; Television; Theater; Visual Arts
McLuhan, Marshall. 1951. The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. New York: Vanguard.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1962. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1970. Culture Is Our Business. New York: McGraw-Hill.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1999. The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion, eds. Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek. Toronto, ON: Stoddart.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. 1967. The Medium is the Massage. New York: Random House.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. 1968. War and Peace in the Global Village: An Inventory of Some of the Current Spastic Situations That Could Be Eliminated by More Feedforward. New York: Random House.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Eric McLuhan. 1988. Laws of Media: The New Science. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Barrington Nevitt. 1972. Take Today: The Executive as Dropout. New York: Harcourt.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Harley Parker. 1968. Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting. New York: Harper.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Wilfred Watson. 1970. From Cliché to Archetype. New York: Viking.
Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) spent nearly all of his life in Canada. Born in Edmonton on July 21, he was raised in Winnipeg and developed an early interest in engineering. There, he earned an M.A. in English, then went to Cambridge University and received additional B.A. and M.A. degrees, and also a Ph.D. (English). A widely published author of more than thirty books, one of which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, McLuhan taught for three decades at the University of Toronto and died in Toronto on December 31.
McLuhan virtually invented the field of media studies and its relation to culture and society. McLuhan argued that the initial content of any new medium is always a preexisting medium (so radio, for example, takes over from the music hall and the newspaper; TV subsumes radio drama and film; and so on), so that the study of how a medium is used reveals little or nothing about its formal character or effects. Content study invariably leads to moral declaration and away from knowledge of the new form. Each major new medium means a new culture, and often a new war (McLuhan and Fiore 1968). For McLuhan the usual "moralistic" approach to media matters was incapable of producing real insight into the working of media as potent cultural forms.
Works and Insights
His groundbreaking Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) was the first to examine the effects of technologies of communication on shaping the culture and sensibility of the users. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) had observed, "The human body is the magazine of inventions, the patent-office, where are the models from which every hint was taken. All the tools and engines on earth are only extensions of its limbs and senses" (1870). This was a key to McLuhan's insight into human artifacts. McLuhan thus pioneered the study of the human senses as they are extended and modified by old and new media alike. The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) details the impact of the printing press on late-medieval European sensibility and how it brought about the Renaissance. Later works traced the effects of electric technologies, beginning with the telegraph, in dissolving print culture and literacy and instituting a new kind of tribal mentality that extends worldwide. Although he approached the study of media by observation and analysis, the major criticism leveled at his work was that it was "not scientific."
In posthumous works such as Laws of Media: The New Science (with Eric McLuhan; 1988) and The Global Village (with Bruce R. Powers; 1989), McLuhan synthesized his major discoveries and identified four scientific laws that govern the action of all human artifacts: amplification, obsolescence, reversal, and retrieval. He explored how his work integrated and updated the work of Francis Bacon (Novem Organum) and Giambattista Vico (The New Science).
McLuhan had a facility for aphorism, encapsulating a complex process in a memorable phrase such as "The medium is the message." He went to great lengths to point out that each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects that are its unique message.
The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium (McLuhan 1964, p. 8).
What he writes about the railroad applies with equal validity to the media of print, television, computers, and now the Internet. "The medium is the message" because it is the "medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action" (p. 9).
Another McLuhan term that has entered common usage is "the global village." In Understanding Media he wrote, "since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electromagnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear" (pp. xii–xiii). The "global village," which many now see forming as a result of the Internet, was a side effect of the telegraph and of radio.
Influences On and From
McLuhan's work absorbed influences from prior work on the social and cultural impact of communications technology by Harold Innis (1894–1952) and others in the arts. In integrating and extending such perspectives, McLuhan created a distinctive approach to media studies often erroneously described as emphasizing a kind of technological determinism with rhetorical excess. In reality, however, McLuhan was simply pointing out how certain technologies influence the world so that their users could learn to control them.
After a decline in reputation during his later years and soon after his death, McLuhan was rediscovered in the 1990s, and his insights into media found new application in interpreting twenty-first-century global communications developments. Among those who have taken up the study of technologies and culture, McLuhan offers one of the more comprehensive and consistent explanations for the welter of changes that accompany science and technology—changes that include new challenges for ethics and politics. Although some scholars continue to dismiss him as a maverick, he has been welcomed by pioneers in digital communications such as those associated with Wired magazine (founded 1993). Moreover, philosopher and media theorist Paul Levinson (1997) has drawn connections between McLuhan and the evolutionary epistemologies of Karl Popper (1902–1994) and Donald T. Campbell (1916–1996), both of which have ethical dimensions.
Carpenter, Edmund, and Marshall McLuhan, eds. (1960). Explorations in Communication: An Anthology. Boston: Beacon Press.
Gordon, W. Terrence. (1997). McLuhan for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing.
Levinson, Paul. (1997). The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution. New York: Routledge.
McLuhan, Marshall. (1962). The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
McLuhan, Marshall. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.
McLuhan, Marshall. (1967). Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations. New York: Something Else Press.
McLuhan, Marshall. (1995). Essential McLuhan, ed. Frank Zingrone and Eric McLuhan. Concord, Ontario: House of Anansi Press.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Barrington Nevitt. (1972). Take Today: The Executive as Drop-Out. Don Mills, Ontario: Longman Canada.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Bruce R. Powers. (1989). The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
McLuhan, Marshall, and David Carson. (2003). The Book of Probes, ed. Eric McLuhan and William Kuhns. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Eric McLuhan. (1988). Laws of Media: The New Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. (1967). The Medium Is the Massage. New York: Random House.
McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. (1968). War and Peace in the Global Village: An Inventory of Some of the Current Spastic Situations that Could Be Eliminated by More Feedforward. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Sanderson, George, and Frank Macdonald, eds. (1989). Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), Canadian professor of literature and culture, developed a theory of media and human development claiming that "the medium is the message."
Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on July 21, 1911. His father was a real estate and insurance salesman, his mother an actress. McLuhan studied first engineering and then literature at the University of Manitoba, earning his B.A. degree in 1933 and M.A. in 1934. He then continued his studies in medieval education and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University, which granted him the M.A. degree in 1940 and the Ph.D. in 1942. After several years of teaching in American universities, McLuhan returned to Canada and became a full professor at the University of Toronto in 1952.
In a series of books written while he was at Toronto, McLuhan set forth his "probes" and "explorations" about the way communication influences society. He frankly declined to follow the rules of systematic social scientific empiricism or the rigorous logic of theory building, preferring instead to draw upon his wide erudition and his flair for popularizing his ideas. His books became influential and were highly controversial.
McLuhan's theories consisted of a core of related propositions. He argued that human communication media are extensions of one or more of the senses and that use of these media re-arranges the sensory balance by stressing one sense over another. The self-definition of a culture (or a person) can thus be traced, says McLuhan, to the media that the culture relies on. To emphasize the importance of the sensory reorganization imposed by a medium, McLuhan claimed that "the medium is the message," which he later extended to the metaphor that "the medium is the massage."
In The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951), written before McLuhan's theories had reached their full development, one can see the brilliant attempt of a professor of literature to demonstrate to his students the ideologies that are invisibly (and therefore influentially) built into the content and structure of popular culture. Drawing mainly upon newspaper and magazine advertising, McLuhan argued that images of mechanical technology had come to dominate popular consciousness, so that human beings reduced themselves to mechanical and instrumental objects.
The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962), which won the 1963 Governor-General's Award for critical writing, is a study of the results of introducing movable type into the culture of 15th-century Western Europe. McLuhan argued that the invention of print culture made possible the creation of the public and the organization of the public into a nation. Movable type also changed the culture by altering people's sensory balance, emphasizing a visual fragmentation and linearity consistent with mechanical print.
McLuhan became famous with the publication of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). In this book McLuhan made his most comprehensive statement of his theory. He argued that "the medium is the message," in the sense that
the 'message' of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work or leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or a northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium. The airplane, on the other hand, by accelerating the rate of transportation, tends to dissolve the railway form of city, politics, and association, quite independently of what the airplane is used for.
Understanding Media also advanced McLuhan's notions of the narcotizing effects of media and of the distinction between hot and cool media. McLuhan claimed that when one of our senses is "extended" through a new medium, our sensory balance is altered in such a way that the other senses become dimmed or "narcotized." The hot versus cool distinction claims that hot media deliver information in high definition, and hence require little effort from the receiver. Cool media, on the other hand, provide little information, forcing the receiver to fill in what is missing to make sense out of the message, thus demanding a high degree of participation by the receiver. McLuhan wrote that, just as the change from oral and manuscript cultures to print culture had altered history, so, too, the change from print to electronic culture (television, computers) would, apart from whatever messages might be sent on television or computers, bring about a fundamental alteration in human consciousness.
McLuhan became a sensation in the popular press and among academics from many different disciplines. His ideas and methods were widely debated. Some critics pointed out that McLuhan was not as original as he seemed, having borrowed and perhaps distorted his fundamental premises about technological determinism from Toronto economist and historian Harold Innis. Others derided his views as utopian or mythical, or pointed out that, though it might be true that a medium has some structural influence as a medium, McLuhan was wrong to ignore the content, purpose, and context of particular messages, such as books, films, television shows, poems, songs, and paintings. McLuhan's refusal to respond to his academic critics with systematic proof, his grandly historical scope, his utopian tone, and the difficulty of translating his ideas into theory and research led to a decline of his enormous influence on academic and popular discussions of media. But, as one of his critics pointed out, "if he is wrong, it matters."
The following works of McLuhan are important to understanding the development of his theories: The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951); The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962); Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964); and The Medium Is the Massage (1967). For the essential works of Harold Innis, which exerted a strong influence on McLuhan, see Innis, The Bias of Communication (1951) and Empire and Communications (1950, 1972). Good examples of the debate about McLuhan can be found in Raymond Rosenthal (editor), McLuhan: Pro and Con (1968) and in Gerald Emanuel Stearn (editor), McLuhan: Hot & Cool (1967). On McLuhan's place in communication theory, see Richard L. Johannesen (editor), Contemporary Theories of Rhetoric: Selected Readings (1971) and Stephen W. Littlejohn, Theories of Human Communication (1978).
Marchand, Philip, Marshall McLuhan: the medium and the messenger, New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1989; Toronto: Random House, 1989.
Marshall McLuhan: the man and his message, Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum, 1989. □
Marshall McLuhan (Herbert Marshall McLuhan), 1911–80, Canadian communications theorist and educator, b. Edmonton, Alta. He taught at the Univ. of Toronto (1946–80) and at other institutions of higher education in Canada and the United States. McLuhan gained popularity and fame in the 1960s with his prophetic proposal that electronic media, especially television, were creating a
"the medium is the message,"
i.e., the means of communications has a greater influence on people than the information itself. While many of the mass media were in early stages of development, McLuhan considered their effects on people to be potentially toxic and dehumanizing. His books include The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1964), From Cliché to Archetype (1970, with W. Watson), and City as Classroom (1977, with K. Hutchon and E. McLuhan).
See biographies by W. T. Gordon (1997) and D. Coupland (2010).