McLuhan adapted the "Gestalt psychology idea of a figure and a ground, which underpins the meaning of "The medium is the message". He used this concept to explain how a form of communications technology, the medium or figure, necessarily operates through its context, or ground.
McLuhan believed that in order to grasp fully the effect of a new technology, one must examine figure (medium) and ground (context) together, since neither is completely intelligible without the other. McLuhan argued that we must study media in their historical context, particularly in relation to the technologies that preceded them. The present environment, itself made up of the effects of previous technologies, gives rise to new technologies, which, in their turn, further affect society and individuals.
All technologies have embedded within them their own assumptions about "time and space. The message which the medium conveys can only be understood if the medium and the environment in which the medium is used—and which, simultaneously, it effectively creates—are analysed together. He believed that an examination of the figure-ground relationship can offer a critical commentary on culture and society.
After the publication of Understanding Media, McLuhan received an astonishing amount of publicity, making him perhaps the most publicized English teacher in the twentieth century and arguably the most controversial.["according to whom?] This publicity had much to do with the work of two California advertising executives, Gerald Feigen and "Howard Gossage, who used personal funds to fund their practice of "genius scouting."["citation needed] Much enamoured with McLuhan's work, Feigen and Gossage arranged for McLuhan to meet with editors of several major New York magazines in May 1965 at the Lombardy Hotel in New York. Philip Marchand reports that, as a direct consequence of these meetings, McLuhan was offered the use of an office in the headquarters of both "Time and "Newsweek, any time he needed it.
In August 1965, Feigen and Gossage held what they called a "McLuhan festival" in the offices of Gossage's advertising agency in San Francisco. During this "festival", McLuhan met with advertising executives, members of the mayor's office, and editors from the "San Francisco Chronicle and "Ramparts magazine. Perhaps more significant, however, was "Tom Wolfe's presence at the festival, which he would later write about in his article, "What If He Is Right?", published in "New York Magazine and Wolfe's own "The Pump House Gang. According to Feigen and Gossage, however, their work had only a moderate effect on McLuhan's eventual celebrity: they later claimed that their work only "probably speeded up the recognition of [McLuhan's] genius by about six months." In any case, McLuhan soon became a fixture of media discourse. Newsweek magazine did a cover story on him; articles appeared in Life Magazine, Harper's, Fortune, Esquire, and others. Cartoons about him appeared in The New Yorker. In 1969, "Playboy magazine published a lengthy interview with him.
McLuhan was credited with coining the phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out by its popularizer, "Timothy Leary, in the 1960s. In a 1988 interview with "Neil Strauss, Leary stated that slogan was "given to him" by McLuhan during a lunch in New York City. Leary said McLuhan "was very much interested in ideas and marketing, and he started singing something like, 'Psychedelics hit the spot / Five hundred micrograms, that’s a lot,' to the tune of a Pepsi commercial. Then he started going, 'Tune in, turn on, and drop out.'"
During his lifetime and afterward, McLuhan heavily influenced "cultural critics, thinkers, and media theorists such as "Neil Postman, "Jean Baudrillard, "Timothy Leary, "Terence McKenna, "William Irwin Thompson, "Paul Levinson, "Douglas Rushkoff, "Jaron Lanier, "Hugh Kenner, and John David Ebert, as well as political leaders such as "Pierre Elliott Trudeau and "Jerry Brown. "Andy Warhol was paraphrasing McLuhan with his now famous ""15 minutes of fame" quote. When asked in the 1970s for a way to sedate violences in "Angola, he suggested a massive spread of TV devices. The character "Brian O'Blivion" in "David Cronenberg's 1983 film "Videodrome is a "media oracle" based on McLuhan. In 1991, McLuhan was named as the "patron saint" of "Wired Magazine and a quote of his appeared on the masthead["citation needed] for the first ten years of its publication. He is mentioned by name in a "Peter Gabriel-penned lyric in the song "Broadway Melody of 1974". This song appears on the "concept album "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, from "progressive rock band "Genesis. The lyric is: "Marshall McLuhan, casual viewin' head buried in the sand." McLuhan is also jokingly referred to during an episode of "The Sopranos entitled ""House Arrest". Despite his death in 1980, someone claiming to be McLuhan was posting on a Wired mailing list in 1996. The information this individual provided convinced one writer for Wired that "if the poster was not McLuhan himself, it was a bot programmed with an eerie command of McLuhan's life and inimitable perspective."
A new centre known as the "McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, formed soon after his death in 1980, was the successor to McLuhan's Centre for Culture and Technology at the "University of Toronto. Since 1994, it has been part of the "University of Toronto Faculty of Information and in 2008 the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology incorporated in the Coach House Institute. The first director was literacy scholar and "OISE Professor David R. Olsen. From 1983 until 2008, the McLuhan Program was under the direction of Dr. "Derrick de Kerckhove who was McLuhan's student and translator. From 2008 through 2015 Professor Dominique Scheffel-Dunand of "York University served Director of the Program. In 2011 at the time of his centenary the Coach House Institute established a Marshall McLuhan Centenary Fellowship program in his honor, and each year appoints up to four fellows for a maximum of two years. In May 2016 the Coach House Institute was renamed the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology; its Interim Director is "Seamus Ross (2015-16).
In Toronto, "Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School is named after him.
This is a partial list of works cited in this article. See "Bibliography of Marshall McLuhan for a more comprehensive list of works by and about McLuhan.
- 1951 "The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man; 1st ed.: The Vanguard Press, NY; reissued by Gingko Press, 2002. "ISBN 1-58423-050-9.
- 1962 "The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man; 1st ed.: "University of Toronto Press; reissued by Routledge & Kegan Paul. "ISBN 0-7100-1818-5.
- 1964 "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man; 1st ed. McGraw Hill, NY; reissued by MIT Press, 1994, with introduction by Lewis H. Lapham; reissued by Gingko Press, 2003. "ISBN 1-58423-073-8.
- 1967 "The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects with Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel; 1st ed.: Random House; reissued by Gingko Press, 2001. "ISBN 1-58423-070-3.
- 1968 "War and Peace in the Global Village design/layout by Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel; 1st ed.: Bantam, NY; reissued by Gingko Press, 2001. "ISBN 1-58423-074-6.
- 1970 "From Cliché to Archetype with Wilfred Watson; Viking, NY. "ISBN 0-670-33093-0.
- 1988 McLuhan, Marshall and Eric. Laws of Media. University of Toronto Press. "ISBN 0-8020-5782-9.
- 2016 Marshall McLuhan and Robert K. Logan. "The Future of the Library: From Electronic Media to Digital Media." Peter Lang. "ISBN 9781433132643.
- "Coupland, Douglas. "Extraordinary Canadians: Marshall McLuhan. Penguin Canada, 2009; US edition: Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of my Work!. Atlas & Company, 2011.
- Gordon, W. Terrence. Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding: A Biography. Basic Books, 1997. "ISBN 0-465-00549-7.
- "Robert K. Logan. McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight. Toronto: Key Publishing House, 2013.
- Marchand, Philip. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. Random House, 1989; Vintage, 1990; The MIT Press; Revised edition, 1998. "ISBN 0-262-63186-5
- Molinaro, Matie; Corinne McLuhan; and William Toye, eds. Letters of Marshall McLuhan. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, "ISBN 0-19-540594-3
- "Programming: Getting the Message". "Time. October 13, 1967. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "Television: Dann v. Klein: The Best Game in Town". "Time. May 25, 1970. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "Levinson, Paul (1999). Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium. Routledge. "ISBN "0-415-19251-X.
- Plummer, Kevin. "Historicist: Marshall McLuhan, Urban Activist". www.torontoist.com. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
- Stille, Alexander (14 October 2000). "Marshall McLuhan Is Back From the Dustbin of History; With the Internet, His Ideas Again Seem Ahead of Their Time". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- Beale, Nigel (28 February 2008). "Living in Marshall McLuhan's galaxy". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
- Wolf, Gary (January 1996). "The Wisdom of Saint Marshall, the Holy Fool". Wired 4.01. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- Boxer, Sarah (3 April 2003). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; McLuhan's Messages, Echoing On Iraq". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- Gordon, pp. 99–100.
- Marchand (1998), p. 20.
- Edan, Tina (2003). "St Marshall, Mass and the Media: Catholicism, Media Theory and Marshall McLuhan", p. 10. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
- Edan (2003), p. 11.
- Gordon (1997), p. 34
- Marchand (1998), p.32
- Gordon, p. 40; McLuhan later commented "One advantage we Westerners have is that we're under no illusion we've had an education. That's why I started at the bottom again." Marchand (1990), p 30.
- Marchand, p. 33–34
- Marchand, pp. 37–47.
- Old Messengers, New Media: The Legacy of Innis and McLuhan, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada
- Gordon, p. 94.
- Gordon, pp. 69–70.
- Gordon, p. 54–56.
- Lewis H. Lapham, Introduction to Understanding Media (First MIT Press Edition), p. xvii
- McLuhan, Marshall. "Letter to Elsie McLuhan", September 5, 1935. Molinaro et alia (1987), p. 73.
- Gordon, p.74, gives the date as March 25; Marchand (1990), p.44, gives it as March 30.
- Marchand (1990), pp. 44–45.
- Marchand (1990), p. 45.
- Gordon, p. 75
- Associates speculated about his intellectual connection to the Virgin Mary, one saying, "He had a direct connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary.... He alluded to it very briefly once, almost fearfully, in a please-don't-laugh-at-me tone. He didn't say, 'I know this because the Blessed Virgin Mary told me,' but it was clear from what he said that one of the reasons he was so sure about certain things was that the Virgin had certified his understanding of them." (cited in Marchand, p. 51).
- Marchand, p. 48
- Fitterman, Lisa (2008-04-19). "She was Marshall McLuhan's great love ardent defender, supporter and critic". Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- Gordon, p. 115.
- McLuhan, Marshall. (2005) Marshall McLuhan Unbound. Corte Madera, CA : Gingko Press v. 8, p. 8. This is a reprint of McLuhan's introduction to the 1964 edition of Innis's book The Bias of Communication first published in 1951.
- Prins and Bishop 2002
- During the time at Fordham University, his son "Eric McLuhan conducted what came to be known as the "Fordham Experiment about the different effects of "light-on" versus "light-through" media.
- Order of Canada citation
- University of Toronto Bulletin, 1979; Martin Friedland, The University of Toronto: A History, University of Toronto Press, 2002
- Whitman, Alden (January 1, 1981). "Marshall McLuhan, Author, Dies; Declared 'Medium Is the Message'". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- McLuhan's doctoral dissertation from 1942 was published by "Gingko Press in March 2006. Gingko Press also plans to publish the complete manuscript of items and essays that McLuhan prepared, only a selection of which were published in his book. With the publication of these two books a more complete picture of McLuhan's arguments and aims is likely to emerge.
- For a nuanced account of McLuhan's thought regarding Richards and Leavis, see McLuhan's "Poetic and Rhetorical Exegesis: The Case for Leavis against Richards and Empson" in the Sewanee Review, volume 52, number 2 (1944): 266–76.
- The phrase "the medium is the message" may be better understood in light of "Bernard Lonergan's further articulation of related ideas: at the empirical level of "consciousness, the medium is the message, whereas at the intelligent and rational levels of consciousness, the content is the message. This sentence uses Lonergan's terminology from Insight: A Study of Human Understanding to clarify the meaning of McLuhan's statement that "the medium is the message"; McLuhan read this when it was first published in 1957 and found "much sense" in it—in his letter of September 21, 1957, to his former student and friend, Walter J. Ong, S.J., McLuhan says, "Find much sense in Bern. Lonergan's Insight" (Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987: 251). Lonergan's Insight is an extended guide to "making the inward turn": attending ever more carefully to one's own consciousness, reflecting on it ever more carefully, and monitoring one's articulations ever more carefully. When McLuhan declares that he is more interested in "percepts than "concepts, he is declaring in effect that he is more interested in what Lonergan refers to as the empirical level of consciousness than in what Lonergan refers to as the intelligent level of consciousness in which concepts are formed, which Lonergan distinguishes from the rational level of consciousness in which the adequacy of concepts and of predications is adjudicated. This inward turn to attending to percepts and to the cultural conditioning of the empirical level of consciousness through the effect of communication media sets him apart from more outward-oriented studies of sociological influences and the outward presentation of self carried out by "George Herbert Mead, "Erving Goffman, "Berger and "Luckmann, "Kenneth Burke, Hugh Duncan, and others.
- Wolfe, Tom (December 2015). "Tom Wolfe on Media, Advertising, Technology (1999)". C-SPAN. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Gutenberg Galaxy 1962, p. 41.
- Gutenberg Galaxy pp. 124–26.
- Gutenberg Galaxy p. 154.
- "Wyndham Lewis's America and Cosmic Man (1948) and "James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake are sometimes credited as the source of the phrase, but neither used the words "global village" specifically as such. According to McLuhan's son "Eric McLuhan, his father, a Wake scholar and a close friend of Lewis, likely discussed the concept with Lewis during their association, but there is no evidence that he got the idea or the phrasing from either; McLuhan is generally credited as having coined the term.
Eric McLuhan (1996). "The source of the term 'global village'". McLuhan Studies (issue 2). Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- Gutenberg Galaxy p. 32.
- Gutenberg Galaxy p. 158.
- Gutenberg Galaxy p. 254.
- Getto, Erica. "The Medium is the Massage: Celebrating Marshall McLuhan's Legacy". WNYC.org. Retrieved 2015-04-23.
- America 107 (Sept. 15, 1962): 743, 747.
- New Catholic Encyclopedia 8 (1967): 838.
- Gordon, p. 109.
- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964), 4
- Understanding Media, p. 8.
- McLuhan, Understanding Media, 18, 20
- Understanding Media, p. 22.
- Understanding Media, p. 25.
- "CBC Archives". Archives.cbc.ca. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2015-04-23.
- Debray, Regis. "Media Manifestos" (PDF). Columbia University Press. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Joscelyne, Andrew. "Debray on Technology". Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Mullen, Megan. "Coming to Terms with the Future He Foresaw: Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media". Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Carr, David (January 6, 2011). "Marshall McLuhan: Media Savant". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Paul Grossweiler, The Method is the Message: Rethinking McLuhan through Critical Theory (Montreal: Black Rose, 1998), 155-81
- Paul Levinson, Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium (New York: Routledge,1999), 30.
- Marchand, p. 203
- McLuhan & Fiore, 1967
- According to McLuhan biographer W. Terrence Gordon, "by the time it appeared in 1967, McLuhan no doubt recognized that his original saying had become a cliché and welcomed the opportunity to throw it back on the compost heap of language to recycle and revitalize it. But the new title is more than McLuhan indulging his insatiable taste for puns, more than a clever fusion of self-mockery and self-rescue—the subtitle is 'An Inventory of Effects,' underscoring the lesson compressed into the original saying." (Gordon, p. 175.) However, the FAQ section on the website maintained by McLuhan's estate says that this interpretation is incomplete and makes its own leap of logic as to why McLuhan left it as is. "Why is the title of the book The Medium is the Massage and not The Medium is the Message? Actually, the title was a mistake. When the book came back from the typesetter's, it had on the cover 'Massage' as it still does. The title was supposed to have read The Medium is the Message but the typesetter had made an error. When McLuhan saw the typo he exclaimed, 'Leave it alone! It's great, and right on target!' Now there are possible four readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: Message and Mess Age, Massage and Mass Age."
- Understanding Media, p. 68.
- The Medium is the Massage, pp 74,5
- Marchand (1998), p.187.
- War and Peace in the Global Village, p. 46.
- "Watson, Wilfred". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
- From Cliché to Archetype, p. 4.
- From Cliché to Archetype, p. 99.
- From Cliché to Archetype, p. 5.
- From Cliché to Archetype, p. 9.
- The Global Village, p. 74.
- The Global Village, p. 75.
- The Global Village, p. 76.
- The Global Village, p. 77.
- The Global Village, p. 78.
- McLuhan, Eric (1998). Electric language: understanding the present. Stoddart. "ISBN "0-7737-5972-7., p. 28
- Marchand, pp. 182–184.
- "Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan". Playboy. March 1969. pp. 26–27, 45, 55–56, 61, 63.
- Strauss, Neil. Everybody Loves You When You're Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness. New York: HarperCollins, 2011, p. 337–38
- "It's cool not to shave – Marshall McLuhan, the Man and his Message – CBC Archives". CBC News. Retrieved 2007-07-02.
- "Daniele Luttazzi, interview at "RAI Radio1 show Stereonotte, July 01 2007 2:00 am. Quote: "McLuhan era uno che al premier canadese che si interrogava su un modo per sedare dei disordini in Angola, McLuhan disse, negli anni 70, 'riempite la nazione di apparecchi televisivi'; ed è quello che venne fatto; e la rivoluzione in Angola cessò." (Italian)
- Lamberti, Elena. Marshall McLuhan's Mosaic: Probing the Literary Origins of Media Studies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
- Wolf, Gary (January 1996). "Channeling McLuhan". Wired 4.01. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- "Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger". Philipmarchand.com. Retrieved 2015-04-23.
- Benedetti, Paul and Nancy DeHart. Forward Through the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on and by Marshall McLuhan. Boston:The MIT Press, 1997.
- Bobbitt, David. "Teaching McLuhan: Understanding Understanding Media." Enculturation, December, 2011. http://www.enculturation.net/teaching-mcluhan
- "Carpenter, Edmund. "That Not-So-Silent Sea" [Appendix B]. In The Virtual Marshall McLuhan edited by Donald F. Theall. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001: 236–261. (For the complete essay before it was edited for publication, see the external link below.)
- Cavell, Richard. McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
- Daniel, Jeff. "McLuhan's Two Messengers: Maurice McNamee and Walter Ong: world-class interpreters of his ideas." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Sunday, August 10, 1997: 4C).
- Federman, Mark. McLuhan for Managers: New Tools for New Thinking. Viking Canada, 2003.
- Finkelstein, Sidney Walter. "Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan." International Publishers Co, 1968.
- Flahiff, F. T. Always Someone to Kill the Doves: A Life of Sheila Watson. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2005.
- Giddings, Seth. The New Media and Technocultures Reader. Routledge, 2011:82-91
- Havers, Grant N. "Marshall McLuhan and the Machiavellian Use of Religious Violence." In Faith, War, and Violence. Vol. 39 of Religion and Public Life, edited by Gabriel R. Ricci. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2014. pp. 179–203.
- "Levinson, Paul. Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium. Routledge, 1999. "ISBN 0-415-19251-X; book has been translated into Japanese, Chinese, Croatian, Romanian, Korean and Macedonian
- "Logan, Robert K.. Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1st edition 2010, 2nd edition 2016.
- "Logan, Robert K.. McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight". Toronto: The Key Publishing House.
- "Ong, Walter J.: "McLuhan as Teacher: The Future Is a Thing of the Past." Journal of Communication 31 (1981): 129–135. Reprinted in Ong's Faith and Contexts: Volume One (Scholars Press, 1992: 11–18).
- Ong, Walter J.: [Untitled review of McLuhan's The Interior Landscape: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan 1943–1962]. Criticism 12 (1970): 244–251. Reprinted in An Ong Reader: Challenges for Further Inquiry (Hampton Press, 2002: 69–77).
- Prins, Harald E.L., and Bishop, John M. "Edmund Carpenter: Explorations in Media & Anthropology." Visual Anthropology Review Vol.17(2): 110-40 (2002).
- Prins, Harald E.L., and John Bishop. "Edmund Carpenter: A Trickster's Explorations of Culture & Media." pp. 207–45. In Memories of the Origins of Ethnographic Film. B. Engelbrecht, ed. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007.
- Theall, Donald F. The Virtual Marshall McLuhan. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.
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- Official website
- Marshall McLuhan at the "Internet Movie Database
- "James Feeley fonds". University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- "The Marshall McLuhan Collection". University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- "Edmund carpenter : Explorations in Media & Anthropology" (PDF). Media-generation.com. Retrieved 2015-04-23.