Pub. Date:
MIT Press
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

by Marshall McLuhan, Lewis H. Lapham
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Terms and phrases such as "the global village" and "the medium is the message" are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan's theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.

This reissue of Understanding Media marks the thirtieth anniversary (1964-1994) of Marshall McLuhan's classic expose on the state of the then emerging phenomenon of mass media. Terms and phrases such as "the global village" and "the medium is the message" are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan's theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.

There has been a notable resurgence of interest in McLuhan's work in the last few years, fueled by the recent and continuing conjunctions between the cable companies and the regional phone companies, the appearance of magazines such as WiRed, and the development of new media models and information ecologies, many of which were spawned from MIT's Media Lab. In effect, media now begs to be redefined. In a new introduction to this edition of Understanding Media, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham reevaluates McLuhan's work in the light of the technological as well as the political and social changes that have occurred in the last part of this century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262631594
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 10/24/1994
Series: The MIT Press
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 389
Sales rank: 158,426
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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From the Publisher

"...the most brilliant marketing mind of all belonged to Marshall McLuhan.

Understanding Media is a timeless analysis of how language, speech and technology shape human behavior in the era of mass communication. The book is a cautionary tale for marketers today who hear the Web's siren call and ignore the power of the spoken word." Wall Street Journal

The MIT Press

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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We're really living in the McLuhan revolution, although this seminal work from this underappreciated prophet from the 1960s has gone sadly unappreciated in recent times. Even so, when you hear that an insurance company or ad agency is not primarily in the business of producing ads or insurance, but of 'putting people in touch' or 'communicating,' that rhetoric was stolen straight from Mr. McLuhan. Those huggybear ads that sell not houses (bricks and mortar) but 'homes' (secure, loving environments)--straight out of McLuhan. If he were still alive he should sue for royalties for (mis)use of his ideas. Even the term 'global village' was coined back in 1964 with the publication of this book. 'Understanding Media' is a fascinating read, but not an easy one. Most academic books are about ten percent new. Inovative ones are about 20 percent new. McLuhan claimed his was about 40 percent new, which is what makes it such a rough read. It isn't his prose style, which is charming and felicitous. But when introducing a new discipline, there must needs be enough bridges left to the old ones (in this case sociology, history, rhetoric, etc.) that redundancy occurs. An historian views the world through the lenses of war and technological advance. An economist, through boom, recession and mitigating factors like interest rates. A sociologist, through mass behavior. McLuhan's famous phrase 'the medium is the message' indicates that for him, the medium itself was the determinating factor--something as simple as a glowing light bulb or a blouse, as complicated as Las Vegas or the DEW line are all media; and it is through the lens of these media that we see the world. Drawing on these inspirations in the early 60s, McLuhan explained the hypnotic pull of black-and-white TV over radio (which is easier to ignore), the sudden popularity of small foreign cars, the 'beehive hairdo,' and the way John F. Kennedy's slightly shaggy hair looked better on TV than Richard Nixon's (giving Kennedy more credibility); along with other early Sixties phenomena. He probably wasn't the least surprised by the Beatles since they combined sex, shagginess, spontaneity and (slight) foreignness all in one package. To get the most out of 'Understanding Media' it's critical to grasp McLuhan's core definitions of 'hot' and 'cool' media to understand how his theories work in the real world. That explains why you'll see some repetition in this book, as well as what appears to be disorganization. This leads some reader/critics to assume that UNDERSTANDING MEDIA is simply sloppy and poorly edited but far from it: it's a powerful, almost radical way to restructure our view of American (and hence the world's) thinking. It seems to be working, too. Are you ready for your 15 minutes of fame?
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McLuhan raises a lot of interesting ideas about the relationship of media to culture, but is frustratingly haphazard about following through on any of them. I can deal with him making oracular pronouncements with zero evidence to back them up, but it would be nice if he at least carried his ideas a little further, examined culture a little more closely... But I don't know, maybe it's not fair to blame a man for not being Foucault.
amanda_c on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting ideas about media. I don't always agree with them, but they always get me thinking.
uqbar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Sep 2006) I was led to look up McLuhan through a number of online sources and reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he credits McLuhan as a major influence.Reading Understanding Media is drinking from the firehose. McLuhan bursts with ideas, essentially reinterpreting human history through the lens of communication technology and its broader influence on culture. He famously says, "The medium is the message," i.e. content has less impact than form.I would very much like to find more recent research that takes up McLuhan's program and attempts to sort the wheat from the chaff. McLuhan's extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, of which there is little in this volume. The modern field of media studies seems to have veered in a different direction... but perhaps I haven't found the right books yet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the time of its original publication this book was presented as the work of prophecy which totally revealed to us the real state at which humanity had arrived. MacLuhan was a tremendously original and brilliant scholar, a very good writer. The work has much in it which is insightful and provocative. But as a key to our times it is already dated. The new technologies which have emerged, including the one upon which these words are written make MacLuhan's vision of media as message in one global village seem unidimensional. The revolution in communications, however great seems somehow secondary to the technological developments in genetics and reproductive biology. The challenges made to the definition of our essential humanity by the rapid development of information technologies raise the question not only of what mankind will be in the generations ahead, but whether or not the prevalent intellect will be a human one. It is perhaps unfair to accuse MacLuhan of all the things he did not foresee. No one could have possibly foreseen them all. But he overhyped himself as one who seems to understand the key to the new human situation. It seems to me at this present impasse, no one really understands the human situation fully, and where and what it will be transformed into next.