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The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967)

by Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,773277,383 (3.86)18
First published in 1967, this text is now more relevant than ever, as McLuhan's foresights about the impact of new media is actualized at unprecedented speeds via the Internet. It portrays technologies as an extension of man, illustrating how our senses are massaged and our preceptions altered as these devices become integral parts of our lives.… (more)
  1. 30
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (bertilak)
  2. 00
    Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn by Larry D. Rosen (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: To effectively communicate, you must understand the medium you are using and fully use its potential. You must also select a medium appropriate to the message to successfully communicate.
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» See also 18 mentions

English (23)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I hate it when my review is above the global average but, come on! MCLUHAN!

"There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening." ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 5, 2021 |
McLuhan proclaims that electronic media technology can bring the world together and unite thought and action in a way that print technology made separate. He doesn’t argue these points as much as issues provocations, complimented by the book’s sleek design and imagery. A generous reading is that he’s trying to stir thought, to get the reader to come to their own conclusions and connect the dots. Others might say that he avoids making arguments because his ideas are weak, and he cannot back them up. I fall into the latter camp.

He critiques printing, which partially revolves around the technology of the alphabet. Allegedly, the alphabet trains us to see things in a connected and continuous way. Since the alphabet and words involve breaking things down and constructing meaning, he says that this fragmenting is how humanity now thinks.

Fragmented compared to what? My admittedly limited understanding of non-literate people is that they tend to have ideas about the world that are “connected.” How could one move about the world not believing things are connected? What does “continuous” mean anyways? Also, modern communications technologies don’t function too different from the alphabet, if any have supplanted it at all. For instance, memes take images out of their context and use them to represent a mood, idea, opinion, etc. Isn’t this breaking things down and constructing meaning through fragmenting?

He points out that the printing press was the first instance of mass production and alleges that reading facilitates a private point-of-view involving detachment and a cult of individualism. He’s arguing that networked society brings us back into oral dialogue of the village, since we all have access to communicate with each other instantly. Hence, the “global village.”

The critique of the printing press is probably fair, and I can understand detachment and individualism resulting from solitary reading. But where does reading aloud fit into this, or talking about a book with others? Reading can facilitate dialogue or be as individualistic as listening to someone talk on TV. Printing and reading are surely worth critique, but nothing like the rigorous dialogue of ancient Greece has come about since the spread of TV and the internet. Instead, attention spans have declined while our understandings of things have become shallower, as Nicholas Carr puts it.

Furthermore, though communications media has brought people the ability to communicate across the world, we are living in a period where nationalism and racism are surging. Perhaps our situation mirrors the “global village” McLuhan heralds, but Othering has remained. Rather than virtual distance and communication technology, this ugly human tendency is likely rooted in politics, the economy, and psychology.

He believes the discord between generations in the Sixties results from society’s expectations that older technologies are expected to solve contemporary problems. He homes in on schooling, which deploys older strategies for imparting fragmented knowledge, meanwhile children receive a wider image of the adult world simply by watching TV.

He argues that electric technology fosters involvement and participation. He probably meant it in a good way, but this reminds me of the computer application Slack, which acts as a chatroom for workplace “teams”. Prior to Slack, there was not expectations for a work colleagues to be in constant communication. Instead, you would do your work, and talk to co-workers when you needed to.

Slack brings co-workers together in a space paid by the employer, who have the possibility of surveilling and reviewing the communications. Employees know this. Slack then acts as a centralization tool. The participation and involvement are synonymous with increased productivity. We are always there, always in-tune to the details of the work, and always available for informal communication.

McLuhan argues that instead of “the public,” electrical technology supposedly creates “the mass” who use multiple “modes of exploration” rather than walking around with ones’ own fixed POV. Here it is obvious how McLuhan doesn’t make arguments, he issues proclamations. What is a “mode of exploration”? Is it just that I think the masses’ ideas instead of those brought to me by the schoolteacher or book? That just seems like groupthink.

If printing caused fixed POVs, how does this vague “mass” offer new modes? What new modes? How are they able to break the fixed POV? Aren’t TV shows and movies also shown from the same POVs: first-person, third-person, ensemble, etc?

Overall, I think McLuhan was onto big societal transformations taking place in the Sixties. He just exaggerated the responsibility and role of media technology in bringing it about. He was right to point out the importance of the media/medium, but his mistake was being optimistic about it.
( )
  100sheets | Jun 7, 2021 |
In one of the most interestingly presented books I have seen, socio-cultural theorist, Marshall McLuhan, and graphics designer and artist, Quentin Fiore, present The Medium is the Massage, a book that, while written in the 1960s, has more direct application to our contemporary times than it did during its inception.

Taking its cue from the saying, "the medium is the message" and altering it to fit their own message, McLuhan and Fiore present the argument of how the electronic media is slowly lulling us into not realizing the dramatic changes and new perspectives this technology is creating.

Their 'writing style', if it can be called such, is a provocative, visually-impacting array of photographs, unique texts, quotes, humorous cartoons, and other images to give the reader a better understanding of the ideas being presented. While there is a slight danger of their message being lost in its unorthodox presentation, (two pages, for example, are printed with the text upside-down), their argument is solid and restated in unique ways throughout.

The book is revolutionary in the way it shows how electric technology is continually changing our government, our families, our jobs, and our social relationships. While the evidence and the way it is presented does reveal its origination in the earlier part of this technological movement, the words nonetheless show its relevance to our time period.
( )
  irrelephant | Feb 21, 2021 |
What is this? I have no idea. A collection of bizarre, amateurish cartoons and text, supposedly a graphic rendition of the Marshall McLuhan hype. For anyone not under the influence of one or another "controlled substance" (as we used to call them), it's now seriously dated -- a time capsule from a bygone age. ( )
1 vote danielx | Jan 25, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marshall McLuhanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fiore, Quentinmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiore, Quentinsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Good morning!

The medium, or process, of our time--electric technology--is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.
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Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. "Time" has ceased, "space" has vanished. We now live in a global village...a simultaneous happening. [63]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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First published in 1967, this text is now more relevant than ever, as McLuhan's foresights about the impact of new media is actualized at unprecedented speeds via the Internet. It portrays technologies as an extension of man, illustrating how our senses are massaged and our preceptions altered as these devices become integral parts of our lives.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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