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Marshall McLuhan

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (July 21, 1911 - December 31, 1980) was a Canadian educator, academic, philosopher, and one of the founders of modern media studies. Marshall McLuhan's work is sometimes confused with that of a futurist


He was born to Elsie and Herbert McLuhan in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and raised in a Baptist Scottish-Irish family. He later converted to Roman Catholicism. McLuhan would remain a strong Catholic throughout his career. Some argue that his religion played a heavy role in his philosophical studies.

McLuhan became a pop culture figure in the 1960s with the publication of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill, 1964) and The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects (with designer Quentin Fiore, Random House, 1967).

Famous for coining the phrases "The medium is the message" (he later published a book whose title was a play on this phrase - The Medium is the Massage) and "the global village", McLuhan became one of the early purveyors of the sound bite. He asserted that each different medium is an extension of the senses that affects the individual and society in distinct and pervasive ways, further classifying some media as "hot" -- media which engage one's senses in a high-intensity, exclusive way, such as typography, radio, and film -- and other media as "cool" -- media of lower resolution or intensity, that require more interaction from the viewer, such as the telephone and the television. While many of his pronouncements and theories have been considered impenetrable, and by some absurd, McLuhan's central message -- that to understand today's world, one must actively study the effects of media -- remains ever more true in the electronic age . Wired Magazine named McLuhan its patron saint when the magazine launched in 1993.

In his seminal work , Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (1964), Marshall McLuhan allegedly coined the term "software", but the Oxford English Dictionary traces usage of the word back to 1960.

The phrase "global village" was coined by McLuhan in 1959, and appears in 1962's The Gutenberg Galaxy, McLuhan's study of the psychological and cognitive effects of standardised printing. The title of the same book was the origin of the term "Gutenberg Galaxy".

Marshall McLuhan died December 31, 1980 of a cerebral stroke which rendered him speechless during the last year of his life.

In 2000, he was honored by the government of Canada with his image on a postage stamp.

Arguably what made Marshall McLuhan a "media guru" to sixties pop culture mavens in the "TV age", also made him "the patron saint" of the "electronaissance" to a new generation in the era of secondary orality characterized by the presence of new media, multimedia, and digital communications networks.

Marshall McLuhan once stated that he considered all of his work to be a mere "footnote" to the work of Harold Innis. Innis, a well known Canadian economist, influenced the development of McLuhan's ideas about the nature and significance of communications media to culture. The pair are considered the twin pillars on the foundation of the Toronto School of Communication .

McLuhan is credited by some as the philosophical founder of the discipline of media ecology, a McLuhan coined term. Successors to McLuhan in this field, or those arguably influenced by him include Neil Postman, author of numerous books on Media and Education and founder of the first school of Media Ecology studies at New York University; Derrick de Kerckhove author of Connected Intelligence and McLuhan's student and later successor at the Program for Studies in Culture and Technology founded by McLuhan at the University of Toronto; Eric McLuhan, Marshall's son and author of Electric Language and Paul Levinson author of Digital McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan has arguably influenced or even founded other branches of thought and learning such as interdisciplinary studies and cross cultural studies . His work heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies. Marshall McLuhan's work is also sometimes connected to other philosophical movements of the Twentieth Century such as postmodernism where other acrimonious debates already rage.

McLuhan is quoted on the autodidacticism (self-education) page.


  • 1951 (Vanguard Press)
  • 1962 The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (University of Toronto Press)
  • 1964 (McGraw-Hill)
  • 1967 Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations (Something Else Press)
  • 1967 , with Quentin Fiore (Random House/1989 Simon and Schuster)
  • 1968 War and Peace in the Global Village , with Quentin Fiore (McGraw-Hill/1989 Simon and Schuster)
  • 1968 , with Harley Parker (Harper and Row: World Perspective Series Vol 37)
  • 1969 Counterblast , with Harley Parker (McClelland and Stewart)
  • 1970 From Cliche to Archetype , with Wilfred Watson (Viking)
  • 1970 Culture is Our Business (McGraw-Hill)
  • 1972 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)
  • 1977 , with Kathryn Hutchon and Eric McLuhan (Book Society of Canada Limited)

Posthumous books

  • 1988 , with Eric McLuhan (University of Toronto Press)
  • 1989 , with Bruce R. Powers (Oxford University Press)

External link

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45