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Mcluhan Review

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  • 1. “ The Medium is the Message” Marshall McLuhan (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man AGM @ University of Washington, M.C. Digital Media 10.30.07
  • 2. Video
  • 3. Who was McLuhan?
    • 1911-1980
    • Canadian
    • English Professor
    • Influenced by the 60s: flower power, Joyce, French philosophers, painters, avant-garde filmmakers, MIT scholars
    • Complex prose, open to interpretation
    • Loved word play… quote generator !
  • 4. Key Points
    • McLuhan refutes the notion that machines’ value depend on their use, because it ignores the nature of the machine
    • What are the psychic & social impacts of the machine?
  • 5. “ Machines are extensions of Man”
    • E.g: Clothes are an extension of skin
    • Humans create machines to automate human activities
    • Machines amplify or accelerate existing human processes
    • Machines have a purpose, a set function and therefore an inherent nature
    “ The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale”
  • 6. Paradox of Mechanization
    • Mechanization is a major cause of growth and change
    • But the principles of mechanization refute learning and understanding of change
    • Automations or mechanizations are superficial, fragmented, and centralized patterns
  • 7. “ The content of a medium is always another medium”
    • The content of: the telegraph = written word = speech = non verbal thinking
    • Except for the electric light in pure form
    • Electric Light only has content when used for something
    • The “content” of a medium, blinds us to its “character ”
  • 8. Related Article
    • Book review of “the method is the message: rethinking McLuhan”
    • Author Shaw (1999) says this is a valuable book that tries to get beyond a simple dismissal
    • Argues McLuhan was a “humanist technologist”
    • Supports argument by:
      • Explaining McLuhan’s philosophical approach to be “intersubjective”
      • Assuming that McLuhan was searching for human agency when technology changes
      • Exploring McLuhan influences and links
      • Placing McLuhan in historical context (modernist & postmodernist thinking)
  • 9. Reactions
    • Deemed as “Technology Determinist”
    • Some say he was misinterpreted
    • His theory has been reduced to quotes out of context
    • Not all of McLuhan is irrelevant
    • What do you think?
  • 10. Questions
    • What do you think of McLuhan’s theory?
    • How is McLuhan relevant today?
    • How would you apply McLuhan to the Internet?
    • What is the content of the Internet?
    • How does McLuhan compare to other theories discussed in class?

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