Mark Twain

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

Friday, November 4, 2016

Why Is Marshall McLuhan Important? Tom Wolfe on Media, Advertising, Tech...

Marshall McLuhan, CC (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian
philosopher of communication theory and a public intellectual. His work
is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as
well as having practical applications in the advertising and television
industries. He was educated at the University of Manitoba and Cambridge
University and began his teaching career as a Professor of English at
several universities in the U.S. and Canada, before moving to the
University of Toronto where he would remain for the rest of his life.

is known for coining the expressions the medium is the message and the
global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost thirty
years before it was invented. Although he was a fixture in media
discourse in the late 1960s, his influence began to wane in the early
1970s. In the years after his death, he continued to be a controversial
figure in academic circles. With the arrival of the internet, however,
interest in his work and perspective has renewed.

During his
years at Saint Louis University (1937–1944), McLuhan worked concurrently
on two projects: his doctoral dissertation and the manuscript that was
eventually published in 1951 as the book The Mechanical Bride: Folklore
of Industrial Man, which included only a representative selection of the
materials that McLuhan had prepared for it.

McLuhan's 1942
Cambridge University doctoral dissertation surveys the history of the
verbal arts (grammar, logic, and rhetoric—collectively known as the
trivium) from the time of Cicero down to the time of Thomas Nashe.[38]
In his later publications, McLuhan at times uses the Latin concept of
the trivium to outline an orderly and systematic picture of certain
periods in the history of Western culture. McLuhan suggests that the
Middle Ages, for instance, was characterized by the heavy emphasis on
the formal study of logic. The key development that led to the
Renaissance was not the rediscovery of ancient texts but a shift in
emphasis from the formal study of logic to rhetoric and language. Modern
life is characterized by the reemergence of grammar as its most salient
feature—a trend McLuhan felt was exemplified by the New Criticism of
Richards and Leavis.[39]

In The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan turned
his attention to analysing and commenting on numerous examples of
persuasion in contemporary popular culture. This followed naturally from
his earlier work as both dialectic and rhetoric in the classical
trivium aimed at persuasion. At this point his focus shifted
dramatically, turning inward to study the influence of communication
media independent of their content. His famous aphorism "the medium is
the message" (elaborated in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The
Extensions of Man) calls attention to this intrinsic effect of
communications media.[40]

McLuhan also started the journal
Explorations with anthropologist Edmund "Ted" Carpenter. In a letter to
Walter Ong dated May 31, 1953, McLuhan reported that he had received a
two-year grant of $43,000 from the Ford Foundation to carry out a
communication project at the University of Toronto involving faculty
from different disciplines, which led to the creation of the journal.

Wolfe suggests that a hidden influence on McLuhan's work is the
Catholic philosopher Teilhard de Chardin whose ideas anticipated those
of McLuhan, especially the evolution of the human mind into the
"noosphere". Wolfe theorizes that McLuhan may have thought that
association of his ideas with those of a Catholic theologian, albeit one
suppressed by Rome, might have denied him the intellectual audience he
wanted to reach and so omitted all reference of de Chardin from his
published work, while privately acknowledging his influence.


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