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Quotes of the day: Marshall McLuhan

Published Monday, July 21, 2014 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Jul 21 2014

Herbert 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. McLuhan 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. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.

Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values.

All words, in every language, are metaphors.

Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction. (1975)

Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.

Art is whatever you can get away with.

At the very high speed of living, everybody needs a new career and a new job and a totally new personality every ten years. (1973)

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.

Computers can do better than ever what needn't be done at all. Making sense is still a human monopoly.

Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.

Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative.

Great ages of innovation are the ages in which entire cultures are junked or scrapped.

I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.

I've always been careful never to predict anything that had not already happened.

In television, images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around you. You are the vanishing point.

Instead of scurrying into a corner and wailing about what media are doing to us, one should charge straight ahead and kick them in the electrodes

Language is a form of organized stutter.

Man in the electronic age has no possible environment except the globe and no possible occupation except information-gathering

Man works when he is partially involved. When he is totally involved he is at play or leisure.

Money is a poor man's credit card.

Mysticism is just tomorrow's science dreamed today.

New media are new archetypes, at first disguised as degradations of older media.

Omnipresence has become an ordinary human dimension.

One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with.

Only puny secrets need protection. Big secrets are protected by public incredulity.

Only the vanquished remember history.

Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's jobs with yesterday's tools.

Poetry and the arts can't exist in America. Mere exposure to the arts does nothing for a mentality which is incorrigibly dialectical.

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe you need the society as it is.

Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America- not on the battlefields of Vietnam.

The bible belt is oral territory and therefore despised by the literati.

The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.

The inner trip is not the sole prerogative of the LSD traveler; it's the universal experience of TV watchers.

The media have substituted themselves for the older world.

The more data banks record about us, the less we exist.

The more you make people alike, the more competition you have. Competition is based on the principle of conformity.

The most human thing about us is our technology.

The mother tongue is propaganda.

The percept takes priority of the concept.

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation.

We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.

We have become like the most primitive Palaeolithic man, once more global wanderers, but information gatherers rather than food gatherers. From now on the source of food, wealth and life itself will be information.

What disqualifies war from being a true game is probably what also disqualifies the stock market and business- the rules are not fully known nor accepted by all the players.

When new technologies impose themselves on societies long habituated to older technologies, anxieties of all kinds result.

World War III is a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation.

Categories: Marshall McLuhan, Quotes of the day


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