Topics Marshall McLuhan Quotations
Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher, futurist, and communications theorist.
- There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.
- Statement of 1965, in reference to Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1963) by Buckminster Fuller, as quoted Paradigms Lost: Learning from Environmental Mistakes, Mishaps and Misdeeds (2005) by Daniel A. Vallero, p. 367
- There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. Everybody's crew.
- As quoted in The Aquarian Conspiracy : Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (1980) by Marilyn Ferguson, p. 189
- There are no passengers on spaceship Earth, only crew.
- As quoted in Go Green : How to Build an Earth-Friendly Community (2008) by Nancy H. Taylor, p. 59
The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)
- Full title: The Gutenberg Galaxy : The Making of Typographic Man
- The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.
- p. 43
- The world of visual perspective is one of unified and homogeneous space. Such a world is alien to the resonating diversity of spoken words. So language was the last art to accept the visual logic of Gutenberg technology, and the first to rebound in the electric age.
- p. 136
- Throughout Finnegans Wake Joyce specifies the Tower of Babel as the tower of Sleep, that is, the tower of the witless assumption, or what Bacon calls the reign of the Idols.
- The present volume to this point might be regarded as a gloss on a single text of Harold Innis: "The effect of the discovery of printing was evident in the savage religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Application of power to communication industries hastened the consolidation of vernaculars, the rise of nationalism, revolution, and new outbreaks of savagery in the twentieth century."
- p. 216; McLuhan here quotes "Minerva's Owl" (1947), by Innis, an address to the Royal Society of Canada, published in The Bias of Communication (1951)
- There is nothing wilful or arbitrary about the Innis mode of expression. Were it to be translated into perspective prose, it would not only require huge space, but the insight into the modes of interplay among forms of organisation would also be lost. Innis sacrificed point of view and prestige to his sense of the urgent need for insight. A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding. As Innis got more insight he abandoned any mere point of view in his presentation of knowlege. When he interrelates the development of the steam press with 'the consolidation of the vernaculars' and the rise of nationalism and revolution he is not reporting anybody's point of view, least of all his own. He is setting up a mosaic configuration or galaxy for insight … Innis makes no effort to "spell out" the interrelations between the components in his galaxy. He offers no consumer packages in his later work, but only do-it-yourself kits...
Understanding Media (1964)
- Understanding Media : The Extensions of Man
- The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.
- We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
- Art is anything you can get away with.
- Literacy remains even now the base and model of all programs of industrial mechanization; but, at the same time, locks the minds and senses of its users in the mechanical and fragmentary matrix that is so necessary to the maintenance of mechanized society.
The Medium is the Massage (1967)
- When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?
- There is absolutely no inevitability, so long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.
Hot & Cool (1967)
- It's misleading to suppose there's any basic difference between education & entertainment. This distinction merely relieves people of the responsibility of looking into the matter.
- (1957) from "Classroom Without Walls", Explorations Vol. 7, 1957; reprinted in Explorations in Communication ed. E. Carpenter & M. McLuhan, (Boston: Beacon, 1960); and again in McLuhan: Hot and Cool ed. G. E. Stearn (NY: Dial, 1967).
- I don't explain—I explore.
- Casting my perils before swains.
Through the Vanishing Point (1968)
- Perhaps the most precious possession of man is his abiding awareness of the Analogy of Proper Proportionality, the key to all metaphysical insight, and perhaps the very condition of consciousness itself. This analogical awareness is constituted of a perpetual play of ratios among ratios. A is to B, what C is to D, which is to say the ratio between A and B, is proportionable to the ratio between C and D, there being a ratio between these ratios, as well, this lively awareness of the most exquisite delicacy depends upon there being no connection whatsoever between the components. If A were linked to B, or C to D, mere logic would take the place of analogical perception, thus one of the penalties paid for literacy and a high visual culture is a strong tendency to encounter all things through a rigorous storyline, as it were. Paradoxically, connected spaces and situations exclude participation, whereas discontinuity affords room for involvement. Visual space is connected and creates detachment or non-involvement. It also tends to exclude the participation of the other senses. (p.240)
From Cliché to Archetype (1970)
- Since Sputnik and the satellites, the planet is enclosed in a manmade environment that ends "Nature" and turns the globe into a repertory theater to be programmed. Shakespeare at the Globe mentioning "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7) has been justified by recent events in ways that would have struck him as entirely paradoxical. The results of living inside a proscenium arch of satellites is that the young now accept the public spaces of the earth as role-playing areas. Sensing this, they adopt costumes and roles and are ready to "do their thing" everywhere." (p.9-10)
- The "tragic flaw" is not a detail of characterization, a mere "fly in the ointment", but a structural feature of ordinary consciousness. (p.45)
- Jacques Ellul observes in Propaganda: When dialogue begins, propaganda ends. His theme, that propaganda is not this or that ideology but rather the action and coexistence of all media at once, explains why propaganda is environmental and invisible. The total life of any culture tends to be "propaganda", for this reason. It blankets perception and supresses awareness, making the counter environments created by the artist indispensable to survival and freedom. (p.77)
- Another theme of the Wake that helps in the understanding of the paradoxical shift from cliché to archetype is "pastimes are past times". The dominant technologies of one age become the games and pastimes of a later age. In the twentieth century the number of past times that are simultaneously available is so vast as to create cultural anarchy. When all the cultures of the world are simultaneously present, the work of the artist in the elucidation of form takes on new scope and new urgency. Most men are pushed into the artist role. The artist cannot dispense with the principle of doubleness and interplay since this kind of hendiadys-dialogue is essential to the very structure of consciousness, awareness, and autonomy. (p.99)
- Disarmament is illogical and futile, unless one is prepared to regard the available means of production and social organization as affording unique social ends. To divert electrical energy and circuitry into atomic bombs shows the same imaginative power as wiring the dining-room chairs to enable one to electrocute the sitter in the event that he might prove hostile. It is part of the age-old habit of using new means for old purposes instead of discovering what are the new goals contained in the new means. (p.202)
Take Today : The Executive as Dropout (1972)
- In this book we turn to the study of new patterns of energy arising from man’s physical and psychic artifacts and social organizations. The only method for perceiving process and pattern is by inventory of effects obtained by the comparison and contrast of developing situations. (p.8)
- Hypnotized by their rear-view mirrors, philosophers and scientists alike tried to focus the figure of man in the old ground of nineteenth-century industrial mechanism and congestion. They failed to bridge from the old figure to the new. It is man who has become both figure and ground via the electrotechnical extension of his awareness. With the extension of his nervous system as a total information environment, man bridges art and nature. (p.11)
- By involving all men in all men, by the electric extension of their own nervous systems, the new technology turns the figure of the primitive society into a universal ground that buries all previous figures. (p.25)
- New technological environments are commonly cast in the molds of the preceding technology out of the sheer unawareness of their designers. (p.47)
- Marx shared with economists then and since the inability to make his concepts include innovational processes. It is one thing to spot a new product but quite another to observe the invisible new environments generated by the action of the product on a variety of pre-existing social grounds. (p.63)
- Environments work us over and remake us. It is man who is the content of and the message of the media, which are extensions of himself. Electronic man must know the effects of the world he has made above all things. (p.90)
- Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity. (p.92)
- Computers can do better than ever what needn’t be done at all. Making sense is still a human monopoly. (p.109)
- Although meaningless in a tribal context, numbers and statistics assume mythic and magical qualities of infallibility in literate societies. (p.114)
- The new overkill is simply an extension of our nervous system into a total ecological service environment. Such a service environment can liquidate or terminate its beneficiaries as naturally as it sustains them. (p.152)
- The automated presidential surrogate is the superlative nobody. (p.157)
- In Catch-22, the figure of the black market and the ground of war merge into a monster presided over by the syndicate. When war and market merge, all money transactions begin to drip blood. (p.211)
- Technology is that which separates us from our environment.
- I don't pretend to understand my stuff. After all, my writing is very difficult.
- I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.
- We are the genitals of our technology. We exist only to improve next years model.
- Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.
- Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.
- Spaceship earth is still operated by railway conductors, just as NASA is managed by men with Newtonian goals.
- I don't know who discovered water but it certainly wasn't a fish.
- We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.
- People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath.
- All advertising advertises advertising.
- I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.
- If it works, it's obsolete.
- Rene Levesque looks like a distressed seminarian.
- First Man made the hammer, then the hammer made the Man.
- Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either
- Concepts are a provisional affair. (1951)
- The perfection of the means of communication has given [the] average power complex of the human being an enormous extension of expression. (1953)
- With the return to simultaneity we enter the tribal and acoustic world once more. Globally. (1956)
- Man the tool-making animal, whether in speech or in writing or in radio, has long been engaged in extending one or another of his sense organs in such a manner as to disturb all of his other senses and faculties. (1962)
- Any technology tends to create a new human environment... Technological environments are not merely passive containers of people but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike. (1962)
- A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters. (1964)
- Radio provides a speed-up of information that also causes acceleration in other media. It certainly contracts the world to village size and creates insatiable village tastes for gossip, rumor, and personal malice. (1964)
- In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin. (1964)
- Money is the poor man's credit card. (1964)
- We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us (1964)
- There are no remote places. Under instant circuitry, nothing is remote in time or in space. It's now. (1965)
- Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity. (1967)
- Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. (1967)
- The future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb. (1969)
- The American bureaucracy ... was set up for very slow speeds of the printed word and railways. At electric speeds, nothing in the USA makes sense. (1970)
- The artist is the only person; his antennae pick up these messages before anybody. So he is always thought of as being way ahead of his time because he lives in the present. (1970)
- What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man, disembodies him. Turns him into software. (1971)
- Jobs are finished; role-playing has taken over; the job is a passe entity. The job belonged to the specialist. The kids know that they no longer live in a specialist world; you cannot have a goal today. You cannot say, "I'm going to start here and I'm going to work for the next three years and I'm going to go all that distance." Every kid knows that within three years, everything will have changed including himself and the goal. (1971)
- Electrically speaking, there's nothing but nuzzling and cuddling and cooing, alternating with wild yells for love and food and help. It's always May Day in the global nursery. (1974)
- At the moment of Sputnik, the planet became a global theater in which there are no spectators but only actors. (1974)
- Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence. (1976)
- As we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self and what remains of community will disappear. (1980)
- I heard what you were saying. You - you know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.
- His section of dialogue in Annie Hall. After Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), standing in a movie line, complains about someone near him speaking loudly on McLuhan's work, the fellow moviegoer objects, claiming he teaches a Columbia course on McLuhan and should be entitled to speak. Singer brings out McLuhan from offscreen, who delivers the above lines to the man.
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