A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). What can you learn from a cliché?

The cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, is the idea that Marshall McLuhan starts out with but he takes it to a new place.  His take is that because a picture is worth a thousand words films (films are also known as pictures) must provide their audiences with at least a thousand words of detailed information in every scene.  Clothing and props in historical dramas, for example, must be exactly right in every detail.  On the stage or on TV – in sharp contrast – one can get away with far less detail.  From TV, a case in point [and a little humour]:


Of course McLuhan would be a lot easier to read if he stuck to plain and simple expressions of his ideas but then if he did he probably wouldn’t have come up with the ideas that he did.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Here is the way to say a picture is worth a thousand words …

“In terms of other media such as the printed page, film has the power to store and convey a great deal of information.  In an instant it presents a landscape with figures that require several pages of prose to describe.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 288.

Tags: , , , ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Leave a Reply