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.

The curious difference the telephone makes

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  You may not think so, but you are blind on the phone.

“As we read, we provide a sound track for the printed word; as we listen to the radio, we provide a visual accompaniment.  Why can we not visualize while telephoning?  At once the reader will protest, ‘But I do visualize on the telephone!’  When he has the chance to try the experiment deliberately, he will find that he simply can’t visualize while phoning, though all literate people try to do so and, therefore, believe they are succeeding.”

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Try it as an experiment.

This is one of those remarkable observations of McLuhan’s.  He’s right, and it is surprising to find he is right.  Try it yourself.  The next time you take a call on your cell or land line try to picture the person you’re talking to.


More on the telephone tomorrow.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 267.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to The curious difference the telephone makes

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    McLuhan’s fav exploration of the phone was :
    “the sender is sent” followed up with, “on the phone you are discarnate” I got hold of an old bell phone film ad with some cute animated characters which I thought would be worthy of the grad seminar’s attention! I showed it but he pretty much took on a disdaining posture and quickly moved to another topic. (OH well I did OK otherwise and can’t win them all.)

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