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 power of print is greater than you think!

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The curious case of the death of the book.

Of all Marshall McLuhan’s prophecies perhaps the most controversial in his time, and ours, was the death of the book.  And he was not shy about who he mentioned it to.  Most famously, in a speech to publishers in New York City in the sixties, the story goes, McLuhan decided to let his audience in on the news that they wouldn’t be around in the future, at least not in the business of publishing hard-cover books.  Afterwards, the audience was so impressed by his talk one of the publishers offered him a book deal for – you guessed it – Understanding Media.  Yet it is often forgotten that McLuhan also believed that the powers created by the book would long outlive their creator, which is not as good a story, but may in fact be more likely to be true.  And perhaps there is for this reason less need to run for cultural cover as the internet continues to play havoc with newspapers, magazines, and of course the poor old book.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The book may be dead but not the book bred!

“Those who panic now about the threat of the newer media and about the revolution we are forging, vaster in scope than that of Gutenberg, are obviously lacking in cool visual detachment and gratitude for that most potent gift bestowed by on Western man by literacy and typography: his power to act without reaction or involvement.  It is this kind of specialization by dissociation that has created Western power and efficiency.  Without this dissociation of action from feeling and emotion people are hampered and hesitant.  Print taught men to say, “Damn the torpedoes.  Full steam ahead!”

As illustrated, for example, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXzCOlPHFmc

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 178.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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