A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

What you are seeing is what you (think you are) getting

“Today young lawyers in setting up offices are advised to keep books out of sight,”¬†says Marshall McLuhan in¬†a richly idea-laden essay published in Explorations over fifty years ago.¬† Why? Because the absence of books. he continues,¬†sends the message “You are the law, the source of all knowledge of the law, so far as your clients are concerned.” In other words, the¬†office is the message.¬† Today on the third day of McLuhan week¬† in Toronto a panel discussion will take place on¬†“the changing format of the book and the future of reading.”¬† I wonder whether any one there will bring up¬†this idea of McLuhan’s?¬† For if¬†digital books succeed in¬†kicking traditional books to the curb surely one of the more powerful effects of this shift will be to make¬†the practitioners of all the professions seem to be even more knowledgeable than they were before.¬†¬†It will be¬†as if every professional has been given¬†an invisable teleprompter to use in their offices.

Cordially Me


Marshall McLuhan, “The effect of the printed book on language in the 16th century,” [1957] reprinted in McLuhan – Unbound, (02), Ginko Press, 2005, pp.9-10.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication 2 Comments

2 Comments to What you are seeing is what you (think you are) getting

  • Jeff Swann says:

    Without Mcluhan’s vision, insight, interpretation, and explanation moving forward through new technologies would be a move backward.
    Your determination to present his guidelines against a virtual minefield of change identifies through interpretation, that his message is the meaning.
    Good luck with your future work Micheal. “From Marshal and Me” is an important work.
    I regret not actively participating.

  • Kat Meyer says:

    Interesting. maybe the hiding of the removal of books from the physical – the invisibility of knowledge – could or does have the opposite effect of imbuing practitioners of professions with power. That digital books are more ubiquitous, information more abundant via digital and online content…pretty much any average Joe can do a Google search and grab a library’s worth of legal, medical, financial education. The invisible teleprompter is accessible to laymen as well as professionals.

    Truly cool work here, btw. I was hipped to it by Mitch Joel and Jose Furtado. They are good at recommending smart and interesting things. I will have to thank them.

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