Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Marshall McLuhan, fully Herbert Marshall McLuhan

Canadian Philosopher of Communication Theory, Educator, Author and Media Expert

"After childhood, the senses specialize via the channels of dominant technologies and social weaponries."

"All advertising advertises advertising ? no ad has its meaning alone."

"All forms of violence are quests for identity. When you live on the frontier, you have no identity. You're a nobody."

"All meaning alters with acceleration, because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information."

"All media are extensions of some human faculty -- psychic or physical."

"All media as extensions of ourselves serve to provide new transforming vision and awareness."

"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values."

"All media of communications are clich‚s serving to enlarge man's scope of action, his patterns of associations and awareness. These media create environments that numb our powers of attention by sheer pervasiveness."

"All of man's artefacts, whether hardware or software, whether bulldozers or laws of chemistry, are alike linguistic in structure and intent."

"All of the new media have enriched our perceptions of language and older media. They are to the man-made environment what species are to biology."

"All media work us over completely. They are so persuasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments. All media are extensions of some human faculty ? psychic or physical."

"All the new media are art forms which have the power of imposing, like poetry, their own assumptions."

"Although the medium is the message, the controls go beyond programming. The restraints are always directed to the ?content,? which is always another medium. The content of the press is literary statement, as the content of the book is speech, and the content of the movie is the novel. So the effects of radio are quite independent of its programming."

"All words, in every language, are metaphors."

"All words at every level of prose and poetry and all devices of language and speech derive their meaning from figure / ground relation."

"Although meaningless in a tribal context, numbers and statistics assume mythic and magical qualities of infallibility in literate societies."

"America is 100% 18th Century. The 18th century had chucked out the principle of metaphor and analogy ? the basic fact that as A is to B so is C to D. AB:CD. It can see AB relations. But relations in four terms are still verboten. This amounts to deep occultation of nearly all human thought for the USA."

"America is the only country ever founded on the printed word."

"Another theme of the Wake that helps in the understanding of the paradoxical shift from clich‚ 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."

"An administrator in a bureaucratic world is a man who can feel big by merging his non-entity in an abstraction. A real person in touch with real things inspires terror in him."

"Antipathy, dissimilarity of views, hate, contempt, can accompany true love."

"Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction."

"Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either."

"Appetite is essentially insatiable, and where it operates as a criterion of both action and enjoyment (that is, everywhere in the Western world since the sixteenth century) it will infallibly discover congenial agencies (mechanical and political) of expression."

"Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it."

"Applied knowledge in the Renaissance had to take the form of translation of the auditory into visual terms, of the plastic into retinal form."

"As Narcissus fell in love with an outering (projection, extension) of himself, man seems invariably to fall in love with the newest gadget or gimmick that is merely an extension of his own body."

"Art is anything you can get away with."

"Aretino, like Rabelais and Cervantes, proclaimed the meaning of Typography as Gargantuan, Fantastic, Supra-human."

"As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.'"

"As the totem pole is tied to the lineality of the missionaries' Bible, so the igloo was made possible by the primus stove."

"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."

"At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential."

"As the unity of the modern world becomes increasingly a technological rather than a social affair, the techniques of the arts provide the most valuable means of insight into the real direction of our own collective purposes."

"At no period of human culture have men understood the psychic mechanism involved in invention and technology."

"At the moment of Sputnik, the planet became a global theater in which there are no spectators but only actors."

"At the speed of light, political policies and parties yield place to charismatic images."

"At the very high speed of living, everybody needs a new career and a new job and a totally new personality every ten years."

"Attention spans get very weak at the speed of light, and that goes along with a very week identity."

"Audile-tactile space is the space of involvement. We lose "touch" without it. Visual space is the space of detachment."

"Bacon's Adam is a medieval mystic and Milton's a trade union organizer."

"Blast Sputnik for closing terrestrial nature in a man-made environment that transfers the evolutionary process from biology to technology."

"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."

"By phonemic trans-formation into visual terms, the alphabet became a universal, abstract, static container of meaningless sounds."

"By simply moving information and brushing information against information, any medium whatever creates vast wealth."

"By surpassing writing, we have regained our wholeness, not on a national or cultural but cosmic plane."

"Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity."

"Bless Madison Ave for restoring the magical art of the cavemen to suburbia."

"Bless advertising art for its pictorial vitality and verbal creativity."

"By electricity we have not been driven out of our senses so much as our senses have been driven out of us."