Marshall McLuhan was the chief theorist of mass communications
in our time. He probed and he predicted trends. The study of
mass communications became a central part of contemporary culture.
His ideas stimulated thousands of artists, intellectuals and
journalists in nations throughout the world and continue to
do so.With the appearance of McLuhan's most ambitious book "Understanding
Media" (1964), his reputuation spread like the "global
village" what he foresaw, fueled his ascent to international
prominence. Social critic Tom
Wolfe, wrote: "Suppose he is what he sounds like: the
most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein
and Pavlov-what if he is right?" A quarter of a century
later, the proof sits on our doorsteps.
McLuhan's work includes more than 15
books on communications, literature, the arts, sociology
and education. Besides Understanding Media, which explored the
way electronic media reflect and influence modern civilization,
his best known works include the earlier Gutenberg Galaxy (1963,
in which he introduced the phrase "global village"
as a metaphor for contemporary society, The "Mechanical
Bride" (1951) and "The Medium is the Massage,"
the title of which is a typical McLuhan pun, in this case on
his own popular catch phrase.
Marshall McLuhan was a prophet in his own time. He saw the powerful
impact of technological change on the world and showed us a
new way to explain our world and society. Today, such McLuhan
coinages as "sensory impact," "the global village,"
and "the medium is the message" have become part of
As a Professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan's
eccentric yet exhilarating vortex of ideas were shared with
circles of contemporaries, students and thinkers. His perceptions
and insightful dialogue ranged from classic literature to pop
music to feminism. His lecture halls were filled with both the
appreciatively curious and the confused.
His first book, "The Mechancial Bride": "Folklore
of Industrial Man," 1951, followed by The "Guttenberg
Galaxy," published in 1962, stemmed mainstream academic
and public inertia. McLuhan's eminence accelerated in a timely
and welcome fashion in an era of heady optimism.
The media, which McLuhan predicted would shrink the world and
the intellectual process, unwittingly became his pulpit. His
public persona was now as the oracle, Canada's intellectual
comet, the metaphysician of the media. Marshall McLuhan became
lecturer to the world. Fortune described McLuhan as "one
of the major intellectual influences of our time." The
New Yorker said of him, "What remains paramount are McLuhan's
global standpoint and his zest for the new. He has given a needed
twist to the great debate on what is happening to man in this
age of technological speedup."