Marshall McLuhan

The medium is the message.

Elektrisch zusammengezogen ist die Welt nur mehr ein Dorf.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

Marshall McLuhan was born in 1911 in Alberta, Canada and became a professor at the University of Toronto in 1952. Due to his influential published works, and also due to his charismatic personality he is regarded as one of the most important media theorists of the 20th century. The intriguing titles of his most famous works such as The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) and The Medium is the Message (1967) proved very successful in capturing public imagination. A core part of his theory is the thesis that media do not only transport the message, but are also themselves performative and therefore interact directly with developments in society. For example, the era of written culture established by the invention of the printing press helped to bring about publicity, democracy and individualism.

Long before the invention of the Internet, McLuhan had already coined terms such as surfing or the global village. He distinguished between hot media where only a low level of intellectual participation was required by the public (newspapers, film, radio), and cold media (language, telephoning, seminars) in which higher levels of involvement are needed. Marshall McLuhan also had a bizarre cameo in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall.