Marshall McLuhan Technological Determinism

Marshall McLuhan
Technological Determinism
McLuhan’s Vision
We are entering an electronic age
Electronic Media alter the way people
Technological Determinism
The belief that
determines cultural and
social change.
“The medium is the
Basic Concepts
Communication technology inventions
cause cultural change
Changes in modes of communication
shape human life
Channels of communication are the
primary causes of cultural change
“We shape our tools and they in turn
shape us.”
More Basic Concepts
Way we live is largely a function of how we
process information
Phonetic alphabet, printing press, and
telegraph changed the way people thought
about themselves
Same words spoken face-to-face, printed
on a paper or presented on television
provide three different messages
More Basic Concepts
Primary channel of communication changes the
way we perceive the world
Dominant medium of an age dominates people
Technologies through
which we relate to the
world around us
Very broad definition
(includes the light bulb
and the wheel)
Dominant media
determine our “
ratio of the senses.”
Anything that amplifies or intensifies a
bodily organ, sense, or function
Extend our reach
Increase our efficiency
Act as a filter to
Media innovations are really extensions of
human faculties
Book extends the eye
Wheel extends the leg
Clothes extend the skin
Electronic circuitry extends the central nervous
McLuhan’s “Ages”
Tribal Age: Oral Culture
World was an acoustic place
Hearing, touch, taste, and smell more
developed than sight
High involvement, passion, and
spontaneity in interactions
Spoken word more emotionally laden than
printed text
Life more complex because the ear is not
capable of selecting the stimuli it takes in
Age of Literacy: Writing
Results from development of phonetic
alphabet (2000 B.C.)
Visual becomes dominant sense
Ear exchanged for the eye
Encourages “civilized” private detachment
rather than “primitive” tribal involvement
Encourages logical, linear thinking.
Mathematics, logic, science, philosophy
Line became the organizing principle
The Print Age: Printing Press
Invention of the Printing Press (1400’s)
Made visual dependence widespread
“Repeatability” the most important
characteristic of movable type
Standardization of national languages
encouraged nationalism
Books could be read in privacy/isolation
Individualism glorified
Prototype of Industrial Revolution
Mass production of identical products
Electronic Age: Electronic Media
Telegraph (1840’s)
“Global Village” emerges
Cool medium of TV encourages
spontaniety and involvement
Instant communication returns us to a prealphabetic oral tradition
Linear, logical thinking fades
Hot and Cool Media
A high definition channel of communication that
focuses on a single sensory receptor
A low definition channel of communication that
stimulates several different senses and requires
high sensory involvement
Hot Media
 Movies
 Radio
 Photographs
 Print
Cool Media
 Lecture
 Class Discussion
Face to Face Talk
McLuhan and Education
People living in the midst of change cling
to what was rather than embrace the new
Education is a battle ground over forms of
literacy -- print versus video versus audio
Acoustic media threaten book-bound
establishment of education
The End