Marshall McLuhan: Communication Theorist
A sage of the information age, McLuhan was an eminent thinker in communication media studies.
Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian communication theorist who lived from 1911-1980.
As a philosopher, English literature professor, literary critic and rhetorician, McLuhan's scholarly work forms one of the cornerstones of media theory.
McLuhan is remembered for the expressions "the medium is the message" and "the global village." He predicted the World Wide Web three decades before it was invented.
McLuhan was at the heart of philosophical reflection and debate about media from the 1960s to the 1980s. His thoughts still are influential and controversial.
McLuhan used the term in his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man in 1962 and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in 1964 when he described how the then-new electronic communication technologies had shrunk Earth's globe down to a village through the instantaneous movement of information everywhere at the same time. Today, people sometimes refer to a global village when they describe the effect of the World Wide Web.
The Medium is the Message
In Understanding Media, McLuhan said a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered through the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. A medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study.
Hot and Cool Media
McLuhan described a hot and cool model of mass media.
Learn more about McLuhan:
- Hot media require a high degree of consumer involvement. Newspapers, magazines, books, video games and the Internet could be called hot media because their audiences are more active.
- Cool media require less consumer involvement. Radio, television and movies are cool media because their audiences are more passive.
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© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke 910.521.6616 e-mail home page
Photograph courtesy of the estate of Corinne and Marshall McLuhan at marshallmcluhan.com