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Marshall McLuhan has been described as Canada's most exciting and original thinker, a member of the small company of intellectual geniuses this country has produced. Works such as The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride , From Cliche to Archetype , and Understanding Media have established his reputation throughout the world and have profoundly influenced our understand Marshall McLuhan has been described as Canada's most exciting and original thinker, a member of the small company of intellectual geniuses this country has produced. Works such as The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride , From Cliche to Archetype , and Understanding Media have established his reputation throughout the world and have profoundly influenced our understanding of contemporary communication. In his later years McLuhan was working on a 'unified field' theory of human culture, an effort in which he collaborated with and was assisted by his son, Eric McLuhan. This book is the result of that collaboration. The McLuhans are retrieving another way of understanding our world, a way known to some ancient Greeks (but not Aristotle), to medieval thinkers, to Francis Bacon and Giambattista Vico, and to T.S. Eliot and James Joyce in this century. It is based on the use of words and the conseuqent power of the 'logos' to shape all the elements of culture - media - with which we surround ourselves. The authors explain how the invention of the alphabet led to the dominance of visual-space conceptualizations over those of acoustic space and its creative words (and word-plays). They consider the differences between the left- and right-hand sides of our brains, and use Gestalt theories of figure and ground to explore the underlying principles that define media. 'Media, ' the word so closely connected with Marshall McLuhan's thought, is here explored in its broadest meaning, encompassing all that has been created by humans: artefacts, information, ideas - every example of human innovation, from computer program to a tea cup, from musical arrangement to the formula for a cold remedy, from an X-ray machine to the sentence you're reading right now. All these are media to whcih can be applied the laws the McLuhans have developed. The laws are based on a set of four questions - a tetrad - that can be applied to any artefact or idea: What does it enhance or intensify? What does it render obsolete or displace? What does it retrieve that was previoulsy obsolesced? What does it produce or become when pressed to an extreme? Inherent in every human innovation is an answer to each of the questions of this tetrad; anything that does not contain answers to these four questions is not the product of human creation. The laws identified by the McLuhans consitute a new scientific basis for media studies, testable, and able to allow for prediction. It takes in all human activities and speech; it breaks down barriers and reconsiders them as mere intervals. In the McLuhan tradition, this New Science offers a while new understanding of human creation, and a vision that could reshape our future.


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Marshall McLuhan has been described as Canada's most exciting and original thinker, a member of the small company of intellectual geniuses this country has produced. Works such as The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride , From Cliche to Archetype , and Understanding Media have established his reputation throughout the world and have profoundly influenced our understand Marshall McLuhan has been described as Canada's most exciting and original thinker, a member of the small company of intellectual geniuses this country has produced. Works such as The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride , From Cliche to Archetype , and Understanding Media have established his reputation throughout the world and have profoundly influenced our understanding of contemporary communication. In his later years McLuhan was working on a 'unified field' theory of human culture, an effort in which he collaborated with and was assisted by his son, Eric McLuhan. This book is the result of that collaboration. The McLuhans are retrieving another way of understanding our world, a way known to some ancient Greeks (but not Aristotle), to medieval thinkers, to Francis Bacon and Giambattista Vico, and to T.S. Eliot and James Joyce in this century. It is based on the use of words and the conseuqent power of the 'logos' to shape all the elements of culture - media - with which we surround ourselves. The authors explain how the invention of the alphabet led to the dominance of visual-space conceptualizations over those of acoustic space and its creative words (and word-plays). They consider the differences between the left- and right-hand sides of our brains, and use Gestalt theories of figure and ground to explore the underlying principles that define media. 'Media, ' the word so closely connected with Marshall McLuhan's thought, is here explored in its broadest meaning, encompassing all that has been created by humans: artefacts, information, ideas - every example of human innovation, from computer program to a tea cup, from musical arrangement to the formula for a cold remedy, from an X-ray machine to the sentence you're reading right now. All these are media to whcih can be applied the laws the McLuhans have developed. The laws are based on a set of four questions - a tetrad - that can be applied to any artefact or idea: What does it enhance or intensify? What does it render obsolete or displace? What does it retrieve that was previoulsy obsolesced? What does it produce or become when pressed to an extreme? Inherent in every human innovation is an answer to each of the questions of this tetrad; anything that does not contain answers to these four questions is not the product of human creation. The laws identified by the McLuhans consitute a new scientific basis for media studies, testable, and able to allow for prediction. It takes in all human activities and speech; it breaks down barriers and reconsiders them as mere intervals. In the McLuhan tradition, this New Science offers a while new understanding of human creation, and a vision that could reshape our future.

30 review for Laws of Media: The New Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manik Sukoco

    Laws of Media may not be McLuhan's best-known work, but it is one of his best in terms of insight and intuition. The work, based partly on scientific assumptions (e.g. the idea that we are becoming less rational and more emotional as a result of the impact of electronic media), tries to explain many of the enigmas of the life of media in the twentieth century (art, for example) in terms of the relation between the human mind and technology. Some ideas are, I think, quite convincing, and no doubt Laws of Media may not be McLuhan's best-known work, but it is one of his best in terms of insight and intuition. The work, based partly on scientific assumptions (e.g. the idea that we are becoming less rational and more emotional as a result of the impact of electronic media), tries to explain many of the enigmas of the life of media in the twentieth century (art, for example) in terms of the relation between the human mind and technology. Some ideas are, I think, quite convincing, and no doubt very fascinating. His explanation of solipsism in art (and not only in art) as a misunderstanding of the new concepts of modern science and electric technology is extremely interesting. Much as physicists had to create a new mathematics and geometry to explain new concepts in less analytical a way than they could with the old means, so artists had to resort to new, simpler ways to express a new sensibility. But they did so only towards the end of the century. Modern art, this seems to imply, was a transitional phase between the art of the "Gutenberg Age" and the new means of expression (if one may call them "art" at all) of the 21st century. I find much less convincing the second part of the book, where McLuhan describes the life of media (all media, from the wheel to the stirrup, down to the TV set) by way of what he calls "tetrads" (groups of four concepts that describe the birth, life and obsolescence of every medium).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Wu

    The syncretism levels are off the charts, and it's great fun so long as you get that McLuhan was no Einstein, in that the great physicist pretended, in knowing he was nearing the end of his life, neither to himself nor anyone else that he, though convinced of his own talents as he was, had finally discovered the Theory of Everything which would have served quite fittingly as capstone and farewell. Like Nietzsche, McLuhan had little compunction about inserting himself among the titans, obsolescin The syncretism levels are off the charts, and it's great fun so long as you get that McLuhan was no Einstein, in that the great physicist pretended, in knowing he was nearing the end of his life, neither to himself nor anyone else that he, though convinced of his own talents as he was, had finally discovered the Theory of Everything which would have served quite fittingly as capstone and farewell. Like Nietzsche, McLuhan had little compunction about inserting himself among the titans, obsolescing, at least in his own mind, reams of scholarship from all those inferior thinkers who failed to perceive the ground upon which they thought. But should we also grant him the title of Dynamite? Let's first assess the effects of his work. If we go by academic popularity, Laws of Media was a non-starter (one might say it fizzled out) even among McLuhan's literary milieu. Did it fare any better with the public at large? Judging from the low number of ratings it has on this website, no, especially relative to the texts of Kuhn and Popper—both contemporaries, both worse publicists—who also had to push their memetic signals through in an ecology of declining literacy increasingly mediated by electronic noise. So we can safely say it had more bombast than blast. What about the ideas themselves—do they hold water? I was glad to see, in the second sentence of the Introduction no less, the claim that "This essay offers in testable and falsifiable form (the criteria of scientific laws) observations about the structure and nature of things man makes and does," and later on, that "While empirical, [the tetrads of our science] provide a basis for prediction, for example, that retrievals or reversals of a certain form will occur." I was dismayed to see, in the remaining sections, no experiments proposed as to how a tetrad may be tested, no indication of what the criteria for a successful falsification might be, and no general or specific methods for properly determining predictive power. I do not think Popper and McLuhan would've agreed as to how the former's terms were to be construed. I think the latter took a fast-and-broad reading and asserted it multiple times with a confident tone—no substitute for qualification, so his thesis bears only the patina of science; holds no water on the terms it attributes to itself. What about on other terms? Can the tetrad at least be incisive as a mode of conceptual analysis? Yes, I think, if we take for example "Hermeneutics" (page 140), which does enhance clarity, does retrieve depth, does reverse into obscurity when done to excess, and does bury naivete; each sense in which hermeneutics performs these actions is easily seen, that is, pattern-matched to prior experience (though this is insufficient to render its tetrad scientific; only descriptively resonant). If we take, however, "Booze" (144), which apparently enhances "private outlook, energy and zest, aggressiveness," we can add to our "Yes" a "but not necessarily." Nobody needs reminding that alcohol is more commonly categorized as a "depressant," or that only a select proportion of drinkers becomes more aggressive; and if by "private outlook" is meant "interiority of introspection," I suspect this mostly applies to a special tiny class of littérateur which does not drink to forget or to socialize. Why the credit card should obsolesce "money" (as opposed to "paper cash") is a mystery to me, as is why Aristotelian Causality intensifies into Formal Cause in particular. How the car obsoletes the horse-and-buggy is apparent, but how "Crowd" obsoletes "the individual, private identity" is not. Specifically, though it may be true that one "loses oneself" while part of a crowd or mob, that crowds exist does not obsolesce private identity in anywhere close to the way that that cars exist obsolesces horses. And here obsolesce takes on two similar-but-orthogonal entendres, which is about as kosher as saying the written word and the telescope both "extend the eye" (117). Whether this is multimodal 4-D analysis or sloppy sense conflation I'll leave you to judge, but I at least felt like saying "That's a stretch" to many of the attributions made herein; anyone can take a concept, find the loosest interpretation still applicable as metaphor for another concept, and claim connection. So hermeneutics also intensifies into apophenia, you see. A couple last notes. Firstly, the final sentence "Else we will have no more control of this technology and environment than we have of the wind and the tides" posits control as a sort of telos for the New Science and as a self-evident desideratum. Why should it be? I have my own answers, but a chance to compare and contrast would've been nice. Secondly, if we do decide to take his claim to place at face, McLuhan is still very, very obviously the third in a sequence of Bacon, Vico, McLuhan… Who is be the fourth grammarian? Whose tetrad shall complete the tetrad of tetrads?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    Currently stalled...lots of food for thought, but very inside baseball and academic in the first few chapters.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    McLuhan is famous for his aphoristic style, but I think one problem of such fame/attributions of style are that they obscure that sometimes he doesn't do a great job of actually explaining what he means in a manner that is clear or understandable to readers. Laws of Media is a great example, where there are intensely lucid, quotable, interesting passages...and then parts where he lapses into so deep a conversation with almost literally ancient scholarship that the clarity of his argument and the McLuhan is famous for his aphoristic style, but I think one problem of such fame/attributions of style are that they obscure that sometimes he doesn't do a great job of actually explaining what he means in a manner that is clear or understandable to readers. Laws of Media is a great example, where there are intensely lucid, quotable, interesting passages...and then parts where he lapses into so deep a conversation with almost literally ancient scholarship that the clarity of his argument and the connections with the clearer parts are simply obscured. The concept of the tetrad that he unpacks seems to be an intensely interesting and useful tool for examining the effects and consequence of media and metaphors, which connect very clearly and concretely with concerns of speech and communication as action, but beyond that I think this book is a tad too long and maybe even a lot too overworked.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Victor Daniel

    😠😠😠😠😠 Odio las ciencias sociales, a los estudiosos de estas materias a sus putos libros fumados e incomprensibles, mueranse todos, sufran en la lumbre de una hoguera. ¡Viva las matemáticas y las ciencias naturales!

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    interesting stuff....to say the least....

  7. 5 out of 5

    Larry Byram

  8. 5 out of 5

    Human Affairs

  9. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Owens

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nikolina Gelmanovska

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Charest

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Faust

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rodrigo Barbosa

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam Bartley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Iulian Basescu

  17. 4 out of 5

    TEELOCK Mithilesh

  18. 4 out of 5

    EJ Mablekos

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jakub Ferenc

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joel Goodman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dies Irae

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sim

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Kizer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Isis Lee

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan Browne

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve Finegan

  28. 4 out of 5

    J Dempsey

  29. 4 out of 5

    Никола

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Jamison

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