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Marshall McLuhan

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Tasia Reynen

on 5 June 2013

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Transcript of Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan By: Tasia Reynen Introduction "We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us" was one of many quotes said by this famous philosopher. This man was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His works discovered many theories and became one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory. He is known mostly for his very famous quote "The Medium Is The Message", his Laws of Media, and predicting about the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. This philosopher played a key role in our world to help us understand media. This knowledgeable and successful man was, Marshall McLuhan. Herbert Marshall McLuhan was his full name. He was born on July 21st, 1911, in Edmonton, Alberta. Marshall was the oldest child of two, with one brother named Maurice. His parents were Elsie Naomi McLuhan and Herbert Ernest McLuhan. Both of his parents were well educated, seeing as his mother was a teacher and then later became an actress, and his father had a real estate business in Edmonton until World War 1 broke out and then he had to be enlisted into the Canadian Army.

Four years later Marshall's family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba because his father contracted influenza and had to be discharged from the army. He grew up and went to school in Manitoba. In 1928, Marshall enrolled in the University of Manitoba and in 1934, was accepted to the University of Cambridge. Between the two Universities, he received two BA and two MA Degrees and was awarded a Ph.D.

The first job he got after finishing school, was a teacher's assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he would teach for the next two years. After that, he taught at three different Universities and then in 1952 became a full professor.

Back when he was teaching in St. Louis, Marshall met Corinne Lewis, his soon to be future wife. They started a family which resulted in having six kids, two boys and four girls.

By the early 1950's, Marshall began the Communication and Culture Seminars at the University of Toronto. Eventually his reputation grew and he received many offers from other Universities wanting him. For the University of Toronto to keep him, they created the Center for Culture and Technology in 1963. Through 1979 Marshall remained at the University of Toronto as head of his Center for Culture and Technology.

The following years he went to Bronx, New York were he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. His treatments went well, and he returned to Toronto to teach. Another year later he suffered a stroke which affected his ability to speak. The University of Toronto tried to shutdown his research center shortly after his stroke but didn't succeed because of protests. Marshall never fully recovered from the stroke, so he ended up dying in his sleep on December 31st, 1980. He was 69 years old when he died. Background McLuhan's Laws of Media For all the work McLuhan did on media observations, he felt that he was forced to always backup his views on media as people were always questioning his theories because they were very futuristic. To back up his theories, he and his son Eric analyzed his book Understanding Media, which resulted in McLuhan's Laws of Media. In his Laws of Media he had two major theories. His first theory was "The Medium Is The Message". It was one of the most debated and controversial phrases of our time. Marshall advised that the medium- t.v, radio, phone, etc. itself was the most important piece to focus on rather than their content because he felt that they were going to be changing so drastically and quickly over the next few decades. His theory ended up being scientifically correct.

The meaning of the phrase "The Medium Is The Message" is that the form of medium it is using, embeds itself into the message. It creates a special relationship which makes the medium influence how the message is anticipated. An example of his theory is a light bulb. It has no content in the way that a t.v has programs or an ipod has apps. This medium has a social effect, the light bulb lets you do what you want based on where it is placed. With a t.v it is giving you information and influencing you what to watch, where as the light bulb gives you light. For instance when your in the dark, it allows you to have choice to do something. To sum this concept up, the easiest way to understand it is, that the medium creates the message.

The second major theory that he came up with was, the "Tetrad of Media Effects". A tetrad is a set of any four things. McLuhan stated that four things happen to all media and human artifacts simultaneously. Since these things were happening constantly he created a tetrad to show the interlocking of the effects. Enhance, reverse, retrieve, and obsolescence were the four effects. McLuhan phrased them as questions, What does it enhance, amplify, or intensifies? What does it obsolete or drive out of prominence, which means, it is no longer produced, used or it takes away the thing that makes it standout. What does it recover that has been previously lost? What does it flip into when pushed to extremes? The creation of the tetrad was meant to be used as a tool to help identify patterns of the effects that different technologies produce. An easy example of this concept is, if you looked at a radio and broke it down. What does it drive out of prominence? The radio reduces the prominence of print and the visual. What does it recover that was previously lost? The radio returns the spoken word to the forefont. Last but not least, What does it flip into when pushed to extremes? The acoustic radio flips into audio-visual t.v. The overall view of this theory is, that four major things happen to all types of media. Accomplishments Throughout Marshall's short life he accomplished many things that no ordinary person would ever be able to do. Starting when he was quite young, he was achieving a great deal of respect from his peers for his works. Right from the start when he got into the study, Marshall got very knowledgeable on media study. He was so knowledgeable that when he needed to go back to school to get more Degrees for him to become a full time philosopher, many Universities gave him an Honorary Degree because he was so experienced in the things that the University was going to teach him. Before he received his first Honorary Degree, Marshall became the Chairman of the Ford Foundation Seminar on Culture and Communication in Toronto. He got asked to be Chairman because the University wanted to keep him. Becoming the Chairman helped McLuhan publish one of his major works and with his partner Harold Innis, together their works advanced a theory that they felt communication was important to social change and transformation. For one year, McLuhan became the director of Project in, Understanding New Media for the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. The project was made to help teach secondary students about his concepts in media in an understandable form. He said this about some of the students that were chosen to take part in this project "They have very great experience of media, but no habits of observation or critical awareness, yet they are the best teachers of media to teachers, who are otherwise unreachable". As McLuhan's theories got noticed he received many awards. Some of those important awards were the Honorary Award in Culture and Communication, Gold Medal Award, President's Cabinet Award, Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada and a Companion of the Order of Canada. Throughout his life he also had his books Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man and many more published. With all the things that McLuhan did, I think he was pretty amazed at what he accomplished in his lifetime. Conclusion Although McLuhan may have not wanted to go so soon, he revealed many things about media. It has been said that in the early 1970`s his work began to fade in popularity, but once the internet was invented, he started to get more attention for his work because he had predicted, precisely what would happen. The theories he created were crucial to our society to help us get where we are today with media. His series of outrageous, one-liners with an added sentence or two, showed the true intelligence of Mr. McLuhan. These works of his may be complicated, and they don't always seem to make sense to most people, but through all of that he was an incredible man! Significance to Canadian Society Tetrad Books Many people didn`t understand McLuhan and how he was important. He got misunderstood many times because his thoughts about media were so advanced, that people couldn't comprehend them. Therefore they never realized the importance he had in Canadian society . For the people that did understand his importance they though it was unbelievable the work he did. Some say his contribution to communications was compared to the work of Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud for its global significance. McLuhan`s overall work of his "Laws of Media" helped us understand that it is not just the type of media that is special, it is what the media does to our society. It shows the purpose of why it is there, and what`s being perceived. As a Canadian, McLuhan kept our country on track with the rest of the world in understanding media. Being a Canadian we can be quite lazy when faced with new challenges but he kept us advanced and moving forward. McLuhan was one special outside- the- box thinker that helped our society. Companion of the Order of Canada Medal From top: Elizabeth, Michael, Stephanie, Eric, Teri, Cornnie, and McLuhan
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