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Marshall McLuhan

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (July 21, 1911 - December 31, 1980), born to Elsie and Herbert McLuhan in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, came of Scottish-Irish heritage. The conservative Catholic Canadian academic became one of the founders of critical media studies.

McLuhan became a pop culture figure in the 1960s with the publication of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill, 1964) and The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects (with designer Quentin Fiore, Random House, 1967).

Famous for coining the phrases "The medium is the message" and "the global village", McLuhan became one of the early purveyors of the sound bite. He asserted that each different medium is an extension of the senses that affects the individual and society in distinct and pervasive ways, further classifying some media as "hot" -- media which engage one's senses in a high-intensity, exclusive way, such as typography, radio, and film -- and other media as "cool" -- media of lower resolution or intensity, that require more interaction from the viewer, such as the telephone and the television. While many of his pronouncements and theories have been considered impenetrable, and by some absurd, McLuhan's central message -- that to understand today's world, one must actively study the effects of media -- remains ever more true in the electronic age. Wired Magazine named McLuhan its "patron saint" when the magazine launched in 1993.

In his seminal work, Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (1964), Marshall McLuhan allegedly coined the term "software" (though the Merriam-Webster dictionary traces usage of the word back to 1960).

The phrase "global village" appears in 1962's The Gutenberg Galaxy, McLuhan's study on what he saw as the overwhelming psychological and cognitive effects of standardised printing with modified wine-presses. Compare Gutenberg Galaxy.

Marshall McLuhan died December 31, 1980 of a cerebral stroke which plagued the last year of his life.


1951 The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (Vanguard Press)
1962 The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (University of Toronto Press)
1964 Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill)
1967 Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations (Something Else Press)
1967 Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, with Quentin Fiore (Random House/1989 Simon and Schuster)
1968 War and Peace in the Global Village, with Quentin Fiore (McGraw-Hill/1989 Simon and Schuster)
1968 Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and in Painting, with Harley Parker (Harper and Row: World Perspective Series Vol 37)
1969 Counterblast, with Harley Parker (McClelland and Stewart)
1970 From Cliche to Archetype, with Wilfred Watson (Viking)
1970 Culture is Our Business (McGraw-Hill)
1972 Take Today: The Executive as Drop-out (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)
1977 City as Classroom: Understanding Language and Media, with Kathryn Hutchon and Eric McLuhan (Book Society of Canada Limited)

Posthumous books

1988 Laws of Media: The New Science, with Eric McLuhan (University of Toronto Press)
1989 The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century, with Bruce R. Powers (Oxford University Press)