Marshall McLuhan Quotes


Some of my fellow academics are very hostile but I sympathize with them. They've been asleep for 500 years and they don't like anybody who comes along and stirs them up.

Relativity theory forced the abandonment in principle of absolute space and absolute time.

Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance.

Canadians are the people who learned to live without the bold accents of the natural ego-trippers of other lands.

The artist must ever play and experiment with new means of arranging experience even though the majority of his audience may prefer to remain fixed in their old perceptual attitudes.

Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.

I do not say whether it is a good or bad thing. To do so would be meaningless and arrogant.

All meaning alters with acceleration because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information.

The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.

Scribal culture and Gothic architecture were both concerned with light through not light on.

The fall or scrapping of a cultural world puts us all into the same archetypal cesspool engendering nostalgia for earlier conditions.

New media are new archetypes at first disguised as degradations of older media.

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.

Whence did the wond'rous mystic art arise / Of painting SPEECH and speaking to the eyes? / That we by tracing magic lines are taught / How to embody and to colour THOUGHT?

Innovation for holders of conventional wisdom is not novelty but annihilation.

The laws of the media in tetrad form bring logos and formal cause up to date to reveal analytically the structure of all human artefacts.

A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.

The victory over Euclidean space was not achieved by isolated individuals but by a field of young rebels opposed to all absolutes.

The suddenness of the leap from hardware to software cannot but produce a period of anarchy and collapse especially in the developed countries.

Our Age of Anxiety is in great part the result of trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools and yesterday's concepts.

Every innovation scraps its immediate predecessor and retrieves still older figures "? it causes floods of antiques or nostalgic art forms and stimulates the search for museum pieces.

Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.

If we understand the revolutionary transformations caused by new media we can anticipate and control them; but if we continue in our self-induced subliminal trance we will be their slaves.

Any breakdown is a breakthrough.

Art is anything you can get away with.

An administrator in a bureaucratic world is a man who can feel big by merging his non-entity in an abstraction. A real person in touch with real things inspires terror in him.

Politics offers yesterday's answers to today's problems.

The answers are always inside the problem not outside.

By phonemic trans-formation into visual terms the alphabet became a universal abstract static container of meaningless sounds

The news automatically becomes the real world for the TV user and is not a substitute for reality but is itself an immediate reality.

The age of automation is going to be the age of "do it yourself".

It is critical vision alone which can mitigate the unimpeded operation of the automatic.

Attention spans get very weak at the speed of light and that goes along with a very week identity.

Antipathy dissimilarity of views hate contempt can accompany true love.

Ads push the principle of noise all the way to the plateau of persuasion. They are quite in accord with the procedures of brainwashing.

All discoveries in art and science result from an accumulation of errors.

Our motor car is our supreme form of privacy when we are away from home.

A commercial society whose members are essentially ascetic and indifferent in social ritual has to be provided with blueprints and specifications for evoking the right tone for every occasion.

If a work of art is to explore new environments it is not to be regarded as a blueprint but rather as a form of action-painting.

All the new media are art forms which have the power of imposing like poetry their own assumptions.

What we call art would seem to be specialist artifacts for enhancing human perception.

It is possible to deal with the entire environment as a work of art.

As information becomes our environment it becomes mandatory to program the environment itself as a work of art.

The present is only faced in any generation by the artist.

The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain unclad and incomplete in the urban compound.

The content or message of any particular medium has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb.

Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.

The TV camera has no shutter. It does not deal with aspects or facets of objects in high resolution. It is a means of direct pick-up by the electrical groping over surfaces.

Throughout Finnegans Wake Joyce specifies the Tower of Babel as the tower of Sleep that is the tower of the witless assumption or what Bacon calls the reign of the Idols.

Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.

The medium is the message" because it is the medium that shapes and controls the search and form of human associations and action.

A successful book cannot afford to be more than ten percent new.

Affluence creates poverty.

Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either

Radio affects most intimately person-to-perso n offering a world of unspoken communication between writer-speaker and the listener

As technology advances it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.'

Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.

Ads are carefully designed by the Madison Avenue frog-men of-the-mind for semiconscious exposure.

Ads represent the main channel of intellectual and artistic effort in the modern world.

The huge advantage of Canada is its backwardness.

All advertising advertises advertising.

The business of the advertiser is to see that we go about our business with some magic spell or tune or slogan throbbing quietly in the background of our minds.

Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.

American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver's license age than at voting age.

The car has become the carapace the protective and aggressive shell of urban and suburban man.

Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness. A demand that you yield your private consciousness to public manipulation.

In antiquity and the Middle Ages reading was necessarily reading aloud.

Education is civil defence against media fallout.

The task confronting contemporary man is to live with the hidden ground of his activities as familiarly as our literate predecessors lived with the figure minus ground.

On Spaceship Earth there are no passengers; everybody is a member of the crew. We have moved into an age in which everybody's activities affect everybody else.

Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.

The young today cannot follow narrative but they are alert to drama. They cannot bear description but they love landscape and action.

The student of media soon comes to expect the New Media of any period whatever to be classed as 'pseudo' by those who acquired the patterns of earlier media whatever they may happen to be.

Why is it so easy to acquire the solutions of past problems and so difficult to solve current ones

Medieval and ancient sensibility now dominates our time as acoustic and multisensory awareness displaces the merely visual.

To say that a body or its gravitational field 'bends in space' in its vicinity is the discuss visual space in acoustic terms.

Until writing was invented man lived in acoustic space: boundless directionless horizonless in the dark of the mind in the world of emotion...

Cubism ('multi-locationalism') is one of the painterly forms of acoustic space.

The poet the artist the sleuth whoever sharpens our perception tends to antisocial; rarely 'well adjusted ' he cannot go along with currents and trends.

Positively the effect of speeding up temporal sequence is to abolish time much as the telegraph and cable abolished space. Of course the photograph does both.

Our permanent address is tommorrow.

Current illusion is that science has abolished all natural laws.

Today it is not the classroom nor the classics which are the repositories of models of eloquence but the ad agencies.

Far more thought and care go into the composition of any prominent ad in a newspaper or magazine than go into the writing of their features and editorials.

Education which should be helping youth to understand and adapt to their revolutionary new environments is instead being used merely as an instrument of cultural aggression.

Clear prose indicates the absence of thought.

Life. Consider the alternative.

Faced with information overload we have no alternative but pattern-recognition.

Nobody can commit photography alone.

Typography tended to alter language from a means of perception and exploration to a portable commodity.

The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process a process of specialism and detachment. Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement.

The visual power of the phonetic alphabet is the translate other languages into itself is part of its power to invade right hemisphere (oral) cultures.

The alphabet was one thing when applied to clay or stone and quite another when set down on light papyrus.

The new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves constitute huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete disregard for antiseptics.

I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.

Except for light all other media come in pairs with one acting as the "content" of the other obscuring the operation of both.

When new technologies impose themselves on societies long habituated to older technologies anxieties of all kinds result.

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is a hallucinating idiot...for he sees what no one else does: things that to everyone else are not there.

The artist is the person who invents the means to bridge between biological inheritance and the environments created by technological innovation.

Food for the mind is like food for the body: the inputs are never the same as the outputs.

Electronic man has no physical body.

The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.

Technologies themselves regardless of content produce a hemispheric bias in the users.

North Americans have a peculiar bias. They go outside to be alone and they go home to be social.

First we build the tools then they build us.

A light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.

The more the data banks record about each one of us the less we exist.

To see a man slip on a banana skin is to see a rationally structured system suddenly translated into a whirling machine.

Once you see the boundaries of your environment they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.

The new media are not bridges between man and nature; they are nature.

Radical changes of identity happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time have proved more deadly and destructive of human values than wars fought with hardware weapons.

Obsolescence is the moment of superabundance.

The only way to recover the old world is to induce the media into vomiting it back up.

The real news is bad news.

Logos is the formal cause of the kosmos and all things responsible for their nature and configuration.

We have be-come irrevocably involved with and responsible for each other.

We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

The genteel is a mighty catafalque of service-with-a-smile and flattering solicitude smothering every spontaneous movement of thought or feeling.

Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America - not on the battlefields of Vietnam.

The mother tongue is propaganda.

Invention is the mother of necessities.

It's misleading to suppose there's any basic difference between education & entertainment . This distinction merely relieves people of the responsibility of looking into the matter.

People don't actually read newspapers - they get into them every morning like a hot bath.

The logos of creation 'And God Said ...' formed the basis of Christian interpretation of the 'Book of Nature.

Information and images bump against each other every day in massive quantities and the resonance of this interfacing is like the babble of a village or tavern gossip session.

It is the weak and confused who worship the pseudosimplicities of brutal directness.

I've always been careful never to predict anything that had not already happened.

In this electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.

The bible belt is oral territory and therefore despised by the literati.

The computer is the most extraordinary of man's technological clothing; it's an extension of our central nervous system. Beside it the wheel is a mere hula-hoop.

The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.

I don't want them to believe me I just want them to think.

I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it.

We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.

Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience rather than understanding that influences behavior.

While Poe and the Symbolists were exploring the irrational in literature Freud had begun to explore the resonant figure/ground double-plot of the conscious and unconscious.

Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.

Everybody tends to merge his identity with other people at the speed of light. It's called being mass man.

The story begins only when the book closes.

The public has yet to see TV as TV. Broadcasters have no awareness of its potential. The movie people are just beginning to get a grasp on film.

Obsolescence never meant the end of anything it's just the beginning.

All words in every language are metaphors.

Language is a form of organized stutter.

The movie by sheer speeding up of the mechanical carried us from the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configurations and structure.

[On Jimmy Carter] "Huck Finn. Loss of identity drives people to nostalgia. Electronic man has no physical body so he puts nostalgia in its place.

Time' has ceased 'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village... a simultaneous happening

Since with electricity we extend our central nervous system globally instantly interrelating every human experience.

The electric age ... established a global network that has much the character of our central nervous system.

The wheel is an extension of the foot the book is an extension of the eye clothing an extension of the skin electric circuitry an extension of the central nervous system.

If the nineteenth century was the age of the editorial chair ours is the century of the psychiatrist's couch.

Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.

It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.

It is one of the peculiar characteristics of the photograph that it isolates single moments in time.

Interface of the resonant interval as 'where the action is' whether chemical psychic or social involves touch.

World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.

Most clear writing is a sign that there is no exploration going on. Clear prose indicates the absence of thought.

The content or time-clothing of any medium or culture is the preceding medium or culture.

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.

You can be a French Canadian or an English Canadian but not a Canadian. We know how to live without an identity and this is one of our marvellous resources.

The modern Little Red Riding Hood reared on singing commercials has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.

There is no more great men; there is only great committees.

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.

All media work us over completely.

The potential of any technology is always dissipated by its users involvement in its predecessors...Computer are still serving mainly to sustain precomputer effects.

Computers can do better than ever what needn't be done at all. Making sense is still a human monopoly.

The percept takes priority of the concept.

Once introduced discontinuity once challenge any of the properties of visual space and as they flow from each other the whole conceptual framework collapses.

The rythms of typing favour short concise sentences sentences with oral form.

Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition.

Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.

Sentimentality like pornography is fragmented emotion; a natural consequence of a high visual gradient in any culture.

Of the many unforeseen consequences of typography the emergence of nationalism is perhaps the most familiar

The future of work consists of learning a living.

Those conspiracies that are too incredible to be believed are by the same right those which most often succeed.

Environments are not just containers but are processes that change the content totally

Nothing is inevitable if we are willing to contemplate what is happening.

There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.

The 'content' of any medium is always another medium.

We impose the form of the old on the content of the new.

Einstein pronounced the doom of continuous or 'rational' space and the way was made clear for Picasso and the Marx Brothers and Mad magazine.

Nowadays there is no conversation at all. Teachers distrust talk as much as business men.

...the logic of the photograph is neither verbal nor syntactical a condition which renders literary culture quite helpless to cope with the photograph.

One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with.

If people were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology would they all become artists?

The meaning of experience is typically one generation behind the experience. The content of new situations both private and corporate is typically the preceding situation.

The TV generation is postliterate and retribalized. It seeks by violence to scrub the old private image and to merge in a new tribal identity like any corporate executive.

The space of early Greek cosmology was structured by logos - resonant utterance or word.

The village had institutionalized all human functions in forms of low intensity.... Participation was high and organization was low. This is the formula for stability.

Money is a poor man's credit card.

The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.

Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative. It is the last-ditch stand of the artist.

It is perhaps typical of very creative minds that they hit very large nails not quite on the head.

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.

The criminal like the artist is a social explorer.

There is no individualism in Eastern or oral cultures.

When producers want to know what the public wants they graph it as curves. When they want to tell the public what to get they say it in curves.

Where the whole man is involved there is no work. Work begins with the division of labor.

The movie stars and matinee idols are put into the public domain by photography. They become dreams that money can buy. They can be bought and thumbed more easily than public prostitutes.

The greatest discovery of the 21st century will be the discovery that Man was not meant to live at the speed of light.

Darkness is to space what silence is to sound i.e. the interval.

Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.

When two seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised put in apposition in new and unique ways startling discoveries often result.

We don't know who discovered water but we know it wasn't the fish

I'm not sure who discovered water but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a fish.

Today the tyrant rules not by club or fist but disguised as a market researcher he shepherds his flocks in the ways of utility and comfort.

Violence is the quest for identity. When identity disappears with technological innovation violence is the natural recourse.

Literacy the visual technology dissolved the tribal magic by means of its stress on fragmentation and specialization and created the individual.

The future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb.

We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.

The winner is one who knows when to drop out in order to get in touch.

Mass transportation is doomed to failure in North America because a person's car is the only place where he can be alone and think.

I may be wrong but I'm never in doubt.

Mysticism is just tomorrow's science dreamed today.

Even mud gives the illusion of depth.

Youth instinctively understand the present environment - the electric drama. It lives mythically and in depth.

In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.

Explore the situation. Statements are expendable. Don't keep on looking in the rearview mirror and defending the status quo which is outmoded the moment it happened.

The scientist rigorously defends his right to be ignorant of almost everything except his specialty.

Great art speaks a language which every intelligent person can understand. The people who call themselves modernists today speak a different language.

Fish did not discover water.

Pornography and violence are by-products of societies in which private identity has been ... destroyed by sudden environmental change.

I think of art at its most significant as a DEW line a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.

Phenomenology is dialectic in ear-mode - a massive and decentralized quest for roots for ground.

When information overload occurs pattern recognition is how to determine truth.

The price of eternal vigilance is indifference.

All media are extensions of some human faculty- psychic or physical.

Television is teaching all the time. Does more educating than the schools and all the institutions of higher learning.

What goes on inside the school is an interruption of education.

Education in a technological world of replaceable and expendable parts is neuter.

There are many people for whom 'thinking' necessarily means identifying with existing trends

The method of our time is to use not a single but multiple models for exploration...

The ignorance of how to use knowledge stockpiles exponentially.

Typographic man can express but is helpless to read the configurations of print technology.

A typewriter is a means of transcribing thought not expressing it.

The 'expert' is the man who stays put.

The artist is a person who is expert in the training of perception.

I do not explain I explore.

The reader is the content of any poem or of the language he employs and in order to use any of these forms he must put them on.

Arists in various fields are always the first to discover how to enable one medium or to release the power of another.

One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.

Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and the body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement.

A nomadic society cannot experience enclosed space.

The photograph reverses the purpose of travel which until now had been to encounter the strange and unfamiliar.

Character no longer is shaped by only two earnest fumbling experts. Now all the world's a sage.

Most people are alive in an earlier time but you must be alive in our own time.

Mass man is a phenomenon of electric speed not of physical quantity.

The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message

At electric speed all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.

Transmitted at the speed of light all events on this planet are simultaneous. In the electric environment of information all events are simultaneous there is no time or space separating events.

Electricity does not centralize but decentralizes.

What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man disembodies him. Turns him into software.

For the satiated both sex and speed are pretty boring until the element of danger and even death is introduced.

Technology is that which separates us from our environment.

The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way.

The present is always invisible because its environmental. No environment is perceptible simply because it saturates the whole field of attention.

... Their power to see environments as they really are.

We have to find the environments in which it will be possible to live with our new inventions.

There ain't no grammatical errors in a non-literate society.

The printing press was at first mistaken for an engine of immortality by everybody except Shakespeare.

Media are means of extending and enlarging our organic sense lives into our environment.

One matter Englishmen don't think in the least funny is their happy consciousness of possessing a deep sense of humor.

Our technology forces us to live mythically but we continue to think fragmentarily and on single separate planes.

America is the only country ever founded on the printed word.

Only a fraction of the history of literacy has been typographic.

Pornography and obscenity...work by specialism and fragmentation. They deal with a figure without a ground -- situations in which the human factor is suppressed in favor of sensations and kicks.

We go forward looking in the rearview mirror.

Our technology forces us to live mythically

The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.

It has always been the artist who realizes that the future is the present and uses his work to prepare the grounds for it

All forms of violence are quests for identity. When you live on the frontier you have no identity. You're a nobody.

Metaphor has traditionally been regarded as the matrix and pattern of the figures of speech.

Language always preserves a play or figure/ground relation between experience and perception and its replay in expression.

As the age of information demands the simultaneous use of all our faculties we discover that we are most at leisure when we are most intensely involved.

Gutenberg made everybody a reader. Xerox makes everybody a publisher.

Jokes are grievances.

Today we are beginning to notice that the new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.

Don't ask whether it is right or wrong. Instead try to find out what is going on.

Only the vanquished remember history.

Human perception is literally incarnation.

The artist is the man in any field scientific or humanistic who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.

The modern nose like the modern eye has developed a sort of microscopic intercellular intensity which makes our human contactspainful and revolting.

In Tetrad form the artifact is seen to be not neutral or passive bur an active logos or utterance of the human mind or body that transforms the user and his ground.

They will be tiresome company having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Playboy: Have you ever taken LSD yourself?McLUHAN: No I never have. I'm an observer in these matters not a participant.

The school system is the homogenizing hopper into which we toss our integral tots for processing.

the only people who have proof of their sanity are those who have been discharged from mental institutions

In an age of multiple and massive innovations obsolescence becomes the major obsession.

If it works it's obsolete.

When information rubs against information the results are startling and effective. The perrenial quest for involvement fill-in takes many forms.

Man works when he is partially involved. When he is totally involved he is at play or leisure.

We are all robots when uncritically involved with our technologies.

Publication is a self-invasion of privacy.

In television images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around you. You are the vanishing point.

Anything that's popular is a rear-view image.

As a rule I always look for what others ignore.

The successor to politics will be propaganda. Propaganda not in the sense of a message or ideology but as the impact of the whole technology of the times.

Today's child is growing up absurd because he lives in two worlds and neither of them inclines him to grow up. Growing up--thatis our new work and it is total. Mere instruction will not suffice.

Only the small secrets need to be protected. The large ones are kept secret by public incredulity.

The mark of our time is its revulsion against imposed patterns.

The literate man is a sucker for propaganda...You cannot propagandize a native. You can sell him rum and trinkets but you cannot sell him ideas.

In large measure writing is the spatialization of thought.

Violence whether spiritual or physical is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity the more violence.

Primitivism has become the vulgar cliché of much modern art and speculation.

To say that "the camera cannot lie" is merely to underline the multiple deceits that are now practised in its name.

For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.

People who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief.

The medium is the message.

The media have substituted themselves for the older world.

When things come at you very fast naturally you lose touch with yourself.

The new media are not ways of relating to us the 'real' world; they are the real world and they reshape what remains of the old world at will.

A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters.

There is a real living unity in our time as in any other but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation.

First we shape our tools thereafter they shape us

Everybody at the speed of light tends to become a nobody.

The most human thing about us is our technology.

La violencia ya sea espiritual o física es una búsqueda de la identidad y el sentido