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Laws of Media: The New Science [Paperback]

Eric McLuhan , Marshall McLuhan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 16 1992

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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Review

'FIlled with interesting, charming, bewildering, and challenging McLuhanisms.' (R. Cathart Choice)

'Eric McLuhan's collaborations with his father gives a rich treatment of the tetrads, and one true to the elder's written and cognitive style.' (Paul Levinson Journal of Communication)

'A surprising posthumous gift from Canada's greatest cultural theorist. The collaboration with his son Eric has produced not only the most stimulating intellectual formulations but also the most welcome concessions to the norms of scholarship and argument since The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media' (John Fekete Letters in Canada)

'The tetrad's eloquence and the universality of its application will surely have a profound effect on any further study of media.' (Timothy Buell The Toronto Star)

About the Author

Eric McLuhan is an author, editor, and teacher. He has worked closely with Marshall McLuhan, with whom he studied Finnegans Wake. He now lectures and writes on media and society, and edits the journal McLuhan Studies.



Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) was a literature scholar and the founder of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IT�S NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA, IT�S THE LAW March 5 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the recapitulation of the gestation of McLuhan's thought, which culminates in the Laws of Media. The beginning of the book is almost as incomprehensible as that last sentence, but by the time you get to page 93, you will understand it. McLuhan gives us a tool with which to dig out an understanding from the media we see around us. His tetrad approach to analysis is ably illustrated by his poetic examples in part 4. It's not that things get more apparent, but they do become more transparent from his multiple points of view.
If you've already worked through the Gutenberg Galaxy, and want more, this book is for you. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with McLuhan, this might not be the book to start with. However, I found the book to inspire new thoughts and insight that come reflected off his refracting whorl of ideas, so maybe it's as good a place to start as any.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IT�S NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA, IT�S THE LAW March 5 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the recapitulation of the gestation of McLuhan's thought, which culminates in the Laws of Media. The beginning of the book is almost as incomprehensible as that last sentence, but by the time you get to page 93, you will understand it. McLuhan gives us a tool with which to dig out an understanding from the media we see around us. His tetrad approach to analysis is ably illustrated by his poetic examples in part 4. It's not that things get more apparent, but they do become more transparent from his multiple points of view.
If you've already worked through the Gutenberg Galaxy, and want more, this book is for you. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with McLuhan, this might not be the book to start with. However, I found the book to inspire new thoughts and insight that come reflected off his refracting whorl of ideas, so maybe it's as good a place to start as any.
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