The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man Paperback – Mar 1 1962
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Movable type, as much if not more than any meaningful arrangement of that type, transformed Renaissance consciousness--just as electronic circuitry is transforming us now. That is the basic premise of Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy. New technologies create new human environments, and "technological environments are not merely passive containers but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike." McLuhan's second book, The Gutenberg Galaxy was published in 1962, won the Canadian Governor General's Medal that same year, and pushed McLuhan toward international prominence. Like most of McLuhans's other work--Understanding Media or The Global Village, for example--The Gutenberg Galaxy is a rich, dense text that draws freely, almost frantically, from works of philosophy, economics, political theory, history, and especially literature. There are liberal doses of Shakespeare--text and commentary--sprinkled throughout, as well as trenchant appropriations from Rabelais, Cervantes, Leibnitz, Blake, Joyce, and many others. Attempting to match his medium to his metaphors, McLuhan structures his book using what he calls "a mosaic or field approach" and ends up producing more than 100 short sections separated by pithy glosses in large bold type, such as "Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy," or " Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society." Today's reader might find the "mosaic of perpetually interacting forms" into which the author organizes his data and quotations distinctly Web-like. Indeed, one could say of McLuhan and his complex rhetorical circuitry what McLuhan himself says about Shakespeare: "His insights appear so richly in his lines that it is very difficult to select among them." --Russell Prather
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Another way of looking at this is to say that in McLuhan's view, history is not determined by politics or economics or weather or science per se so much as by our media--the "extensions of man." This book is a must-read followup to anyone who liked "Understanding Media"; it's also a great book to cut one's teeth on before reading "Understanding Media" because it's a more traditional (i.e., formal and linear) type of academic work. And undeniably brilliant. For what it's worth, I was a communications major at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970s when reading McLuhan's work was rougher than it is now; many of his concepts like "global village" have since filtered thru society. But I read all of McLuhan's media-oriented writings, wrote term papers on him, and feel as though I benefited as a result--he's the main reason I'm a writer today.
McLuhan makes his case that: technology shapes our experience, and that to be unaware of technology's pervasive influence is to succumb to "robo-centrism." His insightful analysis of the effects of technology leads him to focus on the causes, believing that awareness of the causes can modify the effects. "The theme of this book is not that there is anything good or bad about print but that unconsciousness of the effect of any force is a disaster, especially a force we have made ourselves." And so, "Some may feel that life is too valuable and delightful a thing to be spent in such arbitrary and involuntary automatism."
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What can be said about this book without going into a full critical review? It's a an important read, that can only become more so as time passes and generations of people become... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2013 by glen cochrane
The Gutenberg Galaxy is an intriguing account of the drastic alterations and implications of the transiton from the audile-tactile culture to the visual stressed culture of the... Read morePublished on July 31 1999
The Gutenberg Galaxy is an intriguing account of the drastic alterations and implications or the transiton from the audile-tactile culture to the visual stressed culture of the... Read morePublished on July 31 1999
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