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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man: Critical Edition [Hardcover]

Marshall McLuhan , W. Terrence Gordon , Philip B. Meggs
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2003
When first published, Marshall McLuhans Understanding Media made history with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and life in the twentieth century. This edition of McLuhans best-known book both enhances its accessibility to a general audience and provides the full critical apparatus necessary for scholars. This critical edition makes available for the first time the core of the research project that spawned the book.

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Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man: Critical Edition + The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man + The Medium Is the Massage
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's next after the electric age? May 18 2006
Format:Hardcover
This book is the Bible of the mediatic electric age and it has to be read as such, that is to say with a grain of salt from time to time. Marshall McLuhan shows first of all that all inventions, all activities of man are extensions of something in his body: the hand, the arm, the foot, the eye, the nose, the ear, and of course the skin and the central nervous system. He then moves to showing that the mechanical age started with the wheel as the extension of man's feet and legs, when this wheel was plugged onto some mechanical source of energy, be it natural like stream-water, or be it man-made and artificial like the steam-engine or the internal-combustion-engine. But this very mechanical revolution produces the next stage since stream-water or steam are used to make a turbine turn, like a wheel, but this time to produce electricity. And we enter the electrical age, a revolution based on the virtualization of this energy that is no longer attached to a particular action or place: it can be used in hundreds of different tasks and everywhere due to its transportation. This leads to the next revolution: the birth of communication media, hot or cool, but all of them being the message itself. Radio, cinema, TV, camera, sound-recorder, etc..., and McLuhan could not know in 1964 the Internet revolution and virtual reality, the virtualization of all human activities. However, he feels and predicts the changes that were to come. Information can be transformed and transported by machines and the possession and use of knowledge become the real working power of a man. It means clearly that social projects are no longer collective but based on individual potential, competence and activity. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You May Finally Discard Your 1967 Paperback Version April 5 2008
By Nature Girl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
At 16 (1977) I discovered the original paperback Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and it changed my world and the way I perceive every aspect of modern culture and technology forever. Throughout college, graduate school and a life of writing I have consistently supported my arguments and theories with ideas and quotes found within these pages. Fortunately I have not been alone, as entire branches of scientific inquiry, schools of academic thought, business models and technological breakthroughs can credit his lucid, vivid and coherent frameworks for their existence.

As an educator I endeavor to impart McLuhan's insights so that students might begin to see how profoundly every new technology changes their world.

This beautiful hardcover now sits at my side and includes historic details of McLuhan, the manuscript and its reception as well as valuable critical insights of W. Terence Gordon, an expert uniquely qualified to organize this edition.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool book (in the McLuhanian sense) March 22 2010
By Robert Dubose - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful edition. And the critical commentary by Terrence Gordon provides a helpful structure for getting your mind around McLuhan's ideas.

Although this may be McLuhan's great work, it is not best place to start. It is long and often incoherent. On page 39, McLuhan introduces a notoriously difficult metaphor that he uses through the book. It concerns hot and cool media. "Hot media are ... low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience." So, he explains, hieroglyphics and photographs are hot, but the phonetic alphabet and cartoons are cool. Radio and movies are hot, but the TV and the telephone are cool.

Does that make any sense? If not, the better place to start is his earlier work, The Gutenberg Galaxy. It is shorter, and the logic is much easier to follow. It lays out the basis of McLuhan's thinking about how changes in media reshape culture. If you are a systematic thinker like me, it is a far better book to get the basics of McLuhan's analytical method and ideas.

Even if you have the basics, UM is a dense, inspiring, and unsettling work. In each of the 33 chapters, McLuhan makes connections that change the way I think about culture. But just as often, he makes some nonsensical analogy or leap of logic and then fails to explain it.

In the end, it helps to stop trying to understand UM and let it inspire you to think.

In other words, it is very cool.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendously original and thought- provoking work Oct. 16 2004
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is one of the rare works which seem to explain new realities in a way which no one else before has grasped. It is the kind of work that gives a ' whole new picture of what is happening'. And if for this alone this work would be of great value.

I am by no means a media expert and cannot really comment on many of the claims of the work .

Its virtues are in calling attention to the new media( mainly television) and understanding how it changed our perception of the world, and of ourselves.

The basic MacLuhan distinction between hot and cold media between those which give us a lot of information and those which require our own greater participation in creating the reality , seems to me sensible to a degree. But where MacLuhan lost me was in his celebration of the present reality, the new culture.

I for one have the old- fashioned sense of the superiority of the reading world to the television world- the superiority of the kind of minds it produces.

I too think MacLuhan was over- optimistic in seeing the ' global village' as a kind of positive development for mankind. The fact is our world today is tremendously complex politically, fragmented in not necessarily wonderful ways.

It is possible to argue that this work ' foresaw ' the Internet, but even if this were the case it seems to me that we still have to consider the overall question of the meaning, value and virtue of the Internet.

Mankind's situation I want to suggest is much much more complex than ' the media is the message' in the ' global village' suggests.

I do not again think I have even begun to do justice to the richness and variety of MacLuhan's insights.

I just here would like to register the view that I do not believe that he really has given us ' the key' to understanding our world. I would even go farther and say however rich the understanding he provides about the media, and their relation to each other- he too is far from the last word in this. The questions now raised by the Internet world I think are in many ways outside those he considered.

Like all important thinkers he too is limited by the Time which has come after, bringing developments and problems he could not be expected to foresee.
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic -- still relevant March 23 2014
By Constance Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
McLuhan foresaw the media of today and their radical power to change one's point of view about current life in America. The book is visual, short, and a fun challenge to read. Anyone interested in today's issues and wishing to judge those issues by using one's own eyes and thought processes,[ASIN:1584230738 Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition] while not relying solely on the reports of current mass media, will appreciate this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars I've Never Read ANYTHING Like This March 11 2014
By James Bosilkovski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I could tell you McLuhan was ahead of his time. I could go on and on about how he predicted the Internet and the consequences of the electronic revolution, how it is re-tribalizing the entire planet. But all you need to know about 'Understanding Media' is this:

No single book will teach you more about the world, our place in it, and the influence on technology on our lives.

5/5 - an absolute MUST READ!
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