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The Gutenberg Galaxy
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on January 5, 2013
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 further removed from the great media shift of the 20th century.

McLuhan writes with such clear vision about his own era of electronic media, foreshadowing the coming digital age. In TGG, his focus in on the print word, as he collects examples of how literacy has shaped man's psyche. The examples are great, enlightening, and I think essential for understanding the western world's journey into the digital and internet ages, and how print had shaped man for centuries. The electronic words has changed us, how we interact with the world, and this books gives a lot of clues as to where that change touches us fundamentally.

For what it's worth, I found TGG a bit more difficult to read than some of his other works. The topic is dense, and borderline metaphysical & psychological in nature. It's certainly worth a slow, careful examination. For anyone interested in the self, communication and our environment, McLuhan gives a valuable perspective from a time when great changes were just forming.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2000
McLuhan's most enduring work and certainly his most accessible. A history of western society from a media perspective. McLuhan concentrates on the larger patterns in history by providing a snapshot of each period with a rich bibliography to fill in the details. A mosaic of the works of other writers arranged to get at more abstract ideas. The book is filled with great understanding and insight, often packaged as gnomic utterances but rarely without substantial scholarly support behind them. He stole from the best and without shame and put ideas together like no one else. Not so much an original thinker (for which we can be grateful given some of his crackpot ideas) but a chemist experimenting with the works of others to great effect. Misunderstood and disliked in his own time, idolized in the present for all the wrong reasons. We will not see his like again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One can almost think of "The Gutenberg Galaxy" as the "prequel" to Marshall McLuhan's much better known "Understanding Media," because "Galaxy" does for print techology what "Media" does for electronic technology. Basically McLuhan assesses how European civilization went from an ear-touch (listening) oriented mode of receving information to an eye-oriented (that is, reading) mode of receiving information. Recalling that for McLuhan, the medium IS the message, so the invention and dissemination of printing-press technology and the sharp rise in literacy it occasioned therefore brought about a major seismic shift in Western thought and all that goes with it--language, mores, dress, politics, etc.
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.
Allen; charless@ync.net
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 1999
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 print epoch. The printed word allowed for individuals to egress their present oral culture and advance to a realm of elvated messages and meaning via visual stressed symbols. Through this metaphorisis man and our langauge has we know it has develops an advant-garde culture for which our sociological and communicative interactionary patterns can be expressed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 print epoch. The printed word allowed for individuals to egress their present oral culture and advance to a realm of elvated messages and meaning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 1998
The best of McLuhan's media analyses and published before his 60's stardom. Written in his "mosaic style" (would be easily adapted to hypertext) it remains an excellent analysis of how both the written word (letters) and the printed work (starting with Guttenberg) altered human perception. It is full of interesting observations (and the usual collection of his favorite Joyce quotes) and more accessible than many of his later works.
Highly Reccommended!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 1998
What makes this book, like almost all others of McLuhan, is that an extreme amount of background is NOT necessary to draw from McLuhan's insightful observations. To read, think, reflect and be shocked by its truthfulness is standard in McLuhan's audience.
How Professor McLuhan ever foresaw the effects of technology on out society so clearly is forever a mystery; but we should be glad that he did!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 1998
This book will alter your perception of reality. It will cause you reflect on your environment, the definition of which will have expanded because of this book. In addition you will be introduced to authors and concepts from an eclectic range of disciplines, all juxtaposed to create insight (my clue in) into McLuhan's ideas. I read this one first, and I've continued on since then. His insights have practical application on how to surf in today's rapidly changing whorl-pool world.
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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