Quotes from McLuhan’s 1969 Playboy Interview

FULL TEXT

I want to map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks. But I’ve never presented such explorations as revealed truth. As an investigator, I have no fixed point of view, no commitment to any theory–my own or anyone else’s. As a matter of fact, I’m completely ready to junk any statement I’ve ever made about any subject if events don’t bear me out, or if I discover it isn’t contributing to an understanding of the problem. 

Effective study of the media deals not only with the content of the media but with the media themselves and the total cultural environment within which the media function.

 For the past 3500 years of the Western world, the effects of media– whether it’s speech, writing, printing, photography, radio or television–have been systematically overlooked by social observers. Even in today’s revolutionary electronic age, scholars evidence few signs of modifying this traditional stance of ostrichlike disregard.

But despite our self-protective escape mechanisms, the total-field awareness engendered by electronic media is enabling us–indeed, compelling us–to grope toward a consciousness of the unconscious, toward a realization that technology is an extension of our own bodies

most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them; unaware that because of their pervasive effects on man, it is the medium itself that is the message, not the content, and unaware that the medium is also the mess-age–that, all puns aside, it literally works over and saturates and molds and transforms every sense ratio. 

The content or message of any particular medium has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb. But the ability to perceive media-induced extensions of man, once the province of the artist, is now being expanded as the new environment of electric information makes possible a new degree of perception and critical awareness by nonartists. 

In the past, the effects of media were experienced more gradually, allowing the individual and society to absorb and cushion their impact to some degree. Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment, because unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitute a total and near-instantaneous transformation of culture, values and attitudes. 

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. 

Because of today’s terrific speed-up of information moving, we have a chance to apprehend, predict and influence the environmental forces shaping us–and thus win back control of our own destinies.

we still cannot free ourselves of the delusion that it is how a medium is used that counts, rather than what it does to us and with us. 

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