Marshall McLuhan

July 21, 1911- December 31, 1980

Background of Marshall McLuhan:

Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian born, became an English professor in his thirties.  He was a student at and taught at many universities.  He began his educational career at the University of Manitoba.  From there he moved from St. Louis University, to Cambridge University, to Assumption College, to his final university, the University of Toronto.  McLuhan was a media theorist who, in 1964, wrote about the impact that communications technology had in culture and society in his book Understanding Media.  Because of this, he was most known for his work during the 1960s, yet McLuhan really began formulating his ideas for his book in the 1950s. 

Why McLuhan is Important:

McLuhan theorized how the media affects cultures and society.  He stressed the idea that every form of the media, from the invention of the printing press in the sixteenth century to the television in his present day, altered the conscious mind of the users.  In his 1962’s Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan set the stage for his beliefs about the way the print culture affected society.  This led further to McLuhan, in Understanding Media, explaining how the media affected people, yet it was the individual person who created the media.  His focus was that the media was an extension of a person.  He also explained the different forms of media as either being hot or cold.  To McLuhan, “hot media are low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience” (McLuhan, 1964).  Hot media was something like a newspaper or other printed material that could fully absorb the reader.  Cold media was compared to the television because the viewer’s full attention is not necessary to each time.  McLuhan’s reasons for his beliefs were because, in the 1960s, information technology was becoming the next big thing people were relying on in the media.