Summary of Understanding Media

The Extensions of Man

MIT Press,
First Edition: 1964 more...

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Understanding Media book summary
The next time you hear some twenty-something Internet guru spouting off about how technology is changing society, tell him that Marshall McLuhan said it better in 1964.


7 Overall

5 Applicability

10 Innovation

5 Style


Reading Understanding Media brings to mind the old line that Shakespeare’s plays are nothing but a bunch of clichés. McLuhan’s 1964 look at the impact of technology and communications on society is laced with phrases that have become fixtures of modern language, like ’Global Village’, ’Age of Information’ and ’The medium is the message’. The book seeks to tie together big themes like art, culture, and social and economic history. While often successful at drawing these sweeping connections, McLuhan in certain chapters wanders into what sound like self-indulgent lectures. His analysis of television as a "cool" or low-resolution medium is dated. Phrases like "dig it" and too-numerous references to "the bomb," Mad magazine and skin-divers clearly belong to the early 1960s. But this book is valuable for its prophetic analyses. McLuhan’s prediction of an emerging information-based economy and a global integration facilitated by the Internet and digital technologies is stunningly accurate. recommends Understanding Media to executives working in media, telecommunications and technology, all of whom should have at least a passing knowledge of this classic.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the media shapes society’s psychological, social and economic frameworks
  • Why media coverage can create artificial perceptions and values
  • How the commodification of information accelerated the transition from an industrial society to the Electric Age
  • How new media technologies can have negative social effects


Technology Evolution
We are constantly being shaped by our technology. Advancements in technology in the form of media have enhanced our ability to communicate and in many cases have fundamentally changed our institutions, society, and even ourselves. Technology is nothing more than the...
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About the Author

Marshall McLuhan was born in Alberta, Canada, and received a Ph.D. in English Literature from Cambridge University. He taught at the University of Wisconsin, the University of St. Louis, and the University of Toronto. In addition to Understanding Media, he wrote The Mechanical Bride and The Gutenberg Galaxy.

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