Quotes from Marshal McLuhan's Understanding Media


If the medium is of high definition, participation is low. If the medium is of low intensity, the participation is high. Perhaps this is why lovers mumble so.

Chapter 31, Television, page 319.

The art of advertising has wondrously come to fulfill the early definition of anthropology as “the science of man embracing woman.”

Chapter 23, Ads, page 226.

All the rhinos and hippos and elephants in the world, if gathered in one city, could not begin to create the menace and explosive intensity of the hourly and daily experience of the internal-combustion engine.

Chapter 22, Motorcar, page 219.

Just because all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again, it doesn't follow that electromagnetic automation couldn't have put Humpty-Dumpty back together. The integral and unified egg has no business sitting on a wall, anyway. Walls are made of uniformly fragmented bricks that arise with specialisms and bureaucracies. They are the deadly enemies of integral beings like eggs. Humpty-Dumpty met the challenge of the wall with a spectacular collapse.

The same nursery rhyme comments on the consequences of the fall of Humpty-Dumpty. That is the point about the King's horses and men. They, too, are fragmented and specialized. Having no unified vision of the whole, they are helpless. Humpty-Dumpty is an obvious example of integral wholeness. The mere existence of the wall already spelt his fall. James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake never ceases to interlace these themes, and the title of the work indicates his awareness that “as stone-aging” as it may be, the electric age is recovering the unity of plastic and iconic space, and is putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

Chapter 21, Wheel, Bicycle, and Airplane, pages 199-200.


This page last modified on 1 April 2008.