McLuhan: The galaxy reconfigured, The medium is the message

posted Mar 24, 2012, 9:48 PM by Nick Bader   [ updated Mar 26, 2012, 9:02 PM ]
This will be short; I will just say straight out that I do not like McLuhan's writing style.  McLuhan values cleverness above clarity, which is appealing to some, but as someone who edits student scientific research papers, clarity and logical coherence are cardinal virtues for me.  McLuhan juxtaposes surprising claims with literary excerpts that do not (to me) logically support the claims.  Whenever McLuhan defines a concept, the concept somehow seems even broader and more abstract than it did before.  For example, McLuhan's definition of "medium" is: any extension of ourselves (from "The medium is the message").  This generalization increases the likelihood of the fallacy of equivocation.

There are certainly good things about these pieces.  McLuhan is clearly a writer who is very much at home in literature and has studied it for a long time.  In my mind, McLuhan is drifting about in a personal universe of literary connections, following stream-of-consciousness associations as he bounces metaphorically from one great writer to the next.  Once I stopped expecting him to make any sense or defend his claims, I was able to relax and enjoy the varied passages and interesting ideas.  Indeed, I paused to look up more words and concepts online while reading McLuhan than I did for all the previous readings.
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