McLuhan’s Laws of the Media (Summary Quotes)

“The structuralists, beginning with Ferdinand de Saussure and now Levi-Strauss, divide the approaches to the problem of form into two categories: diachrony and synchronyDiachrony is simply the developmental, chronological study of any cultural matter; but synchrony works on the assumption that all aspects of any form are simultaneously present in any part of it. ”

“Since electric speeds of information constitute a sort of simultaneous structuring of experience, synchrony, representing all directions at once, is, as it were, acoustic; whereas the diachronic, representing one stage at a time, is visual in its analytical pattern. Few people seem to be aware that visual space and order are continuous, connected, homogeneous, and static. In these regards, visual space is quite different from any other kind of space, be it tactile, kinetic, audile, or osmic (smell). Visual space alone can be divided.

“I am talking about “media” in terms of a larger entity of information and perception which forms our thoughts, structures our experience, and determines our views of the world about us. It is this kind of information flow-media-which is responsible for my postulation of a series of insights regarding the impact of certain technological developments. I call them “laws” because they represent, as do scientific “laws,” an ordering of thought and experience which has not yet been disproved; I call them “laws of the media” because the channels and impact of today’s electronic communication systems provide the informational foundation upon which we order, or structure, these experiential perceptions.”

“The Laws of the Media have been shaped by studying the effects of media, so there is always a hidden ground upon which these effects stand, and against which they bounce. That is, the law of a medium is a figure interplaying with a ground. As with a wheel and an axle, there must be an interval between the two in order for the play to exist.”

“In other words, do my Laws of the Media–derived from my inductive approach to synchronous form-correspond to
historical data as viewed from the vantage point of historians of technology?”

Using his Laws, one determines what a media:

  • Amplifies
  • Obsolesces
  • Retrieves
  • Reverses
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