Monday, January 31, 2011

Farrell, Thomas J. "Who Was Marshall McLuhan, and Why Is He Important Today?" OPEDNEWS January 14, 2011.

With the publication of two books in the early 1960s, McLuhan catapulted to extraordinary fame, seemingly out of nowhere. In the 1950s he had not been widely known. However, he had been known to a small group of alert admirers. But along with his fame in the 1960s and 1970s came controversy and criticism. At times, the criticism was cogent and convincing. However, the criticism directed at him was frequently off target. In any event, many of his critics wanted to throw out the baby with the bath water, as we say. This is an understandable temptation. But it is a temptation we must guard ourselves against even today as we try to sort out the wheat from the chaff in McLuhan's thought. To be sure, there is a certain amount of chaff in McLuhan's thought that should be discarded. But the wheat can nourish our thought and reflection.

McLuhan did not live to see the time when personal computers became as common in North America as television sets and radios and telephones and movies and audio recordings and sound amplification systems had become by the 1960s. Nor did he live to see the Internet. Nevertheless, once we have sorted out the wheat from the chaff in McLuhan's thought, the wheat can help feed and nurture our thinking about computers and the Internet and other forms of new media that had not yet fully emerged in his lifetime.

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