Marshall McLuhan Quotes

Marshall McLuhan Quotes

Marshall McLuhan


The business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern towards participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts.

  • Letter to Harold Adam Innis (14 March 1951), published in Essential McLuhan(1995), edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, p. 73

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

  • Statement in 1965, in reference to Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1963) by Buckminster Fuller, as quoted Paradigms Lost: Learning from Environmental Mistakes, Mishaps and Misdeeds (2005) by Daniel A. Vallero, p. 367

The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects


  • The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message.
  • In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin.
  • Electricity does not centralize, but decentralizes.
  • All meaning alters with acceleration, because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information.
  • Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.
  • I don't explain—I explore.
  • The future masters of technology will have to be lighthearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb.
  • People never remember but the computer never forgets.
  • Faced with information overload, we have no alternative but pattern-recognition.
  • Mysticism is just tomorrow’s science dreamed today.
  • Psychic communal integration, made possible at last by the electronic media, could create the universality of consciousness foreseen by Dante when he predicted that men would continue as no more than broken fragments until they were unified into an inclusive consciousness...This is a new interpretation of the mystical body of Christ; and Christ, after all, is the ultimate extension of man.

Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction.

  • Letter to Clare Westcott, November 26 1975. Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p. 514

Since Sputnik and the satellites, the planet is enclosed in a manmade environment that ends "Nature" and turns the globe into a repertory theater to be programmed.

From Cliché to Archetype (1970)

  • World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. Culture Is Our Business (1970)
  • Privacy invasion is now one of biggest knowledge industries.
  • When the evolutionary process shifts from biology to software technology the body becomes the old hardware environment. The human body is now a probe, a laboratory for experiments.
  • The Concept of Dread, by Soren Kierkegaard, appeared in 1844, first year of the commercial telegraph...It mentions the telegraph as a reason for dread and nowness or existenz.
  • Since Sputnik, the earth has been wrapped in a dome-like blanket or bubble. Nature ended.

Take Today : The Executive as Dropout (1972)

  • Hypnotized by their rear-view mirrors, philosophers and scientists alike tried to focus the figure of man in the old ground of nineteenth-century industrial mechanism and congestion. They failed to bridge from the old figure to the new. It is man who has become both figure and ground via the electrotechnical extension of his awareness. With the extension of his nervous system as a total information environment, man bridges art and nature.


  • Omnipresence has become an ordinary human dimension.


  • At the speed of light there is no sequence; everything happens at the same instant.