Book: Medium is the Massage
All media work us over completely.
Marshall McLuhan is a one of the major pioneers in media theory. McLuhan coined the expression "the medium is the message" and the term global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost 30 years before it was invented.
McLuhan defines media as an extension of some human faculty - psychic or physical.
The wheel is an extension of the feet. The screen you are looking at extension of your eyes. Clothes are extension of your skin. Electric circuitry is extension of our nervous system. And so on.
Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act - the way we perceive the world. When these ratios change, people change.
McLuhan talks about how every tool we create is in fact a medium and each medium changes the way we perceive our reality. So in other words, we shape the tools and they in turn shape us. This is crucial in understanding the effect media has on us and what responsibilities we hold as people when we create new media.
There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.
It is imperative for us take cognisance of the effect media has on us and how it is all around us and is largely invisible until we make the conscious effort to notice it.
We don't know who discovered water but we know it wasn't a fish. A pervasive medium or environment is always beyond perception.
David Foster Wallace also speaks about this in this valedictory speech at Kenyon college called "this is water". Read or listen here.
Why is the title of the book The Medium is the Massage and not The Medium is the Message? The title is a mistake. After the book came back from the typesetter's, it had on the cover 'Massage'. The title was supposed to read The Medium is the Message, but the typesetter made an error. After McLuhan saw the typo, he exclaimed, 'Leave it alone! It's great, and right on target!' Now there are four readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: Message and Mess Age, Massage and Mass Age.