By Larry Press
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media, a classic discussion of media and their effects on society and the individual. Understanding Media helped transform the 52-year old McLuhan from a somewhat obscure English professor at the University of Toronto, to an academic and media star, and industrial consultant. In recognition of the book's importance, it has been reissued by MIT Press with an introduction by Lewis Lapham of Harper's Magazine.
McLuhan understood that computers were a communication medium, but did not discuss them in Understanding Media or subsequently, although he lived until 1980. Regardless, I found this book fascinating and highly relevant today. My copy is now covered with marginal notes, many speculating on how McLuhan would have seen global computer-mediated communication, the Net.
What would McLuhan have thought of the Net? This column consists of quotes taken from Understanding Media, followed by comments on how they might be applied to the Net. (The number following each quote is the page on which it is found). I would not presume to put words in McLuhan's mouth -- these are thoughts that crossed my mind as I read, my marginal notes.