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McLuhan: The Book of Probes

Updated: Feb 17

Marshall McLuhan, the popular Canadian theorist, in his Book of Probes, provokes disciples into an awareness about the environment and its hyper-evolutionary state. In this way, McLuhan could be described as apocalyptic. He was attentive to the patterns that were at work around him, yet were subliminally and invisibly causing a radical restructuring of the environment. McLuhan used aphorisms primarily because they are memorable. In fact, it is this feature that makes aphorisms so potent. McLuhan believed that by creating memory hooks, as he did in his Book of Probes, he could consciously invite dialogue, beyond literary circles, that had the power to awaken any reader. As such, when McLuhan first introduced his famous aphorism: “The Medium is the Message”, a discussion was launched about its meaning, which continues to be an ostensibly lively and intellectual debate.


McLuhan tells us that a "message" is, "the change of scale or pace or pattern" that an invention or innovation "introduces into human affairs." (McLuhan 8). Thus, when one is introduced to a new way of communicating, such as Twitter or Facebook, McLuhan suggests that the message is not the sound byte that is being transmitted through these kinds of media. Instead, the message is the change that it introduces into human relationships. For instance, if a person uses Twitter to broadcast fearmongering and hatred, then the message would not be fear and hatred. Instead, McLuhan is suggesting that the message is that human relationships are becoming more insular and private. Principally, McLuhan’s message to us is to look beyond the obvious and to look at how invisible patterns affect how people relate.


This is an excellent book to read for those who are concerned about the current state of interpersonal relationships in the world, but particularly in Western culture.

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