Beyond McLuhan
January 27, 2014 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I have read some of Marshall McLuhan's books and would like to continue to read more in the same vein. I don't have a background in Media Studies or Philosophy, but I want to learn more about what contemporary thinkers have written about media and culture touching on some of the same subjects as McLuhan. I'm interested in philosophy of media studies (and futurism/technology/etc.). I'm also interested in artists that have reflected some of these ideas in their work. Suggestions?
posted by catrae to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You want Sven Birkierts. Certainly The Gutenberg Elegies, and also at least half of the essays in American Energies.

You might also check out Manufacturing Consent, depending how much you want to get into the political side of media.
posted by gauche at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2014

I'd recommend Mediated: How the Media Shapes Our World and How We Live in It by Thomas de Zengotita. I like Birkerts, too, but he can be extremely curmudgeonly at times. You might also check out Neil Postman.
posted by mattbucher at 6:41 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to list off some random dudes and you can pick what you want:

Ray Kurzweil and Michio Kaku are two big names in futurism (futurology?) and people above have also mentioned Chomsky since you can't talk about media without mentioning him.

With futurists, shit gets weird really quick (life extension, consciousness expansion) so you also have people like Timothy Leary (friend of McLuhan) and Robert Anton Wilson although they are both deceased and a little dated now but of course still a great read if you are new to their ideas.

gosh there are so many... here is a list from google
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:05 AM on January 27, 2014

Starting with with Mcluhan, you can go in so many different directions. A couple that come to mind are Friedrich Kittler's Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, and and Jonathan Sterne's The Audible Past.
posted by umbú at 7:44 AM on January 27, 2014

If you would like to move backwards, you should check out G. K. Chesterton, who was a massive influence on Marshall McLuhan. Chesterton's unique style - constellations of paradox, a rapid-fire blunderbuss of ideas - shaped the way in which McLuhan constructed his arguments. Chesterton was also the one responsible for his conversion to Catholicism. While Chesterton was of course not a media studies person, it is illuminating to see how much of what McLuhan said had been heavily influenced by a certain high-medieval flâneur.

I would start with What's Wrong With The World, because that's (sort of) where McLuhan started with him. What's Wrong With The World is a collection of essays, some of which you will agree with, and others you will very much not agree with. What is most important is to appreciate how these essays are constructed, both as collections of bons mots and as part of an oeuvre.

Chesterton's more major works are The Everlasting Man and Orthodoxy. These are good books, and I recommend them. However, Chesterton is one of those authors whose "minor" works might be better as a whole than any particular major work taken alone. His essays are where it's at, IMHO. Chesterton's fiction is also often outstanding, such as with The Man Who Was Thursday, or his Father Brown mysteries.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Chesterton's a must-read for anyone, and along similar lines, I believe the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was also an influence on McLuhan.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:59 AM on January 27, 2014

Oh yeah, and you might want to give Nicholas Carr's The Shallows a read. Carr explicitly intends it to be read within McLuhan's framework.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2014

I think probably one of the most definitive works in this area is Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed (limited to philosophy and film, but addresses many of the same issues).
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:44 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The media landscape has been swallowed whole by the Internet and clarity is on high demand. Join the club.

You could begin with a classic: Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. He brought a totally new way of looking at the field.

Then you are in luck because "Tomorrow & Wednesday you can get Gutenberg the Geek for free". Jeff Jarvis' has also written important books but his media observations are well documented in his blog BuzzMachine. He is a former journalist and editor, always curious, pushing the envelope of understanding and creating new media.

The third member of my McLuhanian trinity is Jay Rosen. Professor Rosen is one of the great thinkers of the media landscape so it's fitting that his blog is named PressThink. Read his blog, go back in the archives, it's full of gems.

If you need a devil's advocate who hates these three, there is Evgeny Morozov.

Depending on your media filtering habits, you could also follow them on Twitter; Jarvis and Rosen are very active, Shirky less so. Just note that media research, observation and experimentation are now happening live, all the time.

Don't hesitate to email me if you have any question or if you want more references and more names. I'd be happy to help. This is what I breathe every day.
posted by bru at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2014

Another point:

Of course, media have not yet digested the existence of communities, but they will one of those days because communities are the key of the Internet Kingdom (see Shirky above). If you are interested, read Rich Millington's blog feverbee. He is the best at studying and explaining community mechanics.
posted by bru at 7:39 PM on January 27, 2014

Robert Mc Chesney.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:34 AM on January 28, 2014

« Older How to phrase request for payment? Question for...   |   Give me some ways to use maple sugar. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.