Beginning to know the medium and its message
Gordon’s McLuhan for Beginners is an admirable effort at sketching out the basics in pithy bursts of text and illustrations. If Gordon’s medium defines his message, then his lesson is that most people think in increments and pictures, and would rather read Hamlet in CliffsNotes than Shakespeare. McLuhan might have approved. He understood that education is effective when entertaining, and that the best entertainment is educational.
In the era when television reshaped the way people thought about the world, interest in McLuhan focused on his interpretation of electronic media. But his work was underpinned by something larger—nothing less than an effort to reach for an understanding of the reality that will always be beyond our grasp. “The meaning of meaning is relationship,” McLuhan wrote. Meaning: “Nothing has its meaning alone.” Context is key, and McLuhan might worry that the Internet information tsunami has swamped context. Meaning: many folks will be hard pressed to know what any of this information really means.
Perhaps McLuhan’s most profound intuition was, as Gordon puts it, “to refuse to have a fixed viewpoint.” Whatever reality may be, it manifests itself multi-dimensionally. “To fully understand anything, you have to look at it from several points of view.” Meaning: McLuhan may well have argued against his own theories, and we should be willing to do the same.