Culture and the Media
The Extended Subject
(1) McLuhan, M., and Fiore, Q. with Agel, J. (1967). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Bantam Books, pp. 26-41.
(2) McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 3-6 (Introduction), 41-47 (Chapter 4).

Marshall McLuhan argued in a series of peculiar and provocative books that media technologies affect those who use them in profound and largely unacknowledged ways. Different technologies, such as the newspaper, television, and even the wheel, will both ‘extend’ and ‘numb’ their subjects. Humans, he suggests, are effectively rendered the ‘sex organs of the machine world’.

Further Reading

Cavell, R. (2002). McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). Informed account of all aspects of McLuhan's work. Includes a useful, brief explanation of his appropriation of the work of Hans Selye and Adolphe Jonas on counter-irritants and autoamputation (pp. 86-87).

Crosby, H. H. and Bond, G. R. (eds) (1968). The McLuhan Explosion: A Casebook on Marshall McLuhan and Understanding Media. New York: American Book Company. A casebook comprising the Introduction and first three chapters of McLuhan's Understanding Media (1964), contemporary reviews and responses to his ideas, and a short glossary of 'McLuhanisms'.

Duffy, D. (1969). Marshall McLuhan. Toronto: McClelland and Steward. A short, accessible introduction to (some of) McLuhan's ideas.

Federman, M. (2004). What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message? Retrieved 25th October 2010 from here. A short, accessible introduction to McLuhan's approach.

Federman, M. (no date). On Reading McLuhan. Retrieved 25th October 2010 from here. Advice on how best to approach McLuhan's difficult probes and prose.

Gordon, W. T. (2003). Marshall McLuhan: Escape Into Understanding, A Biography. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko. One of two biographies of McLuhan.

Gordon, W. Terrence (2010). McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum. Short, accessible introduction to McLuhan's key ideas.

Gordon, W. T. and Willmarth, S. (1997). McLuhan for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers. An accessible introduction to McLuhan's ideas. Narcissus, extension and autoamputation are discussed on pp. 55-57.

Levinson, P. (1999). Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium. London: Routledge. A chatty application of McLuhan's key ideas to digital media by one of his most enthusiastic acolytes.

Lister, M. et al. (2009). New Media: A Critical Introduction. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, pp. 77-85, 89-97. A short discussion of McLuhan's work and its influence, focusing particularly on the notion of technologies as extensions.

Lupton, E. and Miller, A. (1996). McLuhan/Fiore: Massaging the Message. In: Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic Design. London: Phaidon, pp. 90-101. A short, fascinating discussion of The Medium is the Massage (1967) from a design perspective.

Marchand, P. (1998). Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, a Biography. Revised ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT. One of two biographies of McLuhan.

McLuhan, E. and Zingrone, F. (eds) (1995). Essential McLuhan. New York: BasicBooks. A large selection of key essays and extracts.

McLuhan, M (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill. McLuhan's key text, also available in a critical edition from Gingko press (2003).

McLuhan, M., and Fiore, Q. with Agel, J. (1967). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Bantam Books. McLuhan's most accessible book, in which the typography, layout and accompanying images wittily illustrate his ideas and explorations.

McLuhan, M., and Parker, H. (1969). Counterblast. New York: Harcourt Brace & World. Aphorisms and ideas in a fetching black and purple package.

McLuhan, M. (1996). The Agenbite of Outwit. McLuhan Studies 2. Retrieved 25th Octobner 2010 from here. Accessible if quirky account of the way in which electronic technologies cause us to put our "central nervous system outside us".

McLuhan, M. (2003). Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews. McLuhan, S.and Staines, D. (eds). Cambridge, MA: MIT. A collection of informal lectures and transcribed interviews with McLuhan. Relatively accessible.

McLuhan, M. (2005). Marshall McLuhan Unbound, Vol. I. Eric McLuhan (ed.), Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press. Twenty short essays and articles by McLuhan, collected together in a funky box set.

Moos, M. A. (ed.) (1997). Media Research: Technology, Art, Communication: Essays by Marshall McLuhan. Amsterdam: G+B Arts International. A varied selection of essays by McLuhan.

Ovid (1955). Metamorphoses. Trans. Mary M. Innes. Harmondsworth: Penguin. See Book 3 for the myth of Narcissus, also available here.

Rosenthal, R. (ed.) (1968). McLuhan: Pro and Con. New York: Penguin. Twenty-four texts from contemporary popular and academic journals, magazine articles, and TV reviews, predominantly con.

Stearn, G. E. (ed.) (1967). McLuhan: Hot and Cool: a Primer for the Understanding of and a Critical Symposium with Responses by McLuhan. New York: Dial. Essays, book reviews and interviews on McLuhan, as well as a selection of essays by McLuhan himself from the early part of his career.


Deoxy.org: McLuhan (2005). Retrieved 27 October 2006 from here. Includes several audio, video and text pieces on and by McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan: The Man and his Message (2005). CBC Archives. Retrieved 27 October 2006 from here. Includes ten short television and radio clips from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation featuring or discussing McLuhan.

McLuhan, M., and Fiore, Q. with Agel, J. (1968). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Long playing record produced by John Simon. Columbia CS 9501, CL2701; rereleased on CD (1999): SONY Catalog #: SRCS-8912. Retreived 27 October 2006 from here. An audio version of McLuhan's book The Medium is the Massage.

UbuWeb (no date). Retrieved 27 October 2006 from here. Two radio interviews with McLuhan, one from the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, alongside Truman Capote, and one from Speaking Freely, hosted by Edwin Newman, in 1971.

Understanding McLuhan: In the Electric World, Change is the Only Stable Factor (1996). USA: Southam Interactive, 1996. CD-ROM on the ideas and life of Marshall McLuhan.


Explorations in Media Ecology (Media Ecology Association). Available in the Oxford Brookes library.

McLuhan Studies (1996-1999). Retrieved 27 October 2006 from here. Six issues of a journal of McLuhan studies, edited by Francesco Guardiani and Eric McLuhan. Includes pieces by Philip Marchand, Ted Gordon, Umberto Eco and McLuhan himself.


More comprehensive bibliographies of works by and on McLuhan are available here and here.