• Alan Liu, “Introduction” to A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Ray Siemens and Susan Schreibman (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) 3-25

“At the end of his borrowed anecdote of the African listening to the BBC [in Understanding Media, p. 20], McLuhan concludes: ‘In the seventeenth century our ancestors still shared this native’s attitude to the forms of media.’ Even as he projects the otherness of new media onto the cultural other, he introjects that otherness into the cultural self. It is really the Westerner (genealogically: Renaissance man) who passes as African. A similar identity chiasmus can be detected in other rehearsals of new media encounter. … [W]hat I called McLuhan’s ‘Caliban’ moment is instructive. In the media studies field, the mysterious process of enchantment / colonization that brings the African under the spell of the Prospero BBC goes by the name of ‘media determinism.’ … The Caliban moment collapses into the Machiavellian moment. Media enchantment entails disenchantment and, ultimately, resistance. … The post-McLuhan media archaeology and history of book movements … are far more historically detailed, but in the end no less descriptive. … It is very bizarre … that McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’ [in Understanding Media] contains a sustained sequence of strained analogies between electronic media and Shakespeare passages. … Such symptoms are an indicator that the break between old and new media is not clean, that there is instead a linkage, but that the linkage cannot be fully rationalized. In this case, the accident [sic] that McLuhan happened to start as a scholar of English Renaissance literature stands in haphazardly [sic] for the deeper historical, social, and other continuities that link the rise of print to the rise of electronic media.”

  • Geoffrey Roper, “The Printing Press and Change in the Arab World,” Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, ed. Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist and Eleanor F. Shevlin (Amherst and Boston: U Massachusetts P, 2007) 250-267.


“I wrote in 1988, ‘printing has its own direct effects, as Innis, McLuhan, Febvre and Eisenstein have shown. These operate, as they have demonstrated, both on the cognitive plane, and on the socioeconomic plane. The systematic investigation of these factors might shift the historical perspective somewhat: westernization might then perhaps seem a less direct cause of some of the changes in Middle Eastern thought and society in the nineteenth century [Arabic Printing in Malta 1825-1845, Ph.D. thesis, U of Durham, 1988].’ I stand by these words, and call upon my colleagues, in the spirit of Eisenstein, to devote more effort to that systematic investigation.” (267)

Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village (London: Pluto P, 2007)

70: “McLuhan’s intellectual transformation was aided by the gift of a book: Wiener’s Cybernetics. For the first time, he realised that the computer wasn’t just a digital calculator, but also a communications device. Above all, like many of his peers, McLuhan became convinced that this new technology had created a new theoretical paradigm. Following the Macy conference example, he set up his own multidisciplinary research project at Toronto University [sic]. During the 1950s, McLuhan and his colleagues dedicated themselves to the task [71] of developing a cybernetic analysis of the mass media and popular culture.”

74: “McLuhan believed that … [the] political system was in crisis. When printing had dominated society, people had accepted the limitations of representative democracy. But, with the advent of the electronic media they now wanted more direct participation in political decision making. Sooner or later, choosing between candidates would be replaced by on-line voting in daily referendums.”

165: “When he became an ARPA director, Licklider was given the chance to fulfil his own predictions. With money diverted from the U.S. defence budget, he set out to realise his dream of building a computer-mediated communications system accessible to everyone: the ‘intergalactic network.’”6

Note 6: This nickname for the Net was a remix of McLuhan’s electric global network.”

173: “[McLuhan’s] exuberant style appalled the Cold War Left. McLuhan’s intuitive thought probes offended against the accepted methodology of intellectual labour. … In order for McLuhanism to become the new dogma of American hegemony, the Cold War Left had to reconcile McLuhan’s idiosyncratic technique with these professional requirements. … Oracular pronouncements had to be backed up with value-free research. Only after making these corrections would the Cold War Left’s intellectuals have completed the construction of their new intellectual orthodoxy: McLuhanism without McLuhan.30  Note 30: Despite their very obvious theoretical debt to McLuhan, [Herman] Kahn and [Anthony] Wiener never mentioned his writings in their book [The Year 2000]”

177: “Like McLuhan and Brzezinski [in Between Two Ages], [Daniel Bell, in The Coming of Post-Industrial Society] also claimed that the manufacture of goods was being replaced by the provision of services, national independence was giving way to global interdependence, and the new forms of media were creating a new culture.”

179: “Despite Brzezinski and Bell’s refusal to acknowledge their mentor, both of them remained completely dependent upon McLuhan’s oracular pronouncements. The Cold War Left had lacked an imaginary future of its own so it had been forced to borrow one from somebody else. …. [180] Thanks to Brzezinski and Bell, it was now possible to be a McLuhanist without having to quote McLuhan.”

247: “For the New Left, rock concerts, psychedelic happenings, beat poetry, underground newspapers, alternative films, community radio stations and video screenings were an integral part of making the revolution. … The New Left had rejected all of the Cold War Left’s ideologies except its most seductive product: McLuhanism.”

249: “Enthused by a mixture of Marxism and McLuhanism, radical members of the knowledge class had become convinced that the academic gift economy was the precursor of the social revolution. … [250]  Before a select gathering of American and European decision makers at the 1969 meeting of the conspiratorial [sic] Bilderberg Group, McLuhan mischievously highlighted this ideological conundrum by asking the never-to-be-asked-in-public question: ‘What are we fighting Communism for? We are the most Communist people in world history.’”

290: “In their writings, McLuhan, [Norbert] Wiener, and Marx have provided us with a starting point for a modern understanding of the Net. … To be intelligent, early twenty-first century Marxism-McLuhanism must become humanist.”