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McLuhan in Reverse

His General Theory of Media (GToM)


Robert K. Logan

McLuhan in Reverse proposes two new and startling theses about Marshall McLuhan’s body of work. The first argues that despite McLuhan’s claim that he did not work from a theory, his body of work in fact constitutes a theory that Robert K. Logan calls his General Theory of Media (GToM). The second thesis is that McLuhan’s GToM is characterized by a number of reversals, including his reversals of figure and ground, cause and effect, percepts and concepts; and the medium and its content as described in his famous one-liner "the medium is the message." 

While McLuhan’s famous Laws of Media are part of his GToM, Logan has identified nine other elements of the GToM. They are his use of probes; figure/ground analysis; the idea that the medium is the message; the subliminal nature of ground or environment revealed only by the creation of an anti-environment; the reversal of cause and effect; the importance of percept over concept and hence a focus on the human sensorium and media as extensions of man; the division of communication into the oral, written, and electric ages along with the notions of acoustic and visual space; the notion of the global village; and finally, media as environments and hence media ecology.

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I wish to acknowledge what I believe to be the source of my insight that reversals play a key role in McLuhan’s GToM. Although I have been involved in McLuhan studies since 1974 when I first met Marshall McLuhan and began working with him, the insight that reversals played such a key role in his thinking is only a recent insight that is not more than a year or two old. I believe that what prompted this insight was the suggestion that Izabella Pruska-Oldenhoff made to me when she posited that there was a spiral structure to Marshall McLuhan’s thinking. This led to a paper we wrote together entitled “The Spiral Structure of Marshall McLuhan’s Thinking (Logan and Pruska-Oldenhoff 2017).” We further pursued this idea in a chapter in a book in press with Springer entitled A Topology of the Mind. The reason I wish to credit Pruska-Oldenhof’s identification of the spiral structure of McLuhan’s thinking with my insight of McLuhan’s use of reversals is that the spiral structure contains the notion of reversal. As a spiral goes forward in one direction it reverses itself in the plane perpendicular to the forward motion going back and forth in a circular motion.

The original idea for Chapter Four was formulated as a direct result of listening to Douglas Rushkoff’s presentation based on his book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto on November 21, 2016....

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