The Lost Tetrads of Marshall McLuhan
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MEDIA | COMMUNICATION
The pleasure to be taken in this text is to observe the obvious pleasure McLuhan had in assembling these little puzzles, allowing for plenty of head-shaking along the way. — Kirkus Reviews
The true masterwork of Marshall McLuhan. —Douglas Rushkoff
Marshall McLuhan was the visionary theorist best known for coining the phrase “the medium is the message.” His work prefigures and underlies the themes of writers and artists as disparate and essential as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Neil Postman, Seth Godin, Barbara Kruger, and Douglas Rushkoff, among countless others.
Shortly before his death, together with his media scholar son Eric, McLuhan worked on a new literary/visual code–almost a cross between hieroglyphics and poetry–that he called “the tetrads.” This was the ultimate theoretical framework for analyzing any new medium, a koan-like poetics that transcends traditional means of discourse. Some of the tetrads were published, but only a few. Now Eric McLuhan has recovered all the “lost” tetrads that he and his father developed, and accompanies them here with accessible explanations of how they function.
Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was an internationally-renowned media theorist and perhaps the first genuinely “modern” philosopher of communications. In the 1950s, he introduced the concept of the “global village,” a vast global “technological mind” that today would be called the Internet. Using humor and scholarship, he spoke of the interconnectedness of visual and written media—and nowhere do his theories achieve a more finished level than in the tetrads, as important visually as they are syntactically.
Besides co-writing Laws of Media in 1988 and working closely for many years with his father, Dr. Eric McLuhan has been deeply involved in exploring media ecology and communications. He is the author of more than a dozen books on media, perception, and literature. Currently, he is director of Media Studies and lectures at The Harris Institute for the Arts in Toronto.