Volume 10, Issue 3-4
  • ISSN: 1539-7785
  • E-ISSN: 2048-0717


This article builds on the notion that McLuhan is "beyond categorization" in the sense that his thought—much like the media of communication he sought to understand—is in constant flux. Attempts to reduce the multiple resonances of McLuhan's work to an explicit "message" or text, either by erroneously assigning ready-made labels such as "technological determinism" or by uncritically worshipping an accumulation of mummified insights, are destined to fail. McLuhan should be engaged by an authentic appropriation of the possibilities inherent in his work. This requires apprehending his work as a medium (a body of thought to think from, through, and with) rather than containing hard truths to be understood explicitly. The key is to engage with his probes as explorations at the level of ground; it is about deploying his insights in order to uncover "areas of inattention"—that is, digging up possibilities for interpreting mediated reality from out of unlikely regions in his oeuvre. A mostly unexplored area of inquiry within McLuhan studies is the connection between the perceptual model of his "general media theory" and Heideggerian-inspired phenomenologies. This article brings McLuhan's media theory—grounded on the senses, embodiment, and mediation-into conversation with existential phenomenology—grounded on perception, existence, and lived-through world experience. This article plumbs an unexplored hidden existential side to McLuhan that should be examined for the mutual benefit of McLuhan studies, media theory, and phenomenology.Heidegger surfboards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode on the mechanical wave. —Marshall McLuhan (1962)Existentialism offers a philosophy of structures, rather than categories, and of total social involvement instead of the bourgeois spirit of individual separateness or points of view. —Marshall McLuhan (1964)[P]henomenology [is] that which I have been presenting for many years in non-technical terms. —Marshall McLuhan (Letter to Roger Poole, July 24, 1978)


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