The world-renowned communications theorist and critic who has been called the "Oracle of the Electronic Age," Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was born on this day in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
He once observed, "A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters."
An English professor at the University of Toronto, he was best known for teaching that "the medium is the message." McLuhan examined the impact of television and the electronic media on society in creating what he described as "a global electronic village."
A lover of aphorisms he was not shy of controversy. In celebrating the scope and creativity of advertising, he said: "The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper... Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news."
Inspired by the mysticism of philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, McLuhan divided media into hot and cool categories. His two major books, The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (1964), probed the impact of the mass media on culture, how the electronic age reshaped life in the 20th century.
A prophet and pop icon, his "massage" and message remain timeless.
"The artist," he said, "is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness."
We don't have to agree on everything.