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McLuhan, Marshall and Eric McLuhan.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1988. 252pp, cloth. $27.50. ISBN 0-8020-5782-9. CIP

Reviewed by John Bainbridge

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Laws of Media grew out of a request by McLuhan's publisher to revise an earlier work. Understanding Media (London: ARK Paperbacks. 1987, 1964). McLuhan. In an attempt to deal with the criticisms levelled at that book, went beyond the scope of Understanding Media and attempted to establish a broad scientific theory for understanding the development of human language and culture. Laws of Media is the result of this research.

McLuhan died before Laws of Media was completed, but not before he had developed, or discovered, as the authors claim, four laws or dimensions, which he called the "tetrad." in demonstrating the tetrad, McLuhan and his collaborator, his son Eric, use both mundane and abstruse artifacts, from "cigarette," "credit card" and "high-rise" to "Aristotelian Causality" and "Acoustic Space."

The tetrad is the tool they use to build a foundation for understanding all human activity, and in so doing they draw upon many broad and widely differing fields. They jump from quantum mechanics to the bicameral mind and Tom Wolfe, using broad and often unsupported generalizations in constructing their thesis.

They cover this huge field of human intellectual achievement in a book of less than 250 pages, two fifths of which is devoted to examples of tetrads, and at least one quarter of which is made up of quotations from some of their sources. Hence, while their idea is interesting, one is left with the feeling that it has been inadequately developed. They certainly fail to establish their claim that the study of media is a science.

John Bainbridge, Beatty-Fleming Senior Public School, Brampton, Ont.
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