McLuhan is claiming that Gutenberg technology was the reason of human psyche fragmentation, primitivism and social conformism. I am trying to find links between Gutenberg technology and the phenomenon of fragmentation and see none. Could anyone explain how these two are connected?

What seems to me is that McLuhan mixes up specifically western people development, their cultural evolution with how Gutenberg technology affects people and these two seem completely disconnected for me. My experience tells me the opposite: well-read people tend to be more complex vs people who don’t read books (all other parameters being as equal as possible).

For me his reaction seems more like emotional counter reaction against educated peoples’ views who saw degradation of human being with the coming new TV, radio technologies (which seems more correct way of viewing the effect of these technologies) and nothing more than that. I get such an impression because I don’t get the links between the two phenomena. Could anyone elaborate on that?

Also asked here (some comments below linguistics post elaborate a bit more on the question):


Another his idea: Gutenberg technology and specifically phonetic alphabet leads to point of view (and linear thinking) vs mosaic integrative view that is brought in by electric technology.

What it seems to me is that he is considering here as a Gutenberg human a poorly educated individual whereas enough educated ones tend to have the opposite mosaic world view and without any resort whatsoever to TV technology.

The latter actually throws back to narrow-minded ‘point of view’ approach that is clearly demonstrated by today’s inability of regular people to build the bridges between, say, conservatism ideas and democratic ones leading to conflicts and tensions. At the very least these two: human fragmentation, negative things about the western people that McLuhan saw and Gutenberg technology effects seem to me either a rather disconnected phenomena or related in very intricate ways far from as simplistic as he describes it.

Still, I admit I can be totally wrong just out of misunderstanding or not seeing what he actually means. He is giving very definite answers and strong claims, so I suppose he has foundations for that.

Book of the McLuhan where he claims that:


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. You said "McLuhan is claiming that Gutenberg technology was the reason of human psyche fragmentation, primitivism and social conformism." Who is McLuhan? What is the publication where he/she said this? I wonder whether this is just pure speculation, in which case this questions would be off-topic as opinion-based questions do not illicit good scientific discussion. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Feb 21 '20 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Of course it is not just my speculations. I added the link to wiki article of the book, so please, see above. He claims that on many many pages and stresses it out all the time because it is one of the central points of his book. $\endgroup$ – Nikita Vlasenko Feb 21 '20 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ One of the responses that I got from linguistics forum is that McLuhan meant that Gutenberg technology allowed for newspapers, short circulars serve as propaganda and a way for everyone to think the same: one consults written media for how he or she should behave and think. But in this case, he did not make a distinction between propaganda aspect and the technology itself. TV is used way more efficiently today with even much better results however, McLuhan was claiming TV (electricity technology) being the opposite to Gutenberg technology in that. $\endgroup$ – Nikita Vlasenko Feb 21 '20 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ I want to hear what others on psychology forum think about the effects of Gutenberg technology on human psyche, whether there are any other authors that treat the subject differently. How much people agree/disagree with McLuhan thesis and why. Pretty much looking for a one page answer with bullet points either dismissing his claims or explaining of why what he says is true and only regarding this fragmentation of psyche idea mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Nikita Vlasenko Feb 21 '20 at 16:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.