Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

McLuhan: From tweedy academic to household name

As icons go, few Canadians can claim the cachet of Herbert Marshall McLuhan.

Think of it: a humble, tweedy academic (an English literature scholar, no less) who became a household name, right up there with the Beatles, Andy Warhol and Timothy Leary.

For most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s, McLuhan seemed to be everywhere – on radio, in print, in film (most notably with a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's Annie Hall) and especially on television. The latter, ironically, was a medium he considered pernicious, a certain harbinger of the eventual demise of print culture.

Story continues below advertisement

He distilled his genius, including phrases that became and remain part of the daily lexicon, such as "the medium is the message," into sometimes puzzling aphorisms, an early form of the sound byte.

But like many gurus and theorists, perhaps, McLuhan was sometimes famous for being famous, his work more often referenced than read.

Some three decades after his death, how much do we actually know about Marshall McLuhan and his critical thinking?

In honour of the centenary of his birth, take this special Globe and Mail quiz, assembled by Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, co-chair of McLuhan100 and director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology at the University of Toronto.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to