McLuhan Studies : Issue 5

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The Missing Media Laws

The Missing Media Laws


In 1988, during editorial meetings preparing Laws of the Media for the press, some painful decisions had to be taken. The book was too long. Something had to go, and the obvious place to make cuts was the fourth chapter, the large collection of "laws." The first chapter had already lost about 40-50 pages, with salutary results. The second, third and fifth chapters were tight and left alone. The fourth, though, had many dozens of examples of the four "laws" as they applied to the widest range of topics.

In conference with the editors, the decision was taken to leave in the final manuscript only enough to illustrate the versatility of the four "laws" as they relate to human innovation. First, since the book was conceived as a successor to Understanding Media, "laws" were included for each of the media in that earlier book. That done, additional "laws" were included that illustrated the range of their flexibility and some of the topics related to their nature and application.

Following are a few of the "laws" from the original manuscript (1978) that were omitted from the published Laws of Media in the interest of saving paper and keeping down the cost of the book. In the top right corner of several reproduced below there appears the words "private body" or "corporate body": in the original manuscript, most of the "laws" had this notation (omitted from the version eventually published). Its purpose was to indicate whether the topic was an extension of the body private or public. Occasionally, an additional prompt appeared (e.g., "flesh" in the tetrad for "Bed," below): this was to indicate the part of the body extended.

The editors of McLuhan Studies hope to make this a regular feature of subsequent issues.

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