Marshall McLuhan never owned a mobile phone. He died in 1980, before such gadgets became widely available. Yet the theories he developed about the effect of communications media on the human psyche can be applied to recent technologies which he could have known nothing about. In fact, in the age of the Internet and the mobile phone, many people are beginning to read McLuhan with renewed interest.
At the time of his death, McLuhan’s reputation was probably at its lowest ebb. The media research centre he founded at Toronto University had been closed down. The period of his popular fame – when he had appeared on TV, given numerous public lectures, and even made a cameo appearance (as himself) in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall – all this was in the past. Within the academic world there was wide-spread doubt about his theories. Today, however, interest is reviving. His 1964 book Understanding Media has been reprinted by Routledge Classics every year since 2001 (three times in 2008). People are reading McLuhan, and it is not too difficult to understand why.