Technological Anthropology: From Clay Zikkurats to Online Gaming – McLuhan Reloaded

Course convenor

Ferenc Hammer

Course Content

The course sets a modest goal: to assess certain social-technological inventions with the help of McLuhan’s dictum “The medium is the message”. Through the cultural analysis of Mumford’s Mega-machine, the moveable print, the printed map as a commodity, the 19th century railway network, the Taylorist/Fordist production system, the 20th century automobility, the everyday functionalism of the IKEA kind and time/spaces of video/computer games, the course will analyze how these cultural inventions have contributed to the reproduction and change of social relations in the West.

1. Introductory presentation

2. Technology: Basic terms. The medium is the message.

McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. New York: Signet Books. Online: Chapters 1 and 12.

3. McLuhan’s technological anthropology

McLuhan, Marshall & Fiore, Quentin (1967) The Medium is the Massage. An Inventory of Effects.

4. „The medium is the message”: The case of the pyramid construction

Mumford, Lewis (1986) ‚The design of the Mega-Machine‘ In: A gép mítosza. Budapest: Gondolat, pp. 45-64.

5. Movable print: New forms of text duplication

Eisenstein, Elizabeth (1993/1983) The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,. pp. 42-91.

6. The politics of map making

Black, Jeremy (1997) Maps and Politics. London: Reaktion Books. pp. 29-58.

7. The messages of the railway infrastructure

Beniger, James (1986) The Control Revolution. Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1986. pp. 219-237

8. Fordism, Taylorism and the assembly line

Jakobsen, Kjettil et al. (1998) ‘Engineering Cultures: European Appropriations of Americanism.’ In: Mikael Hard & Andrew Jamison (eds.) The Intellectual Appropriation of Technology: Discourses of Modernity, 1900-1939. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 101-127.

9. The automobile as a medium

Urry, John (2004) ‘The ‘System’ of Automobility’. Theory, Culture & Society. Vol. 21(4/5): 25–39

Barthes, R. (1957/1983) ‘Az új Citroen’. In: Mitológiák. Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó, pp. 127-132.

10. IKEA: The grammar of functionalism and the Swedish Modern

Mumford, Lewis (1952/1968) ‘Symbol and Function in Architecture’. In: Art & Technics. New York & London: Columbia University Press, pp. 111-135.

11. Identity and acting in time/spaces of computer games

Consalvo, Mia (2003) ‚Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans. A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative.’ TELEVISION & NEW MEDIA, Vol. 4 No. 3,

12. Final test

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