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The Mechanical Handmaiden Rhetoric After Marshall McLuhan

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Despite a recent revival, Marshall McLuhan remains stranded on the theoretical margins of communication scholarship. Whether primarily because of his aphoristic and ambiguous writing or because of the immense difficulties posed by his thought for the study of communication, his peripheral status sidesteps around the important contributions he has made to understanding human discourse and interaction. In an effort to confront and reclaim McLuhan from the margins, this article considers the consequences of his thought for a subset of communication scholarship: the study of rhetoric. We contend that McLuhan’s work offers certain correctives to the conventional study of rhetoric that make possible a confluence of rhetorical criticism and media ecology, a convergence necessitated by the politics and ideologies of today’s changing media environment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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  • EME explores the relationships between media, technology, symbolic form, communication, consciousness, and culture. Its scope is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Media ecology provides a rich philosophical, historical and practical context for studying our increasingly technological and mediated society and culture with an emphasis on historical context.
    Media ecology scholarship emphasizes a humanistic approach to understanding media, communication, and technology, with special emphasis on the ways in which we have been and continue to be shaped and influenced by our inventions and innovation. The Media ecology approach is predicated on understanding that media, symbols, and technologies play a leading role in human affairs, and function as largely invisible environments affecting the way we think, feel, act, and organize ourselves collectively.
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