The Extensions of Man (Assignment 9: Week 10)

Explain and give your personal interpretation on Marshall McLuhan’s “The Tetrad” diagram.


(Marshall McLuhan)

       A Canadian professor, philosopher of communication theory and public intellectual; Herbert Marshall McLuhan (Marshall McLuhan for short) helped society by creating work that soon became a vital element in the study of media theory. His work had also become a foundation of a systematic approach towards issues essentially having practical applications in advertising and television industries.

“Medium is the message” as well as “global village” was one of the few known terms made by McLuhan as he predicted the World Wide Web in 1962, thirty years before the internet was ever created.

“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”

-Marshall McLuhan, CBC TV.

The tetrad of media effects was also one of McLuhan’s known expression on the subject matter as he summarized his ideas on the media in a concise tetrad (a group of four). The tetrad served as a guide as well as examining the effects the media holds on society. McLuhan’s pedagogical tetrad pulls us to explore and consider four questions about the media:

  1. What does the medium/technology enhance?
  2. What does the medium/technology make obsolete?
  3. What does the medium/technology retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does the medium/technology flip into when pushed to extremes?


To my understanding, the tetrad serves its purpose for people to analyze the possibilities in media or technology. For example, by taking the internet as a medium, the internet enhances communication as well as retrieving and receiving information in a effective fast paced manner. Printed publications and television slowly become obsolete  as the internet provides the same material online throughout the web. The internet retrieves as people share their thoughts and opinions on public forums despite graphical differences. When pushed, the internet flips/reverse the thought process of people with negativity corresponding to lies, racism or bigotry to name a few.

With this in mind, Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad shows that there is never only one answer when it comes to media. It brings different concepts, together forming into  whole. A completion greater than in parts.

“We found that everything man[kind] makes and does, every procedure, every style, every artefact, every poem, song, painting, gimmick, gadget, theory, technology – every product of human effort – manifested the same four dimensions.”

-Eric and Marshall McLuhan, Laws of Media, 1988.




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