“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”

01Apr13

The quote “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”  is often mistakenly attributed to Marshall McLuhan. It does NOT appear in “Understanding Media”, as Wilson Miner confidently asserts in the presentation below, indeed it does not appear in any published work by McLuhan at all. The quote was actually written by Father John Culkin, SJ, a Professor of Communication at Fordham University in New York and friend of McLuhan. But though the quote is Culkin’s, I would argue that the idea is McLuhan’s, as it comes up in an article by Culkin about McLuhan: Culkin, J.M. (1967, March 18). A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan. Saturday Review, pp. 51-53, 71-72. The idea presented in the quote is entirely consistent with McLuhan’s thinking on technology in general.

Photos of Father John Culkin and Marshall McLuhan
 

This excellent 38 minute presentation by digital product designer Wilson Miner is titled “When We Build” and weaves together a discussion about Marshall McLuhan, Steve Jobs, the things we design and build, cars, computers, art and design. It is well worth watching and listening to.

853515f6f09993578293927c203154a7-large Wilson Miner

About Wilson Miner http://wilsonminer.com/ 

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8 Responses to ““We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us””

  1. Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?

    I have a blog centered on the same subjects you
    discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my subscribers would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free
    to send me an email.

  2. “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” was in a McLuhan publication, just not a book. It is on the recording “The Medium is the Massage” which was released in 1967. You can hear on side 2 at the 15:45 mark on my copy. He was actually rephrasing Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings and they shape us.”


  1. 1 “Os homens criam as ferramentas, e as ferramentas recriam os homens”
  2. 2 Technology Shapes Human Affairs | @pmarca Says
  3. 3 Life out of sequence – Hallam Stevens’ data-driven history of bioinformatics | Scientific B-sides
  4. 4 The idea of reading as a shaping tool. | Five Books That Shaped Me

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