Marshall McLuhan in the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968-1974


Whole Earth Catalog, Spring 1969

Whole Earth Catalog, spring 1969

In 1968, Stewart Brand founded the Whole Earth Catalog. Brand’s goals were to make a variety of tools accessible to newly dispersed counterculture communities, back-to-the-land households, and innovators in the fields of technology, design, and architecture, and to create a community meeting-place in print. The catalogue quickly developed into a wide-ranging reference for new living spaces, sustainable design, and experimental media and community practices. After only a few years of publication it exploded in popularity, becoming a formidable cultural phenomenon.

Books, selected and described by the editorial staff and organized in sections titled Understanding Whole Systems, Shelter and Land Use, Communication, and Community, were the primary resources the Whole Earth Catalog offered. The following are from an exhibition of printed matter in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art Library surveying these publications that summarizes the history of the catalogue project. The selection reflects the publication’s focus on experimental ideas in design and technology and the dialogue between theorists and practitioners these ideas raised.

Mediated Art

In Understanding Media, McLuhan surveys changes in perception affected by evolving media environments, from early print culture to modern television. For McLuhan, the media environment of the electronic age demanded radically new pedagogy to help young minds navigate these new conditions. Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, influenced by McLuhan’s work, promoted experiments in new media as responsive to these shifts in culture, offering new possibilities for teaching and learning for an electronic age.

Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New American Library, 1964).

Understanding Media

Understanding Media Ad

Advertisement for Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in the Whole Earth Catalog

Culture Is Our Business

The pages of Marshall McLuhan’s Culture is Our Business resemble a slide show, coupling images borrowed from print and television advertisements with excerpts from McLuhan’s writing in an extended meditation and critical discussion of the state of commercial imagery and media. McLuhan was a central thinker on the subject, and his writings were of primary influence for a younger generation of new media practitioners.

Culture Cover Culture Cover

Back (left) and front (right) covers of Culture Is Our Business, Marshall McLuhan (McGraw-Hill, 1970).

See for more from the The Museum of Modern Art Library Whole Earth Catalog collection.

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