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Marshall McLuhan’s Safe-Cracker Approach to Writing

Safe-crackerI love Marshall McLuhan’s description of his work in media. It explains his style and reason for writing which was strictly to understand. McLuhan referenced his written observations as probes. He popularized pre-publication before there was such as thing. I can relate to this safe-cracker approach since this is how I have often seen this site and its purpose.

Here is McLuhan on his writing and approach:

I’m making explorations. I don’t know where they’re going to take me. My work is designed for the pragmatic purpose of trying to understand our technological environment and its psychic and social consequences. But my books constitute the process rather than the completed product of discovery; my purpose is to employ facts as tentative probes, as means of insight, of pattern recognition, rather than to use them in the traditional and sterile sense of classified data, categories, containers. I want to map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks.

But I’ve never presented such explorations as revealed truth. As an investigator, I have no fixed point of view, no commitment to any theory–my own or anyone else’s. As a matter of fact, I’m completely ready to junk any statement I’ve ever made about any subject if events don’t bear me out, or if I discover it isn’t contributing to an understanding of the problem. The better part of my work on media is actually somewhat like a safe-cracker’s. I don’t know what’s inside; maybe it’s nothing. I just sit down and start to work. I grope, I listen, I test, I accept and discard; I try out different sequences–until the tumblers fall and the doors spring open. — The Playboy Interview, Marshall McLuhan, 1969


If you liked Marshall McLuhan’s Safe-cracker Approach you might like the 33 charts Creativity Archives. It’s everything published here that deals with creativity. Love this tag and I think you will too. Every post has tags that will take you to related archival material — Look for ‘em. And happy reading!

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