Art is significant in the study of media in that it is the only example of consciousness of, and conscious response to, the effects of media on society. Whereas culture as a whole is blind to the effects of media even while and after they happen, artists are aware of them decades before they occur.[1] McLuhan goes so far as to assert that art is "precise advanced knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology."[2] Because this recognition comes before the numbness to the technology sets in, artists can, if given the proper influence, help society adjust to the new sense ratios before it is too late.[3]

McLuhan asserts that, in order for society to adapt to the rapid changes of electric media, artists need to be seen as essential. He parallels this shift to the fact that higher education, like art, used to be seen as a luxury—but the former is now recognized as a necessity. Unfortunately, just as society is unable to see the effects of media (or because of this inability), it has also been unable to see its need for art.[4] This lack of valuation can be seen in two extremes: first in ignoring art, and second in making celebrities of artists[5], treating "art appreciation" as a hobby, and generally in looking at works of art as meaningless aesthetic objects.[6]


  1. UM, p. 64
  2. UM, p. 66
  3. UM, p. 65
  4. UM, p. 65
  5. UM, p. 65
  6. UM, p. 66