In 1966, media theorist Marshall McLuhan, designer Quentin Fiore and producer Jerome Agel set the scene for a new publishing genre with the release of The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Utilizing collaged, cinematic combinations of text and image, Massage and the subsequent “non-book” titles produced in the following decade were made to appeal to the short attention spans of the television (or electric information) age. Though now nearly half a century old, this short-lived set of experimental books provides a set of possibilities for counteracting anxieties on the role of print in today’s media landscape of socially-networked, data-saturated prosumers.
The books are a core inspiration for the Inventory Books series (edited and designed by Project Projects co-founder Adam Michaels), and are the subject matter of the most recent series release, The Electric Information Age Book. Drawing upon research and visuals that couldn’t fit into the book, this week we’ll be showing some highlights of the genre.
We’ll begin, fittingly, with a book by Agel—an all-around enabler, writer, editor, designer, advertiser, producer and packager for whom a book was considered both a business and a media event. Published in 1972, Is Today Tomorrow? A Synergistic Collage of Alternative Futures combines a mosaic of quotations and a school curriculum on futurology; bits of wisdom from the likes of Guy Debord, Claude Levi-Strauss, Lewis Mumford and others; clippings of Peanuts and other comic strips; pagination and running headers that remain scattershot until the final section; immersive full-bleed imagery; and several Hitchcockian photo references pointing to Agel, the producer behind it all.