The Influencing Machine

The Influencing Machine is a brilliant piece of comic non-fiction about media. It was written by journalist, editor and host Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld (his A Few Perfect Hours is one of my favourite travel comics) and the collaboration enhances both of their strengths.

The comic format makes media literacy, theory and history much more palatable. The complexities of how media shapes us and how we shape media can be overwhelming, but this is a work that employs both comprehensive explorations and clear expression. The book covers centuries of media history and views from thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil, Douglas Adams, Marshall McLuhan and Abraham Maslow with much grace.

It’s the inclusion of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that solidified my appreciation of The Influencing Machine. It’s frustratingly rare that human development is acknowledged as important to how societies function, so it was refreshing to read a book where it was pointed out.

There’s a lot of caution urged in The Influencing Machine, but it carries a hopeful tone in the face of plenty of ugliness in media. I haven’t encountered a better look at where we’ve been with media and where we might go and I unreservedly recommend this book.

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