4 min readMar 5, 2022


Expanded Tetrads Extensions by Gerry Fialka

Expanded Tetrads Extensions by Gerry Fialka

What is a meta for? We stand on the shoulders of giants and see beyond. As Umberto Eco says, “we sometimes manage to see farther on the horizon than they.” By expanding and enriching Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrad, we evoke the groundbreaking 1970 book Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood, who was one of the first to consider video as an art form. He was influential in establishing the field of media arts. He suggests that a new, expanded cinema is required for a new consciousness. We suggest that a new fifth question to the Tetrad will expand new consciousness.

McLuhan reworded Browning’s “Our reach should exceed our grasp or what is heaven for?” to “Our reach should exceed our grasp or what is a metaphor?” Fourness is a major theme, consult:

What is Finnegans Wake for? Marshall called his probes “applied Joyce.” McLuhan yelped, “Nobody could pretend serious interest in my work who is not completely familiar with all of Joyce.” Thus, contemplate these two excerpts from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, who presaged the Tetrad in 1939:

Our wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer, a tetradomational gazebocroticon … autokinatonetically preprovided with a clappercoupling.

As per act one, section two, schedule three, clause four of the fifth of; King Jark

McLuhan probed new questions about whole environments, and new metaphors on casualty. Uncover newness with pattern recognition leading to comprehensive awareness. In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen made Marshall say the McLuhan question, “You mean my whole fallacy is wrong?” as a statement. He exposed pop movie culture to Marshal backwards, which indeed evokes another McLuhanism, “A half truth is still alot of truth.”

“One runs down the street shouting, ‘I’ve got the answers.’ But what are the questions?’” — Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan and his son Eric developed a very powerful tool, known as the Laws of Media (LOM) or simply the Tetrad, for understanding a medium, a technology or any human artifact by asking four basic questions or making four statements.

The actor Christopher Walken evokes new questions by exploring hieroglyphics in the New York Times 2–7–22

NY TIMES: Why’s that?

WALKEN: Because if you’re performing, the writer will put a question mark after something or an exclamation point or even a period. It means that it’s the end of a thought and the beginning of another, whereas in life, conversation gets more schmeary. Sentences overlap. Thoughts overlap. Somebody told me an interesting thing: that the question mark is basically a hieroglyph.

NY TIMES: Of a cat’s tail, right?

WALKEN: Yes, of a cat walking away. Which is interesting, but dubious. Sometimes when I see a question mark in a script, I’ll deliberately make it a statement. Or if something has an exclamation point, I’ll make it a question just to see what will happen. Punctuation can be a stumbling block, so I take it out. This encounter illustrates what Marshall calls “complex clairvoyance” because Eric McLuhan called the Tetrad “a cross between hieroglyphics and poetry” in the 2017 book THE LOST TETRADS of MARSHALL MCLUHAN.

I have hosted Tetrad group meetings for nearly 4 decades. Our members have suggested a fifth question for the Tetrad. What does it satirize? What does it syncretize? (amalgamate) What does it metaphorize? become a metaphor of? cause a metaphor? What does it retrofit in the private/corporate body?

Duncan’s fifth question has been probed for awhile. It recalls Frank Zappa’s embracing contradiction with the line: “Nothing is what I want.”

Do Tetrads with a group of people. Join us

Add Duncan’s fifth question. We can extend James Joyce’s “epiphanies in everydayness” and expand Joyce’s discovery “that all social changes are the effect of new technologies on the order of our sensory lives” — McLuhan.

Let us reinvent the axioms: “we shape our tools, then they shape us” and “breakdowns as breakthroughs.” Does the particular contain the universal? Can we get to the heart of the hidden psyche effects of inventions so we can cope with what we do not like about them?

In conclusion, “Let us pry” (- Finnegans Wake). Tony Conrad said the role of the artist is to break laws that have not been made yet. “Anarchy is making rules for yourself, not others.” — Utah Phillips. Who is entitled to make laws? The Laws of Media? The New Science?

Contemplate this McLuhan question: “How about technologies as the collective unconscious and art as the collective unconsciousness?” And then, think about Zappa’s quiz: “Who are the brain police?”

McLuhan extended Mallarmé’s “To define is to kill, to suggest is to create” to “evolution is to adapting to exploration.”

Please read:





I welcome your input. Gerry Fialka 310–306–7330

“Understanding is not a point of view” — Marshall McLuhan