McLuhan occasionally used the term ‘membrane’ in his later work:

People of literary and critical bias find the shrill vehemence of de Chardin as disconcerting as his uncritical enthusiasm for the cosmic membrane that has been snapped round the globe by the electric dilation of our various senses. (GG 32)

Electricity has wrapped the planet in a single cohesive field or membrane that is organic rather than mechanical in nature. (The Electronic Age – The Age of Implosion)


All men are totally involved in the insides of all men. There is no privacy and no private parts. In a world in which we are all ingesting and digesting one another there can be no obscenity or pornography or decency. Such is the law of electric media which stretch the nerves to form a global membrane of enclosure. (Notes on Burroughs)

Government had begun in a modest way as the figure of the helmsman. The ship represented the entire human community. Today, the rudder has become much larger than the ship. The number of helmsmen are coextensive with the community. (…) The stretching of the bounds of government has coincided with the contraction of the social membrane. (TT, 217)

Finnegans Wake is very much concerned with the resonance in the ‘tribal membrane‘ and the drama among the instincts and the artifacts of language and technology, leading to the awareness of the electric role in ‘waking’ or retrieving the old tribal man. (‘The Implications of Cultural Uniformity’,  1973)1

  1. In Superculture: American Popular Culture and Europe (1975). With “tribal membrane” McLuhan was citing from William Empson’s great poem ‘Arachne’: “King spider, walks the velvet roof of streams: / Must bird and fish, must god and beast avoid: / Dance, like nine angels, on pin-point extremes. / His gleaming bubble between void and void, / Tribe-membrane, that by mutual tension stands, / Earth’s surface film, is at a breath destroyed.”