In 1960 and for a few years thereafter, McLuhan used the image of Archimedes’ lever to point to the inherently ontological or universalizing nature of media such that they “embrace the globe”, “imposing their assumptions upon the entire community”:
Technology, the Media, and Culture, 1960
The boast of Archimedes was fulfilled in the phonetic alphabet. The culture that uses it stands on the human eye and levers all the other senses into distorted configurations. Today, Archimedes can stand on the ear by radio or our tactile sense by television and enlarge the operation of these organs till they embrace the globe.
Effects of the Improvements of Communication Media, 1960
I would suggest that the penetrative powers of any structure of technology lie precisely here: namely, that the ratio among sight and sound, and touch and motion, offer precisely that place to stand which Archimedes asked for: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”
Effects of the Improvements of Communication Media 1960
…media as extensions of our senses offer ready access to our inmost lives, putting the lever of Archimedes in the hands of bureaucrat and entrepreneur alike.
McLuhan to Serge Chermayeff Dec 19, 19601
Natural resources and staples, whether cotton, fish, lumber, coal, iron, water power or waterways are in certain respects low-grade media of communication gradually imposing their assumptions upon the entire community, creating a kind of organic unity. But our electronic media are in a very basic sense new natural resources, new staples of global extent and distribution since they are extensions of our own private senses. Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and I’ll move the world.” Photography, radio, television, et cetera enable anybody to stand on the collective human ear, eye, skin and to manipulate the entire human population as natural resource.
The Humanities in the Electronic Age 1961
Madison Avenue is the collective Archimedes of our time. Archimedes had rightly observed: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Today, looking at our globally dilated senses, he would comment: “Well, I’ll be fulcrummed. Why, I can stand on your ear, on your eye, on your skin and move your world as I wish.”
Understanding Media, 19642
Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. (…) As long as we adopt the Narcissus attitude of regarding the extensions of our own bodies as really out there and really independent of us, we will meet all technological challenges with the same sort of banana-skin pirouette and collapse. Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Today he would have pointed to our electric media and said, “I will stand on your eyes, your ears, your nerves, and your brain, and the world will move in any tempo or pattern I choose.” We have leased these “places to stand” to private corporations.3