Thus, we would feel the thirst of people in drought-stricken Africa, the hopelessness of the poor in overcrowded cities of South Asia, the police beatings endured by those who sought their constitutional right to vote in the American South. “Electronic interdependence” would result.
Some of us who taught McLuhan’s The Medium Is the Message may have embraced his theories of communication with too uncritical an eye. We may have seen “the global village” as para-disiacal, all empathy and fellow feeling, devoid of bitterness and strife. Peace might break out [that's a misreading of McLuhan & not what he intended; see the posting on the Global Village immediately below this one.]
“They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems.”
It didn’t, of course. Television made it more difficult for Lyndon Johnson to wage war in Vietnam, just as it did for Police Chief Bull Conner to bludgeon civil rights protestors in Birmingham,
Ala. But Vietnam dragged on for a dozen bloody years, and all the electronically produced fellow feeling of the post-Vietnam era could not stop Kosovo, 9/11, and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Yet many persist in arguing that we can achieve salvation through media; this time it’s the digital revolution. Various social media have the power to organize masses in support of or opposition to political and social injustice.
Twitter and Facebook, it’s argued, gathered the crowds that toppled tyrants in Egypt and Libya, and Syria’s Assad will be the next to fall. In short, social media gave us the “Arab Spring,” that seeming glorious triumph of the people over despotism.
In the wake of the Japanese tsunami and the Boston Marathon bombing, Facebook provided survivors with a means to reassure friends and relatives.
Democrats argue that utilization of social media provided Barack Obama his winning margins in 2008 and 2012. Republicans counter that when they’ve mastered them as thoroughly, the GOP will regain the White House.
And well they might, for certainly the most extraordinary development brought on by the digital revolution is the democratization of communication. Every man or woman, adolescent to adult, with a smartphone, tablet or laptop becomes a reporter, an expert, a scholar. Tweet and you will be heard. Post and you will be read. Blog and you may influence.
In Silicon Valley, where the digital revolution seems to make a millionaire a minute, many believe their creations do indeed provide the keys to the peaceable kingdom. In a recent New Yorker piece, award-winning journalist George Packer quoted one young technology entrepreneur: “Many see their social responsibility fulfilled by their businesses, not by social or political action. It’s remarkably convenient that they can achieve all their goals just by doing their start-up.
“They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems. It isn’t cynicism – it’s arrogance and ignorance.”
There are, of course, no panaceas. And unfiltered, unchecked tweets and posts spell nothing more than opinion. They may constitute a more democratic body of communication, but all opinions are not equal.
Nor will repetition of lies make them facts. Tweet, yell or post repeatedly and democratically, for example, that “Global warming is a myth!” and you may drown out the findings of the world’s scientists. But you will only perpetuate ignorance. http://tinyurl.com/l3lqls8
The book is no longer “king,” says Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College. McLuhan studies the effects of mass media on behaviour and thought. In this CBC report on the teenager, he discusses how our youth facilitate the global shift from print to electronic media. Television has transformed the world into an interconnected tribe he calls a “global village.” There’s an earthquake and no matter where we live, we all get the message. And today’s teenager, the future villager, who feels especially at home with our new gadgets — the telephone, the television — will bring our tribe even closer together. ( http://tinyurl.com/bqt4sut )
• At the time of this interview McLuhan was working on The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which the idiom “global village” first appeared. It was his most prominent book next to Understanding Media (1964).
• McLuhan warned that the future global village would be wrought with violence. He figured the electronic process would force people to “re-tribalize,” placing excessive stress on individuals and traditional identities.
• He wrote a draft of The Gutenberg Galaxy in less than a month and the book was published shortly after in 1962. It examines the effects of the printing press on thought and space. McLuhan maintained it lessened the need for manuscripts, put monks and scribes out of work and developed a correct spelling usage.
• His first book, The Mechanical Bride , published in 1951, maintained that advertisers exploited images of women to sell products.
“Ours is a brand-new world of all-at-once-ness.’Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished. We now live in a ‘global village’…a simultaneous happening. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience co-exist in a state of active interplay.” (The Medium is the Massage, 1967, p. 63)
Key Themes & Ideas: “These new media of ours … have made our world into a single unit….the world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message…. all the time. A princess gets married in England and boom boom boom go the drums and we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa, a Hollywood star gets drunk…away go the drums again. I use the word tribal….it is probably the key word …”
Electronic culture is “with it” – book culture is away from it, solitary – e-culture a continually sounding tribal e.g. princess gets married in England – electronic man is tribal – distinct from individual man – no private, point of view, self-definition – books still important, but have different role – but book’s role now diminished – books were our first teaching machine & only teaching machine during Renaissance – today we have many teaching machines – we learn everywhere, not just in school – the assembly line derived from books (printed pages) – but assembly lines now changed, simultaneous operations, not one thing at a time - no longer a line, but rather a field – print affected every aspect of our lives – books & media today work through our senses – print altered our sense ratios & so will new media – the difference between a teenager & an adolescent – teenager electronic – adolescent, like books.
He was a man of idioms and idiosyncrasies, deeply intelligent and a soothsayer. He had prescient knowledge of the Internet. Although educated in literature, Marshall McLuhan was known as a pop philosopher because his theories applied to mini-skirts and the twist. For his ability to keep up with the cutting edge, one colleague called him “The Runner.” Critics said he destroyed literary values. Today, McLuhan’s ideas are new again, applied to the electronic media that he predicted.
We waste too much time racing from home to office, says Marshall McLuhan, an English professor at the University of Toronto who’s becoming known internationally for his study on the effects of media. Society’s obsession with files and folders forces office workers to make the daily commute from the suburbs to downtown. McLuhan says the stockbroker is the smart one. He learned some time ago that most business may be conducted from anywhere if done by phone. McLuhan’s prescient knowledge: In the future, people will no longer only gather in classrooms to learn but will also be moved by “electronic circuitry.” (CBC Digital Archives, http://tinyurl.com/9nldm8h )
Key Themes & Ideas: We live ahead of our thinking - classroom without walls - learning via circuitry - telecommuting will replace commuting to work - we only need to go to the office for files (data) - business can be done electronically - human need to categorize - marketing is speeded up beyond production
Learning by “electronic circuitry”: e-Learning/Online Learning
I am planning to watch, document and catalogue all of the videos available on the Internet that: 1. Show Marshall McLuhan lecturing, being interviewed, or otherwise holding forth on his ideas about media, technology, culture and education, and 2. Offer video commentaries by others seeking to explain McLuhan and his work that have something useful to say. These videos will appear here more-or-less one per week, with keywords and key phrases identified indicating the major ideas discussed. This will aid my own research, locate videos that I might wish to use in my teaching, and hopefully be a useful resource for researchers and McLuhan enthusiasts seeking to locate his comments on specific themes and ideas.
Description of McLuhan’s appearance on the Dick Cavett Show from the ECHOVAR blog http://blog.echovar.com/?p=3617 ;MCLUHAN CENTENARY: JOYCEAN PATOIS ON THE DICK CAVETT SHOW
In December of 1970, Dick Cavett hosted a conversation with Al Hirt, Gayle Sayers, Truman Capote and Marshall McLuhan on his television show. It’s difficult to imagine the crosscurrents of this discussion happening on television today. McLuhan’s probes draw each of the guests into his orbit, and he demonstrates how each participates in the theme of his new book, From Cliche to Archetype.
The cyclops, the motorcycle cop…
McLuhan describes himself as an outsider in the course of his appearance on the show. One has to wonder how he broke all the way through to the medium of popular television entertainment. Howard Gossage and Tom Wolfe had something to do with it, but it’s McLuhan’s love of exploration through dialogue that really shines through. It’s perfect for television.
Once the earth was within the surround of the satellite, Planet Polluto was in need of the attention of the ecologist…
In a letter McLuhan wrote: “I am not a ‘culture critic’ because I am not in any way interested in classifying cultural forms. I am a metaphysician, interested in the life of the forms and their surprising modalities.” The jazz musician, the professional football player, the novelist, the comedian and the metaphysician find a common ground within the probes McLuhan unleashes.
This year we celebrate 100 years of Marshall McLuhan. In some ways, he remains an outsider. After all this time, we haven’t consumed, commoditized, or co-opted his thought— he’s as dangerous as ever.
Also read the From Marshall & Me blog on McLuhan’s Cavett Show appearance: http://tinyurl.com/mn9b95h
Key Themes & Ideas Discussed: Relationship between music & speech – English language & jazz/rock&roll – R & B from US South & cockney England - rejects theories in favour of probes - understanding is not a point of view – TV demands audience participation – TV affects nervous system, hence it’s an inner trip - deprives people of external goals, drives them inward, more Eastern – TV undermines identity – peope are numbed by movies – TV more social, less isolating than movies – TV demands play, dialogue - TV not pictorial, but audile-tactile – sharply-defined images are not good TV – it’s not a monologue medium - Nixon-JFK presidential TV debate – radio a hot medium – putting on masks, role-playing - miniskirt as tribal costume -political TV image e.g. Trudeau’s – resonant interval - jokes are based on grievances e.g. Newfie, Polack – cliche-archetype theme – ecology started after satellites orbited Earth – old movies become art forms after being retrieved by TV – what will make TV an art form?
This video of McLuhan on the Dick Cavett Show offers the audio portion only, no images. Duration: 21 minutes, 07 seconds.
Father Ong was a student of Marshall McLuhan at Saint Louis University, where the latter taught in the late ’30s until 1944. McLuhan supervised Ong’s MA thesis on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and pointed him in the direction of Peter Ramus for his doctoral dissertation at Harvard. McLuhan references Ong’s scholarship often in his writing and correspondence. Anyone interested in McLuhan’s work will also be interested in Father Ong’s.
Technology, Rhetoric, and Cultural Change: Walter J. Ong, S. J. in the Age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter
Walter Ong was among the foremost theorists of rhetoric and culture in the 20th century. A student of Marshall McLuhan and Perry Miller, his dissertation on the importance of Peter Ramus, a 16th century logician and developer of a deeply influential pedagogy, brought him an international audience. Over the course of his long career, he published several books and hundreds of essays, most arguing that the technology of human communication is reflected, however indirectly, in human consciousness.
This interdisciplinary conference will celebrate Ong’s legacy and the tradition of Jesuit scholarship. As enthusiasts of new media daily claim its transformative status – the Tunisians Twittered their way to revolution, Coursera will end classroom teaching, etc. – the conference will take us a step closer to understanding their significance and the role of Walter Ong in our understanding of the emerging world they promise.
The conference will take place on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington on Friday and Saturday, February 7-8, 2014. Papers from any field welcomed. Please send abstracts (only) of approximately 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 1st.
Notifications of acceptance will be emailed by October 1st. Please include a contact email address with the abstract. Questions should be addressed to Kathy at the above email address.
John S. Caputo, Professor, Chair, and Walter Ong S.J., Scholar, Gonzaga University, email@example.com
Gonzaga University is named after a young 16th century Italian Jesuit, Aloysius Gonzaga, who died in Rome trying to save young people from the plague. He was later named the patron saint of youth.
Canadian Library Association Conference display and session feature this “Winnipeg Boy who made Good”
Marshall McLuhan reflected in a mirror. McLuhan is one of the topics of the upcoming CLA Conference to be held in Winnipeg. (Photo published under Creative Commons license through Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-165118 and under the MIKAN ID number 4170003)
Remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In (originally broadcast on NBC 1968-1973)? Cast member Goldie Hawn asked “Whatcha doin’ Marshall McLuhan?” during his heyday. So who was McLuhan and what’s he doin’ back in Winnipeg?
Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. Born in Edmonton, raised in Winnipeg, he graduated from the University of Manitoba and Cambridge University, became a devout Catholic, a beloved professor of English literature and founding Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. He’s known for his prophetic poetry, satiric observations, and explorations (“probes”) into the effects of communications media on society. His most famous aphorism “The medium is the message” and percept of “the global village” are integral parts of the English language.
The Marshall McLuhan Initiative at St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba is convening a Canadian Library Association (CLA) Conference session called “McLuhan, Books & Libraries: an Old Figure in a New Ground” from 1-2 p.m. on Thurs., May 30/13 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. It will be given by McLuhan friend and collaborator Dr. Robert (“Bob”) K. Logan, Chief Scientist, Ontario College of Art & Design and Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Toronto. As this session description states, “McLuhan … had some interesting, useful and even infuriating things to say about books and libraries [e.g. “The book is obsolete”]. Ironically, these ideas have not yet been published, but exist as a manuscript co-authored by Bob Logan. Join Logan as he provides a tantalizing, humorous and poignant insider’s look into McLuhan and his ideas.”
For the CLA Conference, the McLuhan Initiative is also curating a Winnipeg-focused McLuhan display at the Elizabeth Dafoe Library entitled, “Marshall McLuhan: a Winnipeg boy who made good“. This title is inspired by McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand, author of the first full-length McLuhan biography, Marshall McLuhan: the Medium and the Messenger (1989) who inscribed two copies of his book for the Director of the Initiative with this quote.
Red River College Library holds many works by and about McLuhan, such as:
- The Mechanical Bride (1951) McLuhan’s first published book;
- Gutenberg Galaxy : the Making of Typographic Man(1962) winner of the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction that year;
- Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (1964)
- The Medium is the Massage (1967)
- Culture is Our Business (1970)
- Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987)
- Marshall McLuhan: the Medium and the Messenger(1989) by Philip Marchand (first scholarly full-length biography)
- Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding (1997) by W. Terrence Gordon (considered the official McLuhan biography)
- Understanding Me (2003) edited by [daughter] Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines
- Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan (2010) by Robert K. Logan
To probe McLuhan further, try:
- “One Stop Search” at the U. of M. Libraries: http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/
- Marshall McLuhan Estate: http://www.marshallmcluhan.com/
- McLuhan Galaxy Blog (official blog of the McLuhan Estate):http://mcluhangalaxy.wordpress.com/
“You don’t like those ideas? I got others.” – Marshall McLuhan
University of Manitoba Dafoe Library Exhibit
From Graham Larkin’s blog, Boring from Within … ( http://grahamlarkin.tumblr.com/ )
Brochure in Aspen 4.
Graham Larkin lives in Ottawa, where he was curator of European & American Art at the National Gallery of Canadafrom 2005 to 2011. His researches into the early history of cataloguing and collecting include a doctoral dissertation (Harvard 2003) on the origins of the catalogue raisonné in 18th century print albums. While completing his dissertation he assisted information designer Edward Tufte with the award-winning book Beautiful Evidence. Dr. Larkin has taught seminars and curated exhibitions at Harvard University, and at Stanford University where he was a Humanities Fellow from 2003-5. He has published in various journals including Print Quarterly, Word & Image, ArtForum and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. His McLuhan lecture, The Real Message – McLuhan’s Media Practice, at the McLuhan Salon in Berlin in 2011 was reported on this blog during that year; see http://tinyurl.com/l85nsnk .
Written By Allie SchulzMay 26, 2013
A Facebook timeline encompasses many facets of human life. Facebook is a place where we go to record events, emotions, and things we find relevant or entertaining. We can see everything unfold on Facebook- birth, death, marriage, divorce. While reading about both meaningful and not-so meaningful topics in my Facebook timeline, I came upon an advertisement that I am going to analyze, using quotes from The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore.
Facebook has become what we would consider to be a predictable space/place, yet, “Environments are invisible. Their ground-rules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception.”
The advertisement I speak of is embedded into my Facebook news feed. It looks like a story from a friend, updating me to the fact that Full Sail University has sponsored some type of art project. It is implied that I should watch a clip regarding the project, as a YouTube video has already been embedded in the post. But upon closer look it is merely a suggested post that has found its way onto my timeline because a Facebook friend of mine has “liked” the Full Sail page.
“Propaganda ends where dialogue begins.” Posted in the midst of an ever-updating news feed that chronicles the lives of my friends and family, this ad is disguised as a friends “status update”. That’s why I find the ad so interesting- its medium! A supposed note from a friend, telling the world “look at this! I find it worthy of sharing”! The Facebook timeline, from its updates to its ads, is “uniform, continuous, and connected”, akin to McLuhan’s description of visual space, found on page 45. I bring up McLuhan’s propaganda quote because once we begin to talk about ads like these, we can first better identify them in order to avoid their snare, and second begin to find a way to either hide them or protest against them in some other way.
“It was the funeral of President Kennedy that most strongly proved the power of television to invest an occasion with the character of corporate participation.” Facebook is a myriad of occasions, constantly streamed. I’m scrolling along, reading about life events, and if I click on links like this it will mean that another site will then get my page-views. In turn, this will increase their traffic and thus validate the corporate nature of the post. Even if I just watch the embedded video, the marketing team will see my activity and know that their strategy has worked.
“Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions.” Being over-connected has led to a type of electronic dependency that has stolen some of the most meaningful interactions in life. Now, events such as seeing a new baby for the first time, or hearing of an engagement are experienced through the computer screen. The advertisers play on this very yearning for our great interest in finding out about other people’s lives.
“Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of “time” and “space” and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men.” I didn’t call up a friend asking for college recommendations, or asking him about his opinion regarding Full Sail. In Fact, this friend may not even truly back Full Sail as a product/service, but may have liked their page out of some ulterior motive (win a contest/etc.). The underlying message here is that this ad has pervaded my day, it seemed timely- posted in between recent stories – and also as if it applied to me, due to it being perceived (to the untrained eye) as within “my neighborhood”.
“All media work us over completely… they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. All media are extensions of some human faculty- psychic or physical.” The delivery of this particular Facebook ad plays on our societies emphasis on individual “authorship” and makes it look like my friend “Boston Rob” posted this story! The untrained eye might think he really wanted me to see this. Exactly what Facebook marketing executives rely on– for me to want (need) to act on my interest in connecting with others and check out this story my friend has supposedly posted.
As we continue to see the Facebook horizon expand, we will be expanded by it. How often we are expected to share- and read about- intimate details of life will continue to grow. The Established Order will be sure to capitalize on this by sprinkling ads in-between our most significant and our most trivial shares. http://tinyurl.com/qccceyj
April 27 – September 29, 2013Image Information
Sorel Etrog is a career-spanning exhibition that will cast the artist in a new light in his adopted hometown of fifty-four years. It will include his archetypal sculptures as well as drawings, paintings, book illustrations and prints from the AGO’s collection and private collections. One of the highlights, and one of Etrog’s pivotal works, will be his rarely seen film, Spiral. This meditation on the human condition, from birth to death, will be a catalyst for renewed reflection on the accomplishments of one of Canada’s most diverse and challenging artists.
More on the artist: Sorel Etrog is best known for his abstracted figurative sculpture. The statue he created for the Canadian Film Award in 1968 is recognizable to many Canadians as theGenie, and his massive Sun Life on the northeast corner of King Street and University Avenue is a landmark for many Torontonians. However, his lesser-known collaborations with Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco and Marshall McLuhan convey the profoundly human – and humane – aspects of an artist whose thoughts encompass sculptural and metaphorical considerations of connection, passage, relationship and continuity. http://www.ago.net/sorel-etrog
Sketch of McLuhan by Sorel Etrog
Collaboration with Marshall McLuhan on the Film Spiral (1975): Of his many collaborations, the most acclaimed are his book illustrations for Eugene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett in the late 1960s. Sorel Etrog and Marshall McLuhan collaborated on the publication Spiral which was drawn from Etrog’s film of the same title which was broadcast on CBC television in 1975.
Images From the Film Spiral by Sorel Etrog & Marshall McLuhan: Spiral is a book of stills from a silent film first presented on the C.B.C. in 1975. Marshall McLuhan screened the film at his Centre of Culture and Technology and suggested that Etrog select stills from the film so that he could provide an annotation to those images – a free form text of quotations from various writers – as well as a commentary.
Film by Etrog, Text by McLuhan
Another belated book review for a volume published 16 years ago. Why now? Why not? The book is still in print and can be ordered from Amazon.Massaging the Medium with Marshall McLuhan
By Frederik Sisa , May 17, 2013A review of McLuhan for Beginners by W. Terrence Gordon, with illustrations by Susan Willmarth.
Perhaps it indicates a gap in my education, or merely underlines the fact that my reading list exceeds my lifespan. But my only exposure to Marshall McLuhan so far has been through his post-modern disciple Jean Baudrillard and pop-culture memes. Yet, like most people plugged into the cybernetic zeitgeist, I am firmly entrenched in the strong field of influence generated by McLuhan’s often pithy media theory. A book like McLuhan for Beginners, then, is a timely wakeup call to take a moment and consider one of the 20th century’s foremost media and culture theorists even if that consideration reveals – as it does with Baudrillard – a mixture of brilliance and puffery.
Driving a renewed interest in McLuhan’s ideas are the editor of the Marshall McLuhan Publishing Program at Gingko Press, and Dalhousie University Professor Emeritus, W. Terrence Gordon draws. In partnership with illustrator Susan Willmarth, he adds another winning entry in the For Beginners series of documentary comic books with an overview that presents often obtuse concepts with good humour and, more often than not, clarity. There’s some biographical information, of course, such as the factoid that McLuhan was an “obscure professor of English till he published Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in 1964.” From that eventful detonation spawned a high-profile career that yielded not only pop-culture memes such as “the medium is the message,” but a series of books, lectures and academic efforts aiming at raising provocative questions about the media. Of that cryptic equivocation, we can at least find some relief to a cognitive itch. Gordon helpfully explains that the equation makes sense in view of McLuhan’s redefinition of “medium” as an extension of our bodies and “message” as “any change in scale, pace, or pattern that a medium causes in societies or cultures.” The traditional concept of informational content and means of transmission is thus set aside as an inadequate model of our interactions with the media, while the new equation provides a framework for a more fruitful investigation.
With this necessary elucidation in place, Gordon proceeds to sketch out McLuhan’s ideas on specific media such as radio, television and comic books, as well as broader concepts such as language, print versus digital formats, clichés and archetypes, and the laws of media. Taking full advantage of the comic book/illustrated text format, Gordon even goes beyond clarifying concepts to highlighting the often eccentric, almost post-modern methodological qualities of McLuhan’s work – or, rather, an anti-methodological approach that favors non-linear structures along with a rejection of sustained theses and fixed viewpoints.
The entire project does succumb to the stunning effects of high-capacity ideas delivered in a caffeinated chatterbox’s rapid-fire style. By the time Gordon tries to explain the application of McLuhan’s laws of media in the form of tetrads, the dazed sensation already has begun to set in (just like it’s probably setting in as you read this review). It’s interesting, from a conceptual standpoint, to consider how McLuhan’s four laws dealing with extension, obsolescence, retrieval and reversal work simultaneously to describe the effects of media. Yet as presented under the rubric of science, the question is raised about shenanigans of the interpretive kind. It becomes less clear that McLuhan is articulating concrete concepts rather than merely projecting his own subjective understanding. Suddenly, the impression – accurate or not – that McLuhan lacks a sense of intellectual rigour beneath his fragmentary insight becomes all the more pressing.
It is unfortunate, then, that Gordon gives scant attention to McLuhan’s critics, usually only going so far as to acknowledge their existence with a few broad strokes. “Faith in the power of the probe,” Gordon writes about one of McLuhan’s interrogative techniques, “allowed McLuhan to take stabs at a wide range of topics, from the serious to the ridiculous, without necessarily committing himself to conclusions or testing his hypotheses scientifically – a habit that infuriated his critics and detractors.” McLuhan’s response was to “glibly dismiss many of his critics in academe as hacks,” which hardly seems mature, only to be partly disowned in turn by his disciple, Wired Magazine, as an “eccentric intellectual whose day in the media spotlight had come and gone.”
Far from being a reason to reject Gordon’s view of McLuhan’s significance, and recognizing that the book is a presentation of McLuhan’s ideas, not a critical exposition, Gordon succeeds in creating a better reason to seek out McLuhan’s work than agreement, namely, the potential for a vigourous debate. Already, weaknesses in McLuhan’s ideas are apparent. In response to the High Priest of Popcult’s notion that speech is a non-verbal and pure process, unlike writing which is a medium of speech, one can wield Jacques Derrida’s criticism of Western metaphysics’ phonocentrism, the privileging of speech of writing that deconstruction works to undermine. To the Laws of Media and his “challenge to the scientific community to disprove them,” one can deploy philosophies of science to highlight McLuhan’s fundamentally unempirical and self-serving hermeneutics that conceptually declares itself un-falsifiable and, consequently, un-provable. It all makes for exciting philosophical debates. Crucially, it highlights Gordon’s ultimate argument for reviving McLuhan in our media-saturated age and what I conceive as the pervasiveness of hyperdata. “If we had to put McLuhan into one sentence, it could be this: He asks us ‘What haven’t you noticed lately?’” because “McLuhan doesn’t care if we ask different questions and come up with different answers than he did, as long as we discover something about our world and what is happening to it.”
With that attitude, Gordon’s accessible book becomes an admirable first step into that larger world of inquiry and, as with the best For Beginners books, serves as a persuasive advocate for seeking out its subject’s original work.
Available at http://www.forbeginnersbooks.com/mcluhanfb.html
Frédérik Sisa is the Page’s Assistant Editor and resident arts, entertainment, and culture critic. He invites you to visit his blog, Ink & Ashes, and join him on Twitter as he figures out this whole tweeting business.
This review first appeared at http://tinyurl.com/aglxwsk
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
W. Terrence Gordon has published more than twenty books including Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding (Gingko Press) and Linguistics For Beginners. Gordon has also been the editor of the Marshall McLuhan Publishing Program at Gingko Press for the past 12 years, and is currently Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When he is not busy writing or teaching, Gordon photographs the haunting beauty of Nova Scotia, Canada, where he has lived since the 1970s.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Susan Willmarth was born in New Mexico and moved in the early ’70′s to New York City. Since graduating from Parsons School of Design, she has worked as a free-lance editorial illustrator for Push Pin Press Books, Edward Booth-Clibborn editions, New York Magazine, The Open Society, Writers and Readers Publishing, and now For Beginners LLC. Past work includes Black History For Beginners, McLuhan For Beginners and Linguistics for Beginners. She lives in Manhattan with her bicycle..The original cover.
2014 will be the 50th anniversary of the publication of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, arguably the most important book on media published within the last half century. No doubt there will be conferences and symposia focusing on this great book.
Published on May 10, 2013 – This is a motion graphics project concerning Marshall McLuhan’s theory about technology and its influence on humanity. It was created by Walt Simpson using AfterAffects and Photoshop – for a Media Theory class at Savannah College of Art and Design. The video is from an interview of McLuhan in the 1960s, and the song is ‘Oh’ is from the album Polydistortion by the band GusGus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tit_akHf8do
Media ecology “unplugged” is the theme of an upcoming convention in Grand Rapids hosted by Grand Valley State University.
The 14th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, June 20–23, “unplugged” theme captures the wide span of environmental mediation prior to the wired and plugged-in revolution of mass media. This mediation includes architecture, literacy, urban design, transportation, art, and other discursive and non-discursive forms.
The “unplugged” theme also turns attention to recent and cutting-edge technologies that have de-tethered users from the plug. These include satellites, nanotechnology, robotics, genetic engineering, modern pharmacology, cell phones, Bluetooth, e-readers, solar cells, green technologies, neuroscience, and much more.
Featured speakers at the conference include Morris Berman, author of the Trilogy on Human Consciousness and The Twilight of American Culture; Lance Strate, former MEA president and author of The Binding Biases of Time; and Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, the director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto.
For more information contact convention coordinators:
Corey Anton, professor GVSU School of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org, author of Selfhood and Authenticity, winner of the 2004 Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Social Interaction, presented by the Media Ecology Association
Valerie V. Peterson, associate professor GVSU School of Communications email@example.com, whose recent publications include the book Sex, Ethics and Communication.
The online pre-registration deadline is May 15 to avoid price increase when paid at the conference. Student registration is discounted. Membership in the Media Ecology Association is open to anyone— faculty, students, business people, professionals—interested in exploring the interactions between media, communications, and culture.
The conference sponsors include the Provost’s Office, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Communications.
Detailed convention information available here: http://www.media-ecology.org/activities/index.html
Register online here: http://www.media-ecology.org/activities/index.html
The preliminary conference program is available here: http://media-ecology.org/activities/convention_program_2013.html .
James Cameron’s films, Hollywood blockbusters though they are, may also be read in terms of a Canadian sensibility that is prone to problematizing mankind’s relation to technology and communications media, as epitomized by Marshall McLuhan (see Babe 2000; Kroker 1984). The Terminator films are thus based on the idea of the nascent Internet as a nervous system becoming self-aware as the subject of technology and disposing of its human parasites. These dystopian visions have their utopian counterpart in The Abyss, the first major motion picture to use CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) for “morphing” effects. With the benefit of hindsight, the story and imagery into which the appearance of this new technology was woven in this film beg to be interpreted as metaphors for the shift in consciousness attending the transition from the rigidity of analog technology to the fluidity of digital technology, a watershed that happens to hinge on the year of the film’s release: 1989, during the meltdown of Cold War blocks on the eve of the emergence of the Internet’s borderless global cyberspace.
McLuhan saw the creative artist as an “early warning system,” grasping and imaginatively portraying such shifts in the collective sensorium even ahead of their full unfolding in technology and culture. If we take seriously McLuhan’s assumptions, Cameron’s The Abyss can thus appear in retrospect as a mythic allegory of mutations then still around the corner. It uses Christian motifs to give narrative expression to the world-historical transformations of 1989 as kairos, as theological discourse refers to a moment of utopian opportunity for the revelation of the Kingdom of God within history —or beyond it as Apocalypse. For the end of the Cold War did, for a moment, hold the promise of a humanity freed from ideological and national divisions, to enjoy the peace dividends of unhindered free trade within a global village unified by new technologies.
Read the rest at Second Nature Journal: http://tinyurl.com/blwq4fz
Trailer for The Abyss (1989):
Artist Harry Clarke‘s 1919 illustration for “A Descent into the Maelström” by Edgar Allan Poe.
The role of the artist in regard to man and the media is simply survival, said Marshall McLuhan
BY C.S. MORRISSEY
“The entire internet is in a sense pornographic,” said the British writer Alain de Botton last year. The reason why is because “it is a deliverer of constant excitement which we have no innate capacity to resist, a system which leads us down paths many of which have nothing to do with our real needs.”
How long can you stay away from your smartphone? Or your tablet? Or your laptop? How well are you able to resist being online? Or to abstain from watching movies or television?
Do you feel like you are in control? Doesn’t our new technological environment make you feel like you are caught in the middle of a vast storm?
He grabs hold of what does not disappear. He hangs on to what he reasonably thinks can carry him out of the storm. He trusts a proven pattern of salvation t
Decades ago, the Canadian media analyst Marshall McLuhan thought about the ascent of modern media technology. He liked to use the story by Edgar Allen Poe, “A Descent into the Maelström,” to illustrate the condition that we are in.
“Poe imagines the situation in which a sailor, who has gone out on a fishing expedition, finds himself caught in a huge maelstrom or whirlpool. He sees that his boat will be sucked down into this thing,” recounted McLuhan, paraphrasing Poe’s story.
In order to survive, the sailor looks around and studies the action of the storm. He observes patterns and recognizes them for what they are. Sometimes things appear. Sometimes things disappear. By carefully noting the reality of certain recurring patterns, he is able to infer what is needed for his survival.
He grabs hold of what does not disappear. He hangs on to what he reasonably thinks can carry him out of the storm. He trusts a proven pattern of salvation that he was able to observe. And eventually he is saved.
“Pattern recognition in the midst of a huge, overwhelming, destructive force is the way out of the maelstrom,” said McLuhan. “The huge vortices of energy created by our media present us with similar possibilities of evasion or consequences of destruction. By studying the patterns of the effects of this huge vortex of energy in which we are involved, it may be possible to program a strategy of evasion and survival.”
Are you able to observe undeniable patterns in your interaction with technology? Perhaps it is easier to observe recurrent patterns in the behavior of those around you. In particular, are there common patterns to be observed in the emerging behavior of young people? When you walk into a coffee shop, for example, what do you see?
The next step we need to take with this knowledge, said McLuhan, is to acquire a deeper sensitivity to the meaning of the patterns we find in the technological reality of our transformed environment.
The most sensitive observers of these patterns will be artists. “The artist’s insights or perceptions seem to have been given to mankind as a providential means of bridging the gap between evolution and technology,” said McLuhan.
He saw a definite vocation for artists in our world: “The artist is able to program, or reprogram, the sensory life in a manner which gives a navigational chart to get out of the maelstrom created by our own ingenuity.”
Far from our current misconception of artists as celebrities to be envied, McLuhan argued that artists have a much more serious role to play in society: “The role of the artist in regard to man and the media is simply survival.”
In other words, the fate of human society depends on the ability of artists themselves to perceive beauty, and then to help us train our eyes to see beauty. As Roger Scruton, the great British philosopher who recently visited Vancouver, puts it: “Culture counts.“
A renewed culture could allow us to escape the maelstrom, if artists could show us patterns of beauty that we hadn’t noticed before.
This is the reason why Scruton says that “culture is important“: “Without it we remain emotionally uneducated. There are consequences of fake culture that are comparable to the consequences of corruption in politics. In a world of fakes, the public interest is constantly sacrificed to private fantasy, and the truths on which we depend for our rescue are left unexamined and unknown.”
Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, put it this way in a famous speech of his own on beauty: “The encounter with beauty can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the soul and thus makes it see clearly, so that henceforth it has criteria, based on what it has experienced, and can now weigh the arguments correctly.”
In other words, a profound encounter with what is truly beautiful will not be a source of distraction or constant excitement. It will not look like today’s average internet use.
Instead, beauty will educate us in truth. Source of this article: http://tinyurl.com/c5hv9un
The video excerpt below is from the National Film Board of Canada film “McLuhan’s Wake” (2003). The excerpt from Poe is read by Eric McLuhan.
The brief was set by the Edinburgh based design agency ‘Elastic Creative’. My task was to express one of Marshall McLuhan’s many prophecies through a motion sequence.
“As the unity of the modern world becomes increasingly technological rather than a social affair, the techniques of the arts provide the most valuable insight into the real direction.” - McLuhan, M.
My concept echoes Marshall McLuhans philosophies on Art and Technology. He believed all forms of technology have grown from creative ideas. With this technology obsessed world, we need Art in order to evolve.
I was inspired by 1960s Sci-Fi movies and television programmes. Furthermore, I was strongly motivated by the title sequence work of the late, great Saul Bass. http://vimeo.com/65821738
Of course he called the “flipped classroom”, a recently devised pedagogy, something else: classroom without walls, city as classroom, little round schoolhouse. The point was to take learning out of classrooms into the information rich environments of the world beyond……..AlexK
“We have to realize that more instruction is going on outside the classroom, many times more every minute of the day than goes on inside the classroom. That is, the amount of information that is embedded in young minds per minute outside the classroom far exceeds anything that happens inside the classroom in just quantitative terms now.”
“In the future basic skills will no longer be taught in classrooms.” - McLuhan, M. (1966, April). Electronics & the psychic drop-out. THIS Magazine is about SCHOOLS. p. 38.
It seems odd to be reviewing Philip Marchand’s & Terrence Gordon’s biographies of Marshall McLuhan so long after they were first published; the former was published in 1989 & the latter in 1997, but this recent review from Canadian Literature Quarterly might be useful to those who have not read them. And it’s good to remind readers that they are still in print.
Book Review - A Shout Out to Marsh
- Terence W. Gordon (Author)
Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding. Stoddart Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Philip Marchand (Author)
Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. Vintage Canada (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by E. Hamilton
Marshall McLuhan is probably the most influential Canadian communications theorist, and perhaps also the one most argued over. As an academic, he was often accused of being an intellectual vampire and an idiosyncratic researcher. He was, at times, labelled a doomsayer, a rampant technophile, and a media guru. What is perhaps most astounding about McLuhan was his mobility and the consequent reach of his ideas. The “global village” sells telecommunications companies and McLuhan himself was able to find an audience in the marketing managers of GE and IBM. Finding a controversial seat in the canon of theorists labelled “technological determinists,” McLuhan’s ideas have been used to promote notions of technological progress or, in a sinister variation, death by technology. That McLuhan’s theories of media open themselves to such a polarized field of interpretation, and that McLuhan became one of the most public intellectuals of this century, has resulted in a healthy debate about both the theories and the man.
One of the main confusions about McLuhan himself revolved around his own stance towards media and technology. Much of his writing can easily be read as formalist promotion, emphasizing, technological capability in terms of form, rather than explication of content. This, coupled with his belief that personal points of view were redundant in the face of the sensory altering power of the media, contributed to the wide array of readings to which he has been subjected. Both Gordon and Marchand stress this aspect of McLuhan’s writing, while also investing their own with it to some degree. Though Gordon’s treatment of McLuhan is perhaps more apologetic than Marchand’s, and though Gordon is far less equivocal in his stance towards the “father of communications studies,” each presents McLuhan’s life and work as a tray of more or less interrelated hors d’oeuvres, deferring interpretation to their readership. As far as their presentations of McLuhan’s work goes, this seems adequate, though for those familiar with that work it might seem redundant. So little differentiation exists between the two authors’ treatment of the texts that judgements of the two are hardly necessary, though Gordon has a tendency to become bogged down in his own brand of McLuhanesque expostulation.
The differences occur in the ways the authors relate that work to McLuhan’s life. Gordon’s account gives considerably more weight to McLuhan’s pedigree and early years (pre-Cambridge) than does Marchand, and constructs the early life as a kind of frontier epic. McLuhan’s forebears are all invested with one or another (or several in the case of his mother) facet of McLuhan, a narrative feature that tends to naturalize individual development and also to glorify and romanticize the family history. This tactic becomes much more plausible when Gordon writes of the tensions between McLuhan’s mother and father, but becomes rather dodgy in the depictions of McLuhan’s more distant relatives. Marchand rarely dwells too long on matters that may not directly be connected to McLuhan’s own development, or that may be said to constitute the intellectual “surround” for McLuhan’s work at various stages. Marchand’s discussion of McLuhan’s early years places great emphasis on the relationship between his mother and father, but does not merely leave as a sidebar. He uses it as a platform upon which to build connections to the future McLuhan of “50 Million Mama’s Boys” and The Mechanical Bride, as well as to discussions of McLuhan’s home life after his marriage. The result is not only the depiction of a figure with an integral history, but with a depth of conflicting attitudes, beliefs, paranoia and superstitions. Rather than subordinating the life to the ideas, or vice versa—ideas which are, generally speaking, respected and vital long after their inception—Marchand, integrates the ideas into the fabric of a life which is not always as pleasant or as easily digestible as some readers might like.
McLuhan does not exactly come up smelling like roses in either account, though here again, Gordon seems to ally himself to McLuhan in ways that Marchand does not. Gordon certainly does not try to paint a flattering portrait of McLuhan, or to allow his readership to be entirely comfortable with him as a human being. Often, he comes off as having been petty, paranoid, somewhat gender-biased, solidly set in the intellectual cadre of his correspondent, Ezra Pound, and the New Critics. Though neither biographer attempts to pass judgement on McLuhan for his questionable beliefs or conspiracy theories, Marchand is much more successful at forcing his readership to confront these not only as quirks or idiosyncrasies, but as they inform the work for which McLuhan has become famous. For Gordon, these connections are quite loose, and there is always room for a salvage operation. But from Marchand, we learn not only that McLuhan was sympathetic to political fascism (though not necessarily to Hitler or Mussolini) and that he believed in a conspiracy of homosexuals, but that these aspects of McLuhan’s beliefs are not perhaps as inextricable from other aspects of the life as they might seem. Marchand seems to recognize and be able to reproduce the complexities that govern the shape and structure of a life, and to allow those to dictate the course of his story.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the biographies for most readers will be how various influences helped shape the thought that became McLuhan. Particularly interesting, and usually absent from a social science perspective on McLuhan’s theories, are the influences of Richards, Empson, Leavis and the New Criticism. Marchand weaves an almost seamless web of connections between the New Criticism and McLuhan’s later work on media and society, at least suggesting the logocentric and text-centred basis for much of McLuhan’s work. Gordon’s coverage also stresses these influences, though his discussion is more tentative than Marchand’s. In both cases, however, McLuhan’s literary background, and the influence of literary theory serve as a means through which researchers from outside literary studies can be pointed towards some useful resources.
Overall, while Gordon serves to points researchers towards areas of further reading, Marchand provides a framework through which McLuhan’s thought can be broadened and problematized in the context of a highly complex and often sad life. Gordon seems a little too much on side with McLuhan to present a portrait of him that could be as three-dimensional as that of Marchand. As resources for researchers looking to expand or realign an understanding of McLuhan’s theories, both texts serve as valuable touchstones. Source link: http://canlit.ca/reviews/a_shout_out_to_marsh
Philip Marchand - W. Terrence Gordon
“The medium is the message,” is an important phrase in the history of communication studies. Marshall McLuhan, the man who coined it, is widely regarded as that field’s father. But without the work of political economist and historian Harold Innis, McLuhan might never have pronounced those famous words. New research from Concordia University re-examines this relationship between the two media-studies pioneers, and argues that Innis deserves equal prominence in the evolving field of communications, as an entity separate from McLuhan’s dominant celebrity.William Buxton is a professor in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies. | Photo by David Ward
In a recent article in theCanadian Journal of Communication Studies, William Buxton, a professor in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies, argues that Innis and McLuhan, long viewed in tandem, should be de-coupled. “Innis was eclipsed by what we would now call McLuhan’s brand power,” explains Buxton, who argues that Innis’s ideas deserve to be considered on their own, not as a function of McLuhan’s work.
As a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, Innis helped develop the theory of staples, which says that Canada’s culture and economy have been influenced by the exploitation and export of a series of “staples,” such as fur, fish, wood, wheat, metals and fossil fuels. Innis went on to write several seminal works on media and communication theory, which explore the role of media in shaping the culture and development of civilizations. These books, however, did not receive much acclaim when they were first published. Innis was well respected, but as an economist, not a media-studies scholar.
McLuhan, however, developed a strategy of building on Innis’ considerable reputation as a staples theorist in order to lend credibility to his own approach of looking at how media technologies exerted effects by virtue of their inherent properties. While this allowed McLuhan to help resurrect Innis as a pioneering figure in media studies, it came at the expense of leaving his own mark indelibly on the Innisian legacy to communication research. “The result has been the common tendency to view Innis as some sort of precursor to McLuhan, if not a junior partner in the tandem,” explains Buxton.
Despite McLuhan’s enthusiastic support, Innis’s books fell out of print. But this was not the only reason that Innis’ studies of media were largely initially ignored while McLuhan developed a considerable following.
McLuhan gained popularity thanks to a slim book with eye-catching graphic designs and tongue-in-cheek title: The Medium is the Massage. Widely published and read, the book allowed McLuhan to develop a kind of a celebrity status – something never afforded to Innis.
“By virtue of that book, a distinct McLuhan brand emerged,” says Buxton. “As a result, the work has important implications for how we understand McLuhan and his relationship to Innis.” Without a similar volume to popularize his work, the attention paid to Innis was not as widespread.
For Buxton, however, Innis deserves to be considered on his own. “We need to make better sense of a ‘de-McLuhanised’ Innis,” says Buxton. “Innis’s concept of communication should not be reduced to a form of media staple, but could be viewed more as an interactive process, inherently connected to the growth of civilization, the emergence of universities, and the advent of new forms of public.”
About the research: The article discussed is a revised version of a paper that was originally presented at a conference at Montreal’s Société des arts technologiques in April 2012, titled Innis, McLuhan, and the Media: Path to Enlightenment or Dead End?. The conference was organized by the Concordia/Université de Montréal/Université de Québec à Montréal Joint PhD Program in Communication. The paper appeared (along with four other revised papers from the conference) in a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication – Tracing Innis and McLuhan, edited by Buxton and Professor Thierry Bardini of Université de Montréal. A Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded the preparation of Buxton’s article.
A related volume, Harold Innis and the North: Appraisals and Contestations, edited by William Buxton, will be published this summer by McGill-Queens University Press.
• Cited study: The Rise of McLuhanism, The Loss of Innis-sense: Rethinking the Origins of the Toronto School of Communication. Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 37, no. 4
• Concordia University’s Department of Communication Studies
• William Buxton’s proile on Research @ Concordia
• Harold Innis and the North: Appraisals and Contestations
This article can be found at http://tinyurl.com/b4tyavp
Photo: Marc J Chalifoux Photography
Yesterday Arts Habitat Edmonton was joined by supporters, special guests and neighbours to celebrate the grand opening the McLuhan House – a new historic resource and home for arts and ideas in the Highlands.
In 2012, Arts Habitat Edmonton purchased the house with assistance from the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Arts Council.
The acquisition of this house is a source of pride for Arts Habitat, whose goal is to provide sustainable space for Edmonton’s arts community.
“Arts Habitat Edmonton is thrilled to preserve this house in the Highlands, and to honour the legacy of its famous first inhabitant, Marshall McLuhan”, says Linda Huffman, Executive Director of Arts Habitat. “Arts and culture regenerations create diverse, inclusive and healthy communities. This new investment adds an historic resource to the city inventory and to this historic neighbourhood.”
The property was rezoned in January 2013, and is currently in line for Municipal Heritage designation. The House will now host small office, studio, and meeting spaces. An interpretive display on Marshall McLuhan highlights a one-of-a-kind McLuhan Family Portrait Collection. The new designations will allow for these uses, and also protect the exterior heritage features of the home.
The celebration included a presentation by Michael McLuhan, highlighting 54 unpublished photos of his father for the LIFE Magazine shoot in 1966 by Henri Dauman. The McLuhan TV Wall, on loan from the University of Alberta, is on display in an upstairs room.
A number of families associated with the house were at the event: The McLuhan Family was represented by Michael, youngest son of Marshall and Edmonton cousin Stuart MacKay, the Husbands were represented by twins Fred and Margaret, now 83. They were the next family to live in the house, and still have stories to tell of the house and neighbourhood from the 1920’s. Doug and Cheryl Toshack and their daughter Tracy came. They bought the house in 1974. Their dream to preserve the house was fulfilled with its sale in 2012 to Arts Habitat.
Marshall McLuhan, who became a leading 20th century thinker, lived in this house one hundred years ago. His early years significantly influenced his long-term philosophical theories, including “the medium is the message” and the global impact of mass media, which went on to shape the international community.
The McLuhan Portrait Collection was made possible through generous donations from Michael McLuhan and the McLuhan Estate, with supporting narratives and genealogy compiled by McLuhan family cousin Stuart MacKay.
The McLuhan TV Wall, created by University of Alberta students and professors, displays documentary images and sounds of Marshall McLuhan’s many appearances on U.S. and Canadian television from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. The TV Wall was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of Alberta and has also been exhibited at the Edmonton International Airport.
EDMONTON – Famed philosopher Marshall McLuhan always cherished his Edmonton birthplace even though he moved away at age four, his son Michael said Thursday.
“I’m not sure if he came back that often, but he talked about Edmonton all the time when I was child,” McLuhan said.
“He loved the wide-open skies and would talk about being a Prairie boy … I just think he always held Edmonton very close to his heart.”
McLuhan, 60, was making his first visit to the city in which his father was born in 1911 to take part in the grand opening of the family home as an arts facility and historic site.
The communications theorist and literary critic who coined such phrases as “the medium is the message” lived in the Highlands two-storey until his family moved to Winnipeg in 1915.
With help from the city, Arts Habitat Edmonton bought the house for $475,000 last year from its longtime owners, and plans to do $75,000 in renovations.
The non-profit group has painted the Arts and Crafts-style structure’s interior with colours from when it was built in 1910 and put up family photographs from McLuhan cousin Stuart MacKay, who lives in Edmonton.
“The intention of buying it was to preserve the house in Highlands and also to honour the McLuhan mandate,” Arts Habitat project co-ordinator Katherine Kerr said.
There’s space for a studio in the garage and the three former upstairs bedrooms will be rented out as artist offices.
One of those spaces holds the McLuhan TV Wall, five screens running interviews with the famed philosopher, an episode of the Andy Griffith Show from the 1960s and closed-circuit video of the people who walk into the room.
Other versions of this installation have been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Edmonton International Airport.
“I think McLuhan was getting the sense of the all-pervasiveness of the television screen that people didn’t understand when they were watching these friendly, funny shows,” said University of Alberta Prof. Marco Adria, who helped assemble the display.
“This technology was bound to become us.”
In future, parts of the home will also be rented out for small events. It’s open for a public drop-in Friday from noon to 7 p.m.
Michael McLuhan, a photographer who lives with his wife north of Toronto near Owen Sound, presented for the opening 54 unpublished photos of his father shot by Henri Dauman for Life Magazine in 1966.
He described his dad, a longtime University of Toronto professor who died in 1980, as a classic workaholic.
“He would get up at four or five in the morning and start his reading. He would come home at six and frequently have his secretary in tow so he could dictate, sometimes while he was lying down.”
The McLuhan home in Winnipeg and the two in Toronto are in private hands. Michael is thrilled the Edmonton house, at 11342 64th St., will be available to the public.
Although he’s the executor of his father’s estate, he hasn’t read all his books, but said his complex ideas were discussed so much growing up that he doesn’t have to.
“I certainly appreciate it now more than when I was 15 … It was inculcated at a very young age around the dinner table. It was the wallpaper of our lives.” http://tinyurl.com/cknmadb
Photo by Alex Kuskis