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How technology spawned a global village — and created a world of dissension & strife

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 4:25pm

By Nicholas Carr   –   April 21, 2017

Nicholas Carr is the author of “Utopia Is Creepy,” “The Shallows,” and other books.  See

WELCOME TO the global village. It’s a nasty place.

On Easter Sunday, a man in Cleveland filmed himself murdering a random 74-year-old and posted the video on Facebook. The social network took the grisly clip down within two or three hours, but not before users shared it on other websites — where people around the world can still view it.

Surely incidents like this aren’t what Mark Zuckerberg had in mind. In 2012, as his company was preparing to go public, the Facebook founder wrote an earnest letter to would-be shareholders explaining that his company was more than just a business. It was pursuing a “social mission” to make the world a better place by encouraging self-expression and conversation. “People sharing more,” the young entrepreneur wrote, “creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others.”

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg penned another public letter, expressing even grander ambitions. Facebook, he announced, is expanding its mission from “connecting friends and family” to building “a global community that works for everyone.” The ultimate goal is to turn the already vast social network into a sort of supranational state “spanning cultures, nations and regions.”

But the murder in Cleveland, and any similar incidents that inevitably follow, reveal the hollowness of Silicon Valley’s promise that digital networks would bring us together in a more harmonious world.

Whether he knows it or not, Zuckerberg is part of a long tradition in Western thought. Ever since the building of the telegraph system in the 19th century, people have believed that advances in communication technology would promote social harmony. The more we learned about each other, the more we would recognize that we’re all one. In an 1899 article celebrating the laying of transatlantic Western Union cables, a New York Times columnist expressed the popular assumption well: “Nothing so fosters and promotes a mutual understanding and a community of sentiment and interests as cheap, speedy, and convenient communication.”

The great networks of the 20th century — radio, telephone, TV — reinforced this sunny notion. Spanning borders and erasing distances, they shrank the planet. Guglielmo Marconi declared in 1912 that his invention of radio would “make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.” AT&T’s top engineer, J.J. Carty, predicted in a 1923 interview that the telephone system would “join all the peoples of the earth in one brotherhood.” In his 1962 book “The Gutenberg Galaxy,” the media theorist Marshall McLuhan gave us the memorable term “global village” to describe the world’s “new electronic interdependence.” Most people took the phrase optimistically, as a prophecy of inevitable social progress. What, after all, could be nicer than a village? IF OUR assumption that communication brings people together were true, we should today be seeing a planetary outbreak of peace, love, and understanding. Thanks to the Internet and cellular networks, humanity is more connected than ever. Of the world’s 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to a mobile phone — a billion and a half more, the United Nations reports, than have access to a working toilet. Nearly 2 billion are on Facebook, more than a billion upload and download YouTube videos, and billions more converse through messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. With smartphone in hand, everyone becomes a media hub, transmitting and receiving ceaselessly.

Yet we live in a fractious time, defined not by concord but by conflict. Xenophobia is on the rise. Political and social fissures are widening. From the White House down, public discourse is characterized by vitriol and insult. We probably shouldn’t be surprised.

For years now, psychological and sociological studies have been casting doubt on the idea that communication dissolves differences. The research suggests that the opposite is true: free-flowing information makes personal and cultural differences more salient, turning people against one another instead of bringing them together. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is one of the gloomiest of proverbs. It is also, the evidence indicates, one of the truest.

In a series of experiments reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, Harvard psychologist Michael Norton and two colleagues found that, contrary to our instincts, the more we learn about someone else, the more we tend to dislike that person. “Although people believe that knowing leads to liking,” the researchers wrote, “knowing more means liking less.” Worse yet, they found evidence of “dissimilarity cascades.” As we get additional information about others, we place greater stress on the ways those people differ from us than on the ways they resemble us, and this inclination to emphasize dissimilarities over similarities strengthens as the amount of information accumulates. On average, we like strangers best when we know the least about them.

An earlier study, published in 1976, revealed a similar pattern in communities. Three professors from the University of California at San Diego studied a condominium development near Los Angeles, charting relationships among neighbors. They discovered that as people live more closely together, the likelihood that they’ll become friends goes up, but the likelihood that they’ll become enemies goes up even more. The scholars traced the phenomenon to what they called “environmental spoiling.” The nearer we get to others, the harder it becomes to avoid evidence of their irritating habits. Proximity makes differences stand out.

The effect intensifies in the virtual world, where everyone is in everyone else’s business. Social networks like Facebook and messaging apps like Snapchat encourage constant self-disclosure. Because status is measured quantitatively online, in numbers of followers, friends, and likes, people are rewarded for broadcasting endless details about their lives and thoughts through messages and photographs. To shut up, even briefly, is to disappear. One study found that people share four times as much information about themselves when they converse through computers as when they talk in person.

BEING EXPOSED to this superabundance of personal information can create an oppressive sense of “digital crowding,” a group of British scholars wrote in a 2011 paper, and that in turn can breed stress and provoke antisocial reactions. “With the advent of social media,” they concluded, “it is inevitable that we will end up knowing more about people, and also more likely that we end up disliking them because of it.”

If social media brings out the misanthrope in us, it can also unleash darker impulses. In a 2014 article in Personality and Individual Differences, three Canadian psychologists reported on research that found that people with sadistic tendencies tend to be among the most active commenters in online forums. Like other sadists, so-called trolls are motivated by the anticipation of pleasure, the study revealed; they take joy in inflicting psychic pain on others. Although it’s not clear whether the Internet breeds cruelty or just encourages it, the findings “add to accumulating evidence linking excessive technology use to antisociality,” the researchers wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun . . . and the Internet is their playground!”

Despite his occasional utopian rhetoric, Marshall McLuhan himself harbored few illusions about life in a global village. He saw villages as inherently tribal, marked by mistrust and friction and prone to viciousness and violence. “When people get close together, they get more and more savage and impatient with each other,” he said in a 1977 television interview. “The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.” That’s a pretty good description of where we find ourselves today.

Still, the yearning to see communications technology as a remedy for social ills remains strong, as Zuckerberg’s February missive underscores. Despite Facebook’s well-publicized recent struggle to control hate speech, propaganda, and fake news, Zuckerberg seems more confident than ever that a “global community” can be constructed out of software. The centerpiece of his new project is a computerized “social infrastructure” that will use artificial-intelligence routines to manage information flows in a way that makes everyone happy. The system will promote universal self-expression while at the same time shielding individuals from “objectionable content.”

The problem with such geeky grandiosity goes beyond its denial of human nature. It reinforces the idea, long prevalent in American culture, that technological progress is sufficient to ensure social progress. If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It’s a pleasant thought, but it’s a fantasy. Progress toward a more amicable world will require not technological magic but concrete, painstaking, and altogether human measures: negotiation and compromise, a renewed emphasis on civics and reasoned debate, a citizenry able to appreciate contrary perspectives. At a personal level, we may need less self-expression and more self-examination.

Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst.

What it doesn’t do is make us better people. That’s a job we can’t offload on machines. Source:

See also – The “Global Village” is Never Harmonious, According to Marshall McLuhan

Categories: Blog

Postmodern Display: Staging the Mind of Marshall McLuhan – The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 7:41pm

Marshall McLuhan’s influence has reverberated through all of the arts, but especially visual arts, literature and music to some degree. The following is an academic article analyzing the staging of the Multi-media Alt-Rock Opera  The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, Music by Baffin Island Party, Script by Michael Charrois, first staged April 27, 2000 in Edmonton, Alberta. The video of one of the performances follows immediately below:-

Robin C. Whittaker, University of Ottawa

Creatively commingling the life and theories of Canadian media icon Marshall McLuhan may yield robust material for negotiating and staging postmodern performance. This article considers certain of McLuhan’s theories that have parallels to influential postmodern theoretical constructions and the ways in which these parallels are ripe for performance. It considers the uneasy relationship between dramaturgies and dialectics, and deals with frequent criticisms leveled at postmodern thought, including a hectic rejoicing over consumerism, a cacophony of signs, and the dangers of incorporating into performance the mixed-media environments inherent to McLuhanism and postmodernism alike. Finally, the article considers the potential for mixed-media performance to engage with social objectives linked to producing alternative theatre. But it begins and ends by asking the question: Do artists who attempt to stage theory risk allowing the theory to distract from and overwhelm the performance? In order to probe these effects, the sprawling Edmonton science-fiction “Alt-Rock Opera,” The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, is offered as a case study.

Just two paragraphs of the essay are reproduced below, specifically the 3rd and 5th. Read the full article at .

3 It is the intention of this paper to “probe” the display of inherent theatrical elements behind the theories of Canada’s eminent media icon, Marshall McLuhan, with special attention to post-modern and mixed-media production aesthetics.4 Michael Charrois and The Baffin Island Party Band’s”Alt-Rock Opera,”The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, provides a test case for the display of theory and performance. It is my contention that in drawing from relations between McLuhan’s theories and theories of postmodernism as they relate to issues of “human performance” and “mediatized performance,” an improved understanding will arise with respect to how postmodern theatre presences (and absences) its own conceptions, performances and receptions; that is, how postmodern theatre displays. By way of conclusion, co-op and “low budget” mixed-media performance in the postmodern context are considered as potential forms of material protest against the theatre”establishment.” Illumination serves as a particularly apt test case for exploring “McLuhan” in performance because it represents him biographically and through his theories, both in the play’s dramaturgical structure and in the production’s mise en scène.

Character: “McLuhan” and His Potential for and in Postmodern Performance5

5 McLuhan’s work had, for some time, fallen off the map of “legitimate” scholarship. During much of the 1970s and even into the 1980s, many scholars shunned McLuhan’s writing as trivial, misguided and worse.6 But as poststructuralist criticism gained greater prominence, some scholars began to see McLuhan—in the rear-view mirror—as one who, as Glenn Willmott vigorously attests,“provides a precedent” to the “more performative, subjective, and textual-poetic critical practices”of postmodern scholarship, with his “ongoing critique of abstraction or generalization from particularity” (xii). In situating McLuhan as (the) one who is “valuable to critical ideology today as an unprecedented and unrepeated experiment—a self-experiment—in the postmodern powers of criticism, and the search for a historically adequate form or medium for those powers” (xv), Willmott argues that McLuhan was not only a pre-postmodern critic, but in fact was the postmodern experiment personified. Theory was more than an abstract structuring principle in his life: theory was embodied in the lived life of the man himself.

Categories: Blog

The Movie Theatre Blowhard From Annie Hall Finally Gets His Say

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 8:13pm

He was the original Mansplainer, one who believed his insights had “well, a great deal of validity.”

The unnamed blowhard in 1977’s Annie Hall prattles on so endlessly about director Federico Fellini and media philosopher Marshall McLuhan that Woody Allen can barely focus on his own squabble with Diane Keaton.

Eventually the loudmouth chases Allen’s narrator through the fourth wall to join him in addressing the audience, only to up face to face with the real McLuhan, who demolishes him with a snorted: “You know nothing of my work.”

Now, the “Man in Theater Line” gets to tell his side of the story, and he reveals that one of the most perfect scenes in movie history was a disaster to shoot. 

Meet Russell Horton

“Part of the reason the scene works is because I am such an a–hole and I actually believe what I’m doing, you know?” says Russell Horton, now 75, a lifelong character actor who is actually nothing like his insufferable Annie Hall character.

He’s boisterous for sure, but also fun and sweet — a laid-back grandfather of four kids, one a newborn less than a month old. The other three call him “GrandDude.”

Horton is married to actress Diana Kirkwood and has two daughters. “The older one is a good-guy lawyer at legal aid, who helps abused children,” he says. “And I’ve got a younger daughter who’s in the acting business named Olivia Horton. She had a really nice part as a possessed girl in a movie called Deliver Us from Evil.”

Watching Annie Hall is a right of passage for any movie fan as they grow up, but anyone who was a kid over the past three decades also knows him from another major role.

“You probably grew up with me,” says Horton, who has voiced the Trix Rabbit in breakfast cereal commercials for 35 years. “Trix are for kids…,” he says wistfully. “That’s a gig that put my kids through college, I’ll tell you.”

Back in the 1970s, when Allen’s casting director, Juliet Taylor, selected Horton as the Man in the Theater Line, he was in his mid-30s and a Los Angeles transplant to New York City. “I’m your basic workaday actor. I was doing a lot of TV. I was doing Broadway shows,” he says. “You know, the big problem about being the kind of actor I am, you’re sort of stuck with the way you look, and so I’m always playing professors or nerds.”

He wasn’t sure he got the part until a strange, abrupt encounter with Allen.

“I got a call and they just said, ‘Go meet Mr. Allen,’ and they were shooting on a street in New York,” Horton recalls. “The assistant director brought him over, and he looked at me, up and down, he said, ‘Man in the movie line?’ and the AD said yes, and he walked away. I said, ‘What was that?’ The AD said, ‘Well, that was it. He just wanted to check you out.’ He apparently had great confidence in Juliet Taylor.”

That faith has never wavered – the filmmaker and Taylor are still working together, most recently on last year’s Café Society.

“Now the second thing that’s very strange about him is, at that period, I don’t know if it’s true now, but he never let anybody see the whole script,” Horton says. “I got the scene, but I had no idea where it fit in or how it related to anything that was going on. I didn’t even have the ending.”

As fond of analysis as Allen may be in real life, there was none on set. No deep discussions about the scene, no scraps of background information about the Man in Theater Line’s motivation. Instead, Allen expected the actors to just sort of grasp it intuitively. “He gives you very little direction. He just said, ‘You know what’s going on?’” Horton recalls. “I said, ‘I think so.’ And he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Horton tried to evoke a little sympathy for the Man in Theater Line (whom he named “David,” even if the script never identifies him). He felt this night out was David’s first date after a long dry spell. He’s trying hard. Too hard. And getting desperate now that his date’s eyes are rolling up like the reels on a slot machine.

‘The Medium is the, uh… Line, Please?’

The person who wasn’t trying at all: McLuhan. “I guess he didn’t take it terribly seriously because he couldn’t remember his line,” Horton says. “He had one line and he kept blowing it. It was a two-and-a-half-minute take. It was one of the longest, uncut, comedy sequences, up to that time, and Woody wanted it that way because when he pulled [McLuhan] out, he wanted it to be a total shock.”

It wasn’t an easy scene to perform. Horton’s character isn’t supposed to be aware of Alvy and Annie’s conversation as he rambles, but the actor had to be acutely aware of it, getting quieter for their lines and filling the quiet spaces with his own improvised bloviating.

“Some of the stuff I came up with on my own, like there was the word weltanschauung, you know, which means a worldview,” Horton says. “That wasn’t in the script, but they had stopped talking. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do something,’ so I said, ‘It’s a weltanschauung!”

Online versions of the script, which attempt to transcribe the dialogue, never get that line right.

It got to be demoralizing as they did a dozen takes of this complicated verbal dance, only to have it ruined at the end by an ill-prepared McLuhan. “Woody would pull him out and he’d say something like, ‘Well you’re wrong, young man.’ Or, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t know what to say.’”

Even when McLuhan finally got it right … he really didn’t. “We did like 17 or 18 takes, and if you look at it carefully in the movie, McLuhan says, ‘You mean my whole fallacy is wrong,’” Horton says, starting to laugh. “Which makes no sense. How can you have your fallacy wrong?”

They did a few more tries after that, but it never got any better.

Blame Fellini

In the late academic’s defense, he was actually the understudy for that role. Most of the Man in Theater Line’s dialogue is about the director Federico Fellini, who had agreed to play himself as the icon who emerges from nowhere to stifle this stranger’s pomposity.

When the Italian filmmaker dropped out a few days before shooting, McLuhan was recruited in a scramble. “If you look at the scene, [my dialogue] is essentially all about Fellini, and there’s only one last thing about McLuhan because they suddenly had him,” Horton says….

He is seldom recognized for his role in Annie Hall, retaining his anonymity despite being a key component in a scene known to pretty much every film fan.

The pompous and pathetic Man in Theater Line, getting his comeuppance, has endured for a simple reason.

“It’s very human,” Horton says. “There really are people like that.”


Categories: Blog

A Technology Example of McLuhan’s Reversal of Cause and Effect

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 8:45pm

Elisha Otis free-fall safety demonstration in 1853

Posted to the MEA listserv on March 23, 2017 by Robert Logan:-

“Here is an item that appeared in this morning’s Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada: 

The first elevator installed

March 23, 1857: Like most entrepreneurial inventors, Elisha Otis was a bit of a showman, too. Otis had invented an automatic safety device – a wagon spring, really – to keep an elevator from falling if its cable broke. With few orders, he took his “safety hoist” to New York’s Crystal Palace in May, 1854, and rode a platform high into the air – then ordered the rope cut. As people gasped, his assistant swung an axe, the hoisting line was severed, the spring snapped into place and grabbed the rails on either side – and the platform came to a sudden stop. His first safety elevator for passengers was for a building just five storeys high, the E.V. Haughwout & Co. store in New York. But his invention would make the skyscraper possible, transforming skylines around the world. – Massimo Commanducci’   (From the Toronto Globe & Mail at )                   – Bob

I share it because it illustrates McLuhan’s idea of the reversal of cause and effect. The effect of the Otis safety elevator was the cause of the skyscraper”.

New York City skyscrapers, 1883

 Paul Levinson replied later the same day, March 23, 2017, with the following related observation:-

“Great example – and it’s also an example of soft determinism, or necessary conditions.  The elevator was a necessary (not sufficient) condition of the skyscraper – part of the skyscraper’s ground.  Media determinism is a soft determinism, or a determinism of necessary conditions.  (Without radio there would have been no Hitler [Understanding Media] – without Twitter, no Trump [McLuhan in an Age of Social Media].)” – Paul

Otis Elevator Passenger Car, 1850s

Marshall McLuhan discusses this reversal of cause and effect idea in Chapter 1 of Understanding Media (The Medium is the Message):-

 Such economists as Robert Theobald, W. W. Rostow, and John Kenneth Galbraith have been explaining for years how it is that “classical economics” cannot explain change or growth. And the paradox of mechanization is that although it is itself the cause of maximal growth and change, the principle of mechanization excludes the very possibility of growth or the understanding of change. For mechanization is achieved by fragmentation of any
process and by putting the fragmented parts in a series. Yet, as David Hume showed in the eighteenth century, there is no principle of causality in a mere sequence. That one thing follows another accounts for nothing. Nothing follows from following, except change. So the greatest of all reversals occurred with electricity, that ended sequence by making things instant. With instant speed the causes of things began to emerge to awareness again, as they had not done with things in sequence and in concatenation accordingly. Instead of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it suddenly seemed that a chicken was an egg’s idea for getting more eggs”. (pp. 11-12)

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Salon #5: Toronto Creative City

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 7:32pm

Tuesday, 18 April, 2017 at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

George Brown College, Waterfront Campus 

Learning Landscapes Auditorium, 51 Dockside Drive (Corus Quay E), Toronto, ON

In collaboration with Centre for Arts, Design & Information Technology at George Brown College and DigiFest.

Over the 2000s, Toronto initiated and instituted a process of cultivating itself as a creative city. This new focus gave Toronto the chance establish itself as a center for innovation, which strengthened urban cultural capital and helped promote the strategic agenda of becoming a competitor in the creative economy sector. Investment in research and creative city strategic planning, coupled with the allocation of financial and human capital resources across a variety of industries, served to encourage creativity, promote culture and competitiveness, and drive economic development. As a part of the McLuhan Salons series, this event will explore the cutting edge of Toronto as a Creative City. It will commence with moderated probative discussion within a panel of top leaders and thinkers, and will engage the audience. Operators in the field of creative industries, culture and arts are invited to join in.

Speakers: (Click on image for expanded view)

Shoshanah Goldberg-Miller, Ohio State University, author of Planning for a City of Culture. Creative Urbanism in Toronto and New York;
Joe Mihevc, Toronto City Councillor Ward 21;
Luigi Ferrara, Centre for Arts & Design Dean and Director Institute without Boundaries, George Brown College;
Shawn Micallef, Columnist and writer, author of Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness;
Geoffrey James, Toronto photo laureate, author of Toronto (with Mark Kingwell).

Moderator: Paolo Granata, McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, University of Toronto

Click here to reserve seat:

George Brown College, Waterfront Campus

Categories: Blog

The Great Marshall McLuhan-Northrop Frye Debate, At the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, April 6

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 9:47pm

The Great McLuhan- Frye Debate

An academic debate is an educational practicum requiring students to employ rhetoric, histrionic abilities and knowledge of the assigned topic to debate a given proposition or question with the goal of influencing the opinions of observers and/or the judge(s). 

This debate will answer the question: Who best – Marshall McLuhan or Northrop Frye – provides us with a strategy, or vision, for comprehending our present conditions?

The debate participants will be students in Professor B.W. Powe’s English 4004 class (Fall/Winter) at York University in north Toronto. The Fall term of the course focused on Marshall McLuhan with Northrop Frye covered in the spring term. The students have been divided into 2 teams representing Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye and have been meeting before the event to develop their case for each.

The selection of the winner (a tie is possible) will depend upon which side is the most persuasive. The judge will be Professor Paolo Granata of the University of Bologna and McLuhan Centenary Fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology.

The Proceedings will unfold as each side presents the case for their visionary, starting with the McLuhan side (already decided by a coin toss), then the Frye side, followed by rebuttals from both. After a short break, each side will summarize what it presented and its position followed again by rebuttals from both sides. After another break, there will be a summary of each position, followed by the judge’s adjudication and declaration of the winner.

Professor Powe and his students have extended an invitation to interested parties to attend. Bring your lunch if you wish, as the event will start at noon.

Date & Time: Thursday, April 6th, 2017 – 12 pm until 3 pm

Location: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology,

39A Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

Course Description

This course examines and explores the point-counterpoint Canadian theoretical tradition of Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye. This is a course devoted to exploring the perceptions and thoughts, the provocative and inspiring works, of these two seminal and influential thinkers. It is also a course that explores the influence of their work on other seminal writers and artists; and how literary works reflect and evoke their imaginative and prophetic propositions.

In the first term we will be concentrating on Marshall McLuhan. Our primary text will be The Book of Probes. We will be examining his most influential and well-known aphorisms, his tetrads, and the essential explorations he made into the media realm. In McLuhan’s final works he wrote—or dictated (most of his last books were collaborations, often conducted through conversation and discussion, with colleagues)—in aphorisms, elliptical epigrams, fragments, mixed modes, all what he chose to call probes.

McLuhan was searching for laws, or codes, that operated through the effects of the electronic media. He saw electronic media as a new text of nature—a second creation. His work in these stages took on poetic density and allusiveness. Can he be understood, then, as the first great poet-theorist of media? The so-called “media guru”, however, began as a literary person, studying the Renaissance trivium and quadrivium at Cambridge, under F.R. Leavis and I.A. Richards; and continued his literary studies as a professor of Symbolist Literature in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. His first published works were essays on James Joyce, G.K. Chesterton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wyndham Lewis. How did a thinker steeped in the traditions of western literature become the avatar of the electronic cosmos, and the patron saint of the magazine called Wired? His non-systematic approaches anticipate post-modern and contemporary discourse. He denied he had a theory, calling his work “ground…and percept”.

We will examine McLuhan’s terminology and articulations, in his attempt to frame an understanding of the new circumstances that electricity and its technologies—television, radio, computers—brought to people. We will focus on his last powerful utterances and their prophetic attempts to awaken media users.

The second term is devoted to examining the works of Northrop Frye. His studies and literary publications began in the work of William Blake, in the canon-changing book, Fearful Symmetry. In that work Frye begins to approach the concept that there could be a deep underlying structure to all of literature. We will explore how spiritual knowledge burst through to him, so he argued, in his final works, beginning especially with The Great Code. Frye sought unity behind chaos, and attempted to present to his readers “a new system” of thought and awareness through a radical revision of what we mean by text. Frye thought cosmos could be comprehended through the code buried inside the metaphors of certain great works, primarily The Bible. Thus we will be concentrating on The Great Code, with examinations of his more synoptic works, The Educated Imagination and his last major essay, The Double Vision. We will also be looking at fragments from his late Notebooks. In these works the literary critic and theorist—the author of Anatomy of Criticism—enlarged his vision to encompass theology. He became a visionary contrarian—highly controversial in his understanding of The Bible, and his presentation of “counter-history” and the nature of mythic consciousness.

We will examine their conflicting rhetorical strategies: McLuhan, the wily prankster and punster, the prophet of new media and the subliminal environments of electricity; Frye, the seemingly detached scholar, whose heretical thinking and sublime visionary intentions were often masked in a careful prose.
Both must be regarded as much more than critics; they were creators of new imaginative and perceptive methodologies.

Moreover, these two Canadians knew one another, and often debated the other through their writings, sometimes expressing vehement disagreements. What were these disagreements? What are their areas of harmony? Both began as academic literary critics and ended up becoming influential beyond academia. Both were fascinated by popular culture and by extra-literary expressions. Both were visionaries, seeking the pattern behind the patterns, who shrouded their errant quests, often erratic—one in the masks of satire, and the other in the nuanced arguments of theory. McLuhan and Frye have had their periods when they were highly valued, then their periods when they were dismissed or disavowed by literary establishments. Both were obsessed with the meaning of the word, “apocalypse”. What do their visions, their provocations, their observations, their pursuits of codes and laws have to say to us now?

Note: The course will be offered again in the next academic year on Fridays, 11:30 am until 2:30 pm.

“In the double vision of a spiritual and a physical world simultaneously present, every moment we have lived through we have also died out of into another order.”
– Frye, The Double Vision

Academic Disputation

McLuhan Interview with Pierre Babin, 1977:
“The electric world, which is acoustic, intuitive, holistic…invites [us] into total immersion, and it doesn’t lean towards goals or objectives but focuses only on a certain quality of life.
Babin: Could we call this a return to mysticism?
McLuhan: I think so. Gutenberg emphasized the process of outering and Marconi marked the start of its ebb.”
– The Medium and the Light

Categories: Blog

Special Issue of The Journal of Media Literacy on Agency

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 1:51pm

Neil Andersen and Carol Arcus of the [Toronto-based] Association for Media Literacy are proud to have been the guest editors of the Agency issue of The Journal of Media Literacy.

We chose Agency as the issue’s theme because there is ongoing debate over how users can exercise agency within environments comprised of big data, multinational media corporations and invisible pervasive surveillance.

We were very lucky to engage the cooperation of a range of international scholars  (see the Table of Contents below) who have shared their experiences and perceptions to produce a valuable exploration of Agency in the 21st century.

[Alex Kuskis note: This issue includes my essay on Marshall McLuhan on Agency in Education & Technology Use, pp. 50 – 56]

Click JMLVo.64No.1&2 2017 to download the issue.

Source: The Association for Media Literacy

Categories: Blog

New Book Publication Announcement: The Lost Tetrads of Marshall McLuhan By Marshall McLuhan & Eric McLuhan

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 11:30am


“The true masterwork of Marshall McLuhan.” —Douglas Rushkoff

Marshall McLuhan was the visionary theorist best known for coining the phrase “The medium is the message.” His work prefigures and underlies the themes of writers and artists as disparate and essential as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Neil Postman, Seth Godin, Barbara Kruger, and Douglas Rushkoff, among countless others.

Shortly before his death, together with his media scholar son Eric, McLuhan worked on a new literary/visual code–almost a cross between hieroglyphics and poetry–that he called “the tetrads.” This was the ultimate theoretical framework for analyzing any new medium, a koan-like poetics that transcends traditional means of discourse. Some of the tetrads were published, but only a few. Now Eric McLuhan has recovered all the “lost” tetrads that he and his father developed, and accompanies them here with accessible explanations of how they function.

270 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-682190-96-8 • E-book 978-1-682190-97-5

Reduced pre-shipment prices available at 

About the Authors

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was an internationally-renowned media theorist and perhaps the first genuinely “modern” philosopher of communications. In the 1950s, he introduced the concept of the “global village,” a vast global “technological mind” that today would be called the Internet. Using humor and scholarship, he spoke of the interconnectedness of visual and written media—and nowhere do his theories achieve a more finished level than in the tetrads, as important visually as they are syntactically.

eric mcluhan author photo

Photo © Michael McLuhan Besides co-writing Laws of Media in 1988 and working closely for many years with his father, Dr. Eric McLuhan has been deeply involved in exploring media ecology and communications. He is the author of more than a dozen books on media, perception, and literature. His website is at .

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Centre Monday Night Seminar – Showcasing Undergraduate Student Work, March 27

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 8:22pm

Monday Night Seminar

Showcasing Undergrad ICCIT Student Work

LOCATION: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, 39A Queens Park Crescent                       East off 121 St. Joseph St., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

Monday Night Seminar: Monday, March 27th, 6:00 – 8:00 PM 


This Monday Night Seminar showcases the work of undergraduate ICCIT (Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology) students taking a course (Technologies of Time and Space in Toronto) at the McLuhan Centre this semester with Professor Sarah Sharma (new Director of the McLuhan Centre). They began the course with seminal readings of McLuhan and other Toronto School theorists and have ended their semester thinking through the mediated politics of time and space in the city of Toronto! Join us on Monday, March 27th as they share their imaginative projects on the soundscapes at Yonge and Dundas Square, stampede in the Path, the gender politics of TTC ridership, gentrification at Moss Park, issues related to perspectival landscapes and vertical living, ride-sharing apps, and waste/information collection.


Read about ICCIT at University of Toronto at Mississauga here

Categories: Blog

A Short Video on Marshall McLuhan & “The Medium Is The Message”

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:49pm
In the age of Trump, McLuhan’s 50-year-old ideas seem prophetic. Here’s a primer. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a Canadian academic whose work on electronic media in the 60s has come to resonate in the digital age. This video is narrated by Alex Chow, one of the leaders of the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella movement whose mass street occupation was mobilized and reported via social media.

An Animated Guide To Marshall McLuhan And “The Medium Is The Message”

By Katharine Schwab   –   March 16, 2017

The work of Canadian philosopher and writer Marshall McLuhan is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s when McLuhan coined the phrase, “the medium is the message.” Now the animator Daniel Savage has created a simple, black-and-white animation for Al Jazeera that illuminates why this axiom resonates in 2017.

In his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan wrote about how media affects daily life. But instead of focusing on the content–today, the tweets, Facebook posts, and news articles that many of us regularly consume–he was interested in how the form of the content, that platform that delivers it to you, can impact your psychology in insidious ways.

As the Hong Kong social activist Alex Chow narrates, Savage’s animation shows a figure reading a book inside of a square, which transforms into a figure listening to a radio inside of a circle, which morphs to a figure watching television inside another square, which, finally, changes into the figure typing into a computer inside of a triangle. The shifting geometric shapes act as a visual metaphor for how each progressive type of media affects the shape of the world in which people dwell, even if they don’t realize it. “The fact that our insane president can have a hissy fit and send it to the world with the tap of a screen really says something,” Savage tells It’s Nice That.

“McLuhan wasn’t saying that content is inconsequential,” Chow says in the animation. “He was saying that when we pay too much attention to it, we ignore the power of form in shaping our experience. So, if you don’t understand the medium, you don’t fully understand the message.”

The animation takes the viewer through a brief history of mass media, which began with the invention of the printing press. Books being available on a scale never before possible changed the collective experience of the world, informing identity and broadening consciousness. Electronic media, from the telegraph and telephone to the television, has had similar effects, extending experience beyond physical boundaries. The next step was the internet, which has altered how we live in even more fundamental ways. The animation shows figures seeing their world through each progressive technology, pointing out how the means by which they see the rest of the world truly impacts what they perceive.

“Another strange effect of this electric environment is the total absence of secrecy,” a recording of McLuhan narrates as pixels of light bombard the human figure in the animation. “With the end of secrecy goes the end of the monopolies of knowledge. Everything happens at once. There’s no continuity, there’s not connection, there’s no follow-through. It’s just all now.” That sure sounds like Twitter on a Wednesday. (Source: )

Critique of the Above Article & Video: But “the medium is the message is NOT just about elevating the importance of medium or “form” relative to content. It is about the transformative effect of the entirely new environment that is created by any new medium, the entire service industry that supports a medium, which could not continue to exist without it. The medium is just the figure in a much bigger environmental ground. McLuhan explains this best in a 1974 lecture titled “Living at the Speed of Light”, delivered at the University of South Florida:

“The car has lost its place in the heart of the people. That doesn’t mean it’s going to disappear overnight. Not at all. All it means is the effects of the car are disappearing. And privacy and service environment are part of the effects. When I say the medium is the message, I’m saying that the motor car is not a medium. The medium is the highway, the factories, and the oil companies. That is the medium. In other words, the medium of the car is the effects of the car. When you pull the effects away, the meaning of the car is gone. The car as an engineering object has nothing to do with these effects. The car is a figure in a ground of services. It’s when you change the ground that you change the car. The car does not operate as the medium, but rather as one of the major effects of the medium. So ‘the medium is the message’ is not a simple remark, and I’ve always hesitated to explain it. It really means a hidden environment of services created by an innovation. And the hidden environment of services is the thing that changes people. It is the environment that changes people, not the technology.” – McLuhan, M. (1974). ‘Living at the Speed of Light’, a lecture delivered at the University of South Florida, can be found in David Staines & Stephanie McLuhan (Eds.). Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003). Boston: MIT Press, 241-2.

Another criticism is that the video equates the word “medium” with the word “form” and they are not equivalent. The Google dictionary defines form as “the visible shape or configuration of something” and medium as “an agency or means of doing something”. These are two different things entirely.

Categories: Blog

B.W. Powe’s Homage to Leonard Cohen, February, 2017

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 7:39pm

Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

This posting is obviously not about Marshall McLuhan, but I feel confident that the late great media visionary would approve. B.W. Powe, who was a student of McLuhan at the University of Toronto in the fall of 1978 in his last offering of his English 1000 graduate course, Media & Society, has written extensively about Marshall McLuhan in A Climate Charged: Essays on Canadian Writers (1984) (which also included an essay on Leonard Cohen), The Solitary Outlaw (1996) and in his magnum opus, Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy (2014), based on his doctoral dissertation. And I sense McLuhan’s influence in other published writings, both fiction and poetry, by Bruce as well. Marshall McLuhan would have been aware of Leonard Cohen in the 1960s as a rising poet and fiction writer contributing to a nascent Canadian literature.

Bruce (B.W.) paid tribute to Leonard Cohen shortly before he died, along with Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, in his talk otherwise dedicated to Bob Dylan, the recent Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, at last October’s Toronto School of Communication conference at the University of Toronto. I hope the readers of this blog will appreciate this poetic homage to the late Leonard Cohen, as I do. 

Eternal Granada

…is the world a poem
we’re all composing?


Leonard, you said Mystery lives Lorca lives
in New York City
in the way Magic is alive God is alive
in Montreal

But today on el Paseo de los Tristes
sightseers swear they saw uncanny figures,
kindred shades, one chanting
the other playing a flamenco guitar

their lyrics and strings striking light
in the white-stone place
the gypsies call
the area of morning

From B.W. Powe’s Andalusian poems, a work in progress


Categories: Blog

Second Annual Symposium: Faith, Science, Climate Change & Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato si’, St. Michael’s College, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 2:44pm

Saint Michael’s College Science Association, the Interconnectivity Studies Working Group and the University of St. Michael’s College will present a two-hour symposium on climate change and the Pope’s encyclical Laudato si’ (“Praise be to You”).

LOCATION: Alumni Hall 100, 121 St. Joseph Street

DATE: Thursday, April 6, 2017   ***   TIME: 4 PM to 6 PM

The focus of the symposium is a discussion and a dialogue among scientists and theologians of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ with its focus on global warming and climate change. In the encyclical, Pope Francis calls for such a dialogue. In Paragraph 13 and 14 of Laudato si’ he wrote:

Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

Later in Paragraph 62 he wrote: “Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” The purpose of this symposium is to enter into the dialogue between science and religion that Pope Francis has called for.

To that end the following panel with scientists, theologians and scholars has been assembled.

Mary Hess is Professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota. She is currently the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Visiting Chair in Religious Education at USMC Faculty of Theology. She is past president of the Religious Education Association.

David Nostbakken is a McLuhan Fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. His PhD was supervised by Marshall McLuhan. He is a co-founder of a number of initiatives in the field of ecology and religion including Vision TV, the Green Channel, the Ecology Global Network, Power of Peace Network (UNESCO sponsored) and WETV Network (on sustainable development).

Stephen Scharper is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the School of the Environment. With graduate studies in theology and religion, one of the areas of his expertise is religion and ecology. He has also engaged in urban studies and the importance of water as a vital resource essential for life.

Kimberly Strong is a Professor in the Department of Physics and is the Director of the School of the Environment. She is a research scientist whose expertise is in atmospheric remote sounding using ground-based, balloon-borne, and satellite instruments for studies of ozone chemistry, climate, and air quality.

Ron Swail is the Chief Operations Officer, Property Services and Sustainability at the University of Toronto. Ron has initiated sustainability projects across the university and at the same time saved the university millions and millions of dollars.

Prof. Robert K. Logan is a Fellow of St. Michael’s College where teaches the McLuhan Seminar and the What is Information? Seminar. He is the Faculty Coordinator of the SMC Science Association. He is also the Chief Scientist of the sLab at OCAD University.

After the panel presentations and discussions among the panelists the student Interconnectivity Studies researchers from the Book and Media Studies program, Dalya Al-Bassam, Kate Gromova, Kalina Nedercheva and Olivia Penney will be introduced and they will read the abstracts of their research.

There will then follow a Q & A session with the audience.

Categories: Blog

A McLuhan Centre Event: Art + Feminism @ University of Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 7:54pm

By theLet’s help change Wikipedia gender-gap! Join us at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology on Saturday, March 18, 2017 from 11 am to 5 p.m. for a communal updating of Wikipedia entries on subjects related to art and feminism.

Date/Time: Sat, March 18, 2017  –  11:00 am to 5:00 pm EDT

Location: McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, 39A Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

View Map


Free! Everyone welcome! No previous experience required!

Wikimedia’s gender trouble is well-documented. While the reasons for the gender gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity, however, is not. Content is skewed by the lack of female participation. This represents an alarming absence in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge.

Let’s change that. Join us at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology on Saturday, March 18, 2017 from 11 am to 5 pm for a communal updating of Wikipedia entries on subjects related to art and feminism. Last year, over 1500 participants at more than 75 events around the world participated in the second annual Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, resulting in the creation of nearly 400 new pages and significant improvements to 500 articles on Wikipedia.

We will provide tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian and refreshments. Bring your laptop, power cord and ideas for entries that need updating or creation.


What can I bring into the event? Bring your laptop!

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?


Categories: Blog

If McLuhan Were Here Today : A Poem by Hannah Strait, Student

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 8:24pm

 Marshall McLuhan

Teachers are always thrilled when a student of theirs gets a work they’ve written published, and even more so when that work was created in the first place for a school assignment. That was the case for Dr. Roxanne O’Connell, Professor of Communication, Visual and New Media at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Her student Hannah Strait submitted a poem titled If McLuhan Were Here Today for an assignment in her media studies course called McLuhan’s Global Village. It was submitted in a significantly longer version than the extract below, which was the one that was published. I’m sure that Marshall McLuhan, poetry lover himself, would have enjoyed receiving poetry as an assignment submission, rather than just another academic paper. Congratulations, Hannah!

If McLuhan Were Here Today

by Hannah H. Strait

A heightened form of visual outlook,

Awakened to unrecorded conduct.

Conquering experience like a crook,

Rendering experience picked and plucked.


Showing people, instead of being us:

Pure perception is gained by life process.

The constant perpetual sharing is a fuss.

We must do for our internal progress.


The end of that tale can be quite woeful.

Mass consumed, mass produced, and we abuse.

The mind becomes numb, and life is dull,

No one stops to smell the flowers like ewes.


Our ego’s impulse is to stop caring,

What happens around us does not matter.

Now holding in our thoughts is daring,

And private sacred moments shatter.


What sort of hypocrisy happens here?

When GoPro petitions we are ‘hero’s’:

War joins the utile tool to drones building fear,

Loathsome, hideous deaths then tools bestow.


We must stop prostituting precious life.

Immerse yourself in the nature of things,

End your misery, your destruction, and strife.

Discover, and explore the beauty that brings.

Publication Details

Book Title: Upon Arrival: Commencement Publisher: Eber & Wein Publishing Year of Publication: 2016 Page: 169   Click on the Image for an Expanded View
Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan & The Child of the Future: How He Might Learn (1964): A National Film Board of Canada Film [Video]

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 11:38am

Marshall McLuhan as Educationist

Few media or education scholars or the general public will have viewed this National Film Board of Canada 58-minute film that features Marshall McLuhan and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. It has only recently been converted from its 16 mm film format to digital format and made available on the Internet. Jerome Bruner is cited by McLuhan in his writings in connection with the reform of an outmoded legacy educational system derived from and structured by Gutenberg print technologies and culture. He also cites other educational theorists such as John Dewey, Ivan Illich and Paul Goodman, among others, when writing or speaking about education.

Marshall McLuhan’s importance as an educationist, that is, “a person who is seriously concerned to understand how learning takes place and what part schooling plays in facilitating or obstructing it” (Postman, 1988, p. 83) has been insufficiently recognized. That is because the McLuhan revival has principally been attributable to media and communication teachers, scholars and practitioners and they do not concern themselves much with education. But, John Culkin, SJ wrote that McLuhan can help kids learn” (Culkin, 1967, p. 72) and an education historian insisted that “McLuhan throws down a challenge that no educator should ignore” (Gillett, 1966, p. 291). It increasingly appears that Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on reforming education are gaining greater traction and recognition in the Internet Age, just as his ideas on media have found new life and application today, rather than in the television age during which they were formulated.

Notes on The Child of the Future

… traditional teachers like herself were now being relegated to a formalist past – that a new partnership of discover was being forged between pupils and teachers which would be mediated by technology. To help explain the neo-progressive curriculum and “discipline-based” learning to educators, and to explore the future of education, particularly in regard to media technology, the NFB produced The Child of the Future: How He Might Learn (1964).

Both Marshall McLuhan, author of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1964), and The Medium is the Massage (1967), and Jerome Bruner, author of The Process of Education (1960), appear in this film. After watching two 9-year old boys, playing on a carpet with a road-race set, McLuhan observes, “the worm’s eye view is the most involving.” He suggests that education is “heading into a period of total involvement,” an assessment shared by Bruner who demonstrates a “playground philosophy of physics” with a class of grade 5 students. As the children send weighted cars down a ramp and measure how far they travel, Bruner comments, “The kind of learning they’re getting is a kind they can use.” A parade of educational gadgetry is displayed, all of it operated by eager children, some of whom appear to be no more than five years old. The audio-visual aids include 8 mm film loops and projectors (heavily invested in by the NFB), “automated” typewriters, and a language lab. In one classroom, educational filmstrips are synchronized with radio broadcasts; in another, children produce their own animated films; in yet another, high school students record their screen play of the war of 1812 with 8 mm cameras.

Dr. Jerome Bruner

The film surveys the contemporary use of television in school classrooms all over the world. In one school, a television character, Mrs. “Rhonda Loganbeel”, teaches “algebra over the airwaves”; in another, a Spanish telecast is beamed into a school classroom from an airplane overhead. In a Japanese classroom, students are filmed welcoming television into their school: “The kids made a television room for their new teachers, TV images”. McLuhan is critical of this use of television, but he is not especially clear about other possible uses: “It’s like treating the motor car like the horseless carriage,” he remarks. “You shouldn’t use new technology to replicate the old. A huge wastage of opportunity.” The media guru delivers a final, enigmatic missive in the film: “The child of the future will program consciousness just as we program curriculum.”Excerpt from Low, B.J. (2002). NFB Kids: Portrayals of Children by the National Film Board of Canada, 1939 – 89. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 110 – 111.

About Dr. Jerome Bruner: and

Film Details: National Film Board of Canada   –   Montreal   –   1964   –   Director: Theodore Conant   –   58 minutes   –   b&w   –   16 mm   – Executive Producer: Frank Spiller   –   Photography: Jean-Claude Labreque

Categories: Blog

The Communication Revolution [Video] – Panel Discussion with Edgar Dale, Marshall McLuhan, Gilbert Seldes & Keith Tyler, 1960

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 8:56pm


The Communications Revolution (1960) is a panel discussion between Marshall McLuhan and two other academics, Edgar Dale and Keith Tyler, and cultural critic Gilbert Seldes, who chaired the panel.  The event took place at the third annual  Conference on the Humanities on October 28-29, 1960 at Ohio State University. The general theme of the conference was “Popular/Mass Culture: American Perspectives.” McLuhan, already well-known for his views on electric media, was the central focus at the conference and gave a keynote lecture on the first day titled “Technology, the Media, and Culture,” the text of which can be found in Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003), pp. 13-33. 

The panel discussion on The Communications Revolution (1960) took place on the second day of the conference, chaired by Gilbert Seldes (1993-1970), the leading cultural critic of the day. Edgar Dale (1900-1985) was a Professor of Audio-Visual Education at OSU and the author of a well-known textbook about educational media that was the standard reference on audio-visual media for over a decade, reissued in several updated editions: Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching (1946). For more about Edgar Dale see . Keith Tyler (1905-1994) was a Professor of Radio Education at OSU. For more information see  . The text of this panel discussion can be found in Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003), pp. 34-43.

Select McLuhan Quotes From the Communications Revolution Panel

A New Medium Elucidates the Medium it Supplants: “I think one of the things that happens when a new medium comes on the scene is you become aware of the basic characteristics of older media in a way that you were not when they were the only things around. I think we’re becoming more aware now of what print is than we were before. Radio seems to have acquired more sense of its own identity since television, and movies likewise”. (The Communications Revolution in Understanding Me (2003), p. 35)

Obsolesced Media Are Repurposed: … it would seem natural that older forms [media or technologies] are put to new uses and discover new roles. The book, for example, in our time has discovered many new functions that it never had fifty or a hundred years ago. It has become very powerfully directed toward teaching people how to learn other things besides books [e.g. how-to books], how to learn arts of many kinds. The book has taken on a vast new function as a means of informing people, directing people’s skills in many, many areas.” (p. 35)

TV Invites Participation: “The character of the television image, I think, fosters this kind of participation simply because it is a rather poor image, and it involves the viewer in a great deal of completion of the detail that is missing visually in that image. The act of seeing television is very much that of participation as in reading a detective story where you are very much with it precisely because you are not given very much narrative information. You have to fill it in”. (p. 38)

Cool Individuals Are the Most Intriguing on Cool TV:  This one of the first if not the very first mention by McLuhan of his hot/cool media dichotomy.

[Senator] “McCarthy folded a week after he went on television. And if Huey Long had gone on television he would have been a flop at once. TV will not take a sharp character, a hot character. It’s a cool medium, and our politics are being cooled off to the point of rigor mortis, according to many people. The nature of this medium which calls for so much participation does not give you a completed package, a completed image. You have to make your image as you go. Therefore, if the person who comes in front of the TV camera is already a very complete and classifiable type of person – a politician, a highly obvious doctor type, lawyer type – the medium rejects him because there’s nothing left for the audience to view or to complete, and they say this guy’s a phony. There’s something wrong with this guy.” (p. 40)


Categories: Blog

These Are Challenging Times for Journalists Says McLuhan Fellow Gigi Grande, Philippines

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 02/26/2017 - 5:48pm


Gigi Grande of ABS-CBN Broadcasting
By Abigail Viguella   –   February 23, 2017

A Marshall McLuhan fellow said that these are challenging times for journalists. “Given the recent events in the country, the media community indeed has received quite a beating. What with the start of President Duarte’s administration, the ‘war on drugs’, and most recently, Presidential Communications Secretary Andanar claiming that some reporters have been paid while covering the press conference on self-confessed hitman SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, these are indeed challenging times for journalists,” said reporter Gigi Grande in her speech. 

Gigi graced this year’s McLuhan Forum Series and talked about “Journalism in Challenging Times: Media as Guardians of Democracy and Watchdog of Society” at Liceo de Cagayan University, this city, February 22.

Grande of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation Investigative and Research Group is the 2016 awardee of the Marshall McLuhan Fellowship after her work on the pre-2016 poll campaign and the recent election period.

Grande said that next generation journalists should have critical analysis, research skills, courage, and principles in these times where fake news, alternative truths, trolls, and bad news are very rampant in society.

Grande explained the immense power that media has in the society and said that journalists have the capabilities of changing the mindset of the country’s citizens as well as being trailblazers for change and awareness.

“One good example of this is the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam or PDAF recently which actually started because the media has uncovered it. I am proud that we [media] were able to do that and also to have the senate draft and amend some of our country’s laws,” she said.

She however, reminded that journalists should not abuse this power to change and bring about awareness by selling their capability to expose or draft the truth.

“When I was only starting my career some would give me envelopes of money and gifts but I would refuse them or send them back. Honestly, I would get offended by those. As a journalist, if you try to establish the image of being the kind that cannot be bought like that, they would sooner get that you cannot be paid. The key is to always stick to what you think is right,” Grande explained.

“The gratitude that we, journalists, receive by being the deliverers of truth I think is enough. It doesn’t matter if we really do not get paid very much and have to take on multiple jobs just to afford the luxuries that we want. This practice is not something you can force on someone but it is a calling that comes to those who are willing to take on the responsibility,” she added.

This is the fifth time that Liceo de Cagayan University held the Marshall McLuhan Forum which is a forum series centering on responsible media practice. Every year, the university invites notable journalists in the country.

Local media practitioners, campus journalists, communication and journalism students and professors, as well as students of other fields such as International Studies and Political Science from various universities such as Xavier University, Liceo de Cagayan University, Phinma-Cagayan de Oro College, and Capitol University, participated in the forum.

The Marshall McLuhan Fellowship was established by the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto and the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines to recognize excellence in investigative journalism and aims to raise the bar on local journalism.
(Article source: )


Categories: Blog

New Book Publication Announcement: THE RESPONSIVE CHORD (2nd edition) by Tony Schwartz

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 6:45pm


“The essential guide to how media shape our lives. By the creator of the most talked about political ad in television history.”

The Responsive Chord outlines the way our ways of thinking and communicating have been shaped for centuries by written language and by the difficulty of transmitting information over long distances… and how those habits have been outmoded by instant communications such as television, radio and telephone. Schwartz explores in depth the failure of techniques in advertising and education that are based on the old methods and explains how we must understand the new media, as well as how best to make use of them, giving numerous examples.


  • Foreword by John Carey, Professor of Communications and Media Management at Fordham University. Carey worked for Tony Schwartz in the late 60s and early 70s, including the time when he wrote The Responsive Chord. He is intimately familiar with the book and with Tony Schwartz, so the foreword contains both analysis from a current-day perspective and a number of inside anecdotes (see excerpt below)
  • Updated design, several new illustrative figures.


  • Election 2016 and President Trump: We are constantly bombarded with media, and never more so than in an election year. The book focuses on how media work on us to drive our actions, with special emphasis given to political media. The book has been especially relevant this political season given Trump’s highly unconventional relationship with the media.
  • Fake News & Truthiness: So many people have been sent reeling by the extent to which truth itself has been damaged since the 2016 election—from the egregiously untrue statements made by candidates and government officials to the proliferation of “fake news.” The Responsive Chord gives us an alternate understanding of the media according to which our notions of truth and falsity are not even relevant. It shows how, even back when we had seemingly much higher, shared standards for truth (think Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley), the most effective processes of communication completely bypassed truth/falsehood… and the book explains how those processes continue to operate.
  • Election 2016 (Daisy ad): There have been regular mentions throughout the news media of the 1964 Daisy Ad, both because of the parallels between the 2016 election and the 1964 election, and because of the regular talk of creating a similar ad for use today. Schwartz was the creator of the Daisy ad (see below), and The Responsive Chord presents and discusses the ad (pp. 89-92).
  • “DAISY” Play. Tony Schwartz and his ideas are the subject of a play by Sean Devine that premiered at Seattle’s ACT Theatre in July-Aug, 2016, to nightly standing ovations. The play is about the creation of the “DAISY” ad (see ABOUT below). Discussions are underway for it to be staged in NY and Chicago, as well as several Canadian locations.


  • Tony Schwartz is equally famous, in different circles, for (1) his pioneering work recording music and documenting the audio life of New York City in the 1950s and 60s, (2) his advertising work, including the Daisy commercial and (3) his theories of media and communication.
  • Creator of the Daisy ad—the most talked about political ad in television history, despite having aired only once. He was hired as a consultant by the DDB agency and created the concept of the ad for them, based on an anti-nuclear ad he made for the U.N. in 1962.
  • Winner of multiple Academy Awards and Toni Awards. Four-time first place winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Created over a dozen commercial recordings, one of which was among the first 100 recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry.
  • Taught media studies at Harvard, Columbia, Fordham and New York University. Lectured around the world by telephone and satellite.
  • Created commercials for over four hundred corporations, including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Chrysler and Kodak. Created the first anti-smoking commercial (1963, for the American Cancer Society.)
  • Produced television and radio commercials for the campaigns of two U.S. Presidents, as well as hundreds of U.S. candidates at all levels of government.
  • His collected works were acquired by the Library of Congress in 2007, just before his death. Transporting all the audio & video recordings & papers from NYC to DC required three trucks. See
  • Created and hosted a weekly radio show on WNYC for over 30 years (1945-1976)


“The Responsive Chord certainly gets a big response from me…. I enjoyed it enormously. This is a totally untouched field and Tony Schwartz has a monopoly in this area.” — Marshall McLuhan (1973)

“Tony Schwartz was a genius when it came to understanding the communications revolution of the 20th century. My interview with him was one of my favorites and one of the most important of my own long career in broadcast journalism.” – Bill Moyers

“I read The Responsive Chord as a freshman in college and it affected everything I’ve ever made since. Its message is practical and deep. I’d recommend it to anyone.” — Ira Glass, Creator & Host of NPR’s This American Life

“Tony Schwartz was not only an original theorist but a master persuader whose must-read book is brimming with indispensable insight about how humans construct meaning through media.” — Prof. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center ( is one of their many projects)

Obama Team. In the foreword, John Carey relates, “I was told by a senior member of the Obama campaigns for the presidency that The Responsive Chord was a must read for all senior members of their communications team.” Unfortunately, he has lost contact with the person. I have been working to corroborate that claim and get one of the Obama team on record.

See a more extensive list of quotes at


As a communication professor who teaches about new media and a researcher who has studied new media technologies for companies such as Google, Comcast NBC Universal and the New York Times, why do I rely so heavily on a book written decades ago? It’s because The Responsive Chord describes with great clarity how media affect our lives and gives us practical guidelines that are just as relevant today as when the book was first published.

The Responsive Chord analyzes how and why our modern media environment works on us and in us. For example, why do some video bloggers who talk about things of little importance to anyone attract millions of followers? Tony Schwartz explains, “People are more likely to choose programming on the basis of some personal function it serves, rather than for specific content. In many instances, it does not matter what a program is about.” (p. 51) As Sam Roberts of the New York Times writes, “Mr. Schwartz presciently anticipated camcorders and also cellphones, iPods and other [modern] electronic devices.” Insights from the book also help us understand current media phenomena such as viral media, social media, virtual reality, and mobile media.


John Carey, Professor of Communications and Media Management at Fordham University, was a student at Fordham in the late 60s, when Marshall McLuhan lectured there as the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities. He subsequently worked for Tony during a time that included the writing of The Responsive Chord. He went on to work in the media industry for many years, with clients including Google, American Express, AT&T, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Primedia, A&E Television Networks, Digitas, The Online Publishers Association, PBS, Cablevision, Rainbow Media, Scholastic and XM Satellite Radio. Carey has served on the advisory boards of the Adult Literacy Media Alliance, the Annenberg School for Communications and Fordham’s Donald McGannon Communication Research Center.

See also On Tony Schwartz on this blog: 

More About Tony Schwartz, Media Pioneer & Audio Documentarian (1923-2008): 


Tony Schwartz in his media lab, New York City, 1982

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New Book Publication Announcement – Taking Up McLuhan’s Cause Perspectives on Media and Formal Causality

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 11:41am


Edited by Corey Anton and Robert K. Logan and Lance Strate

This book brings together a number of prominent scholars to explore a relatively under-studied area of Marshall McLuhan’s thought: his idea of formal cause and the role that formal cause plays in the emergence of new technologies and in structuring societal relations. Aiming to open a new way of understanding McLuhan’s thought in this area, and to provide methodological grounding for future media ecology research, the book runs the gamut, from contributions that directly support McLuhan’s arguments to those that see in them the germs of future developments in emergent dynamics and complexity theory.

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Robert K. Logan is Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Toronto and Chief Scientist at the sLab OCAD University. Lance Strate is Professor of Communication and mMdia Studies at Fordham University in New York.

Reviews “Very good essays on a crucial intellectual topic. I’m hopeful that this anthology will help kick off another McLuhan movement rooted in McLuhan’s place in the great tradition of philosophies of causation”.  – Graham Harman, American University in Cairo Available Now   –   Price £70, US $100   –   Purchase this book   –   ISBN 9781783206940   –   Paperback 292 pages   –   Imprint: Intellect Books (Source: ) four-aristotelian-causes
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New Book Publication Announcement – Remediating McLuhan by Richard Cavell

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:56am


The forthcoming publication of Remediating McLuhan by Richard Cavell was announced on this blog on October 3, 2016. See .

From Richard Cavell’s Introduction (pp. 9-12):

The McLuhan remediated in the following pages is the one who had become a cliché when Donald Theall wrote these words that presaged what eventually became a twenty-year decline in McLuhan’s reputation. Theall’s McLuhan was defined by the parameters of literary modernism, communications biases, hot and cool media and technological determinism. The publication of McLuhan’s Letters in 1987, and Philip Marchand’s biography in 1989, heralded a renaissance of interest in McLuhan that has continued unabated to the centennial conferences and confabulations of 2011 and beyond. While this current scholarly interest has assured McLuhan’s foundational status as media theorist—affirmed by Friedrich Kittler no less — it has by no means exhausted the import of his writings, in large part because his written body of work as a whole is rarely revisited, and because ‘media’ retains a largely communicational bias in much of what has been written about him.

An Overview of the Book’s Chapters

Section One – Re: Mediation

1.Beyond McLuhanism (pp. 19-26): The remediation of McLuhan—after a twenty year hiatus in which he was infrequently cited, often as ‘the infamous’—began in the wake of the publication of his Letters(1987) and Philip Marchand’s biography (1989). What these works suggested was that the ‘McLuhanism’ that had characterised critiques of the media theorist for the previous twenty years had failed to account for a thinker whose complexities extended beyond the remit of media triumphalism, utopian technologism, crypto-Catholic redemption, the ‘return’ to orality, naive globalism and, ultimately, techno-determinism. While these critiques reflected their moment, ‘McLuhanism’ also owed a great deal to McLuhan himself….

2.McLuhan and the Question of the Book (pp. 27-38): McLuhan’s reputation in the 1960s hinged to a considerable extent on his pronouncements about the book, which was considered the prime bulwark against the threat posed by television, and, more broadly, ‘the media’, a concept to which McLuhan was ineluctably connected. McLuhan’s comments about ‘the end of book culture’ (Counterblast[1969], p. 48) were thus not well-received, and he was excoriated by critics for his ‘assault’ on the book. Dame Rebecca West, in her 1967 presidential address to the English Institute in London, asserted that The Medium is the Massage was designed ‘to cheer illiterates on their way, and this…

Section Two – Embodiment as Incorporation

3. McLuhan and the Body as Medium (pp. 41-48): Contemporary media studies are said to be in crisis. The advent of the ‘new’ media has provoked the question of how the new media differ from the ‘old’, mass media. Some, such as Bernhard Siegert, have responded that there are no mass media.¹ Siegert’s argument is that what was massified in mediation were material objects, such as television sets, whereas mediation has more to do with transmission. Others, such as Eva Horn, push Siegert’s argument further, stating that ‘[t]here are no media’ (‘Introduction’, p. 1), and argue that a fixed concept of media has been superseded by the new media,…

4. McLuhan, Tactility, and the Digital (pp. 49-56): In 1967, Marshall McLuhan published one of the defining books of his career: The Medium is the Massage A classic example of remediation, this book not only played on one of McLuhan’s most famous utterances, ‘the medium is the message’, but also inverted the linear, sequential ‘rationality’ and causal determinism deriving from the book as medium. In The Medium is the Massage there are more illustrations than there is print, the book can be read in any order, and McLuhan de-authorises his own relationship to this book by producing it collaboratively. As a result, it can be argued that the…

5. Mechanical Brides and Vampire Squids (pp. 57-64): While there is much that divides Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991), the confluence afforded by the prospect of discussing them together allows us to consider what I suggest is a central strand of connection, namely their tendency to understand media as embodied, which is to say, as having a relationship with bios.¹ This is a paradoxical dimension of their work, however, because the element of embodiment is configured according to a principle of alienation, such that the closer our relationship to media becomes, the further we get from the classic notion of the sovereign self. McLuhan had expressed…

Section Three – Empathic Media 

6. McLuhan: Motion: e-Motion Towards a Soft Ontology of Media (pp. 67-78): While media theorists would agree on few fundamentals intrinsic to their field of study—starting with the definition of ‘media’—they would no doubt concur that media have an epistemological dimension. Whether it be McLuhan’s notion of the media ‘environment’ (‘Educational Effects’, p. 402) or Kittler’s concept of a ‘discourse network’, it can be argued that the effects of media are cognate with the Foucauldian episteme: they ‘determine’² our situation because they function in a Heideggerian manner as the pre-condition of what we can know and say (die Sprache spricht, nicht der Mensch³) and they ‘are’ our situation (as Mitchell…

7. Re-Mediating the Medium (pp. 79-88): It is entirely appropriate to be considering Marshall McLuhan’s work at the Moderna Museet¹ in the context of the ‘post-medium condition’ since this museum has an intimate connection to one of McLuhan’s most provocative comments about the nature of art. Writing inThe Medium is the Massage(1967), McLuhan (with Quentin Fiore and Jerome Agel) superimposed his notion that ‘art is anything you can get away with’ over an image of Nikki de Saint Phalle’s monumental She: A Cathedral, photographed in its Moderna Museet installation of 1966. This 82 foot / 28 metre-long sculpture contained music rooms, a cinema and…

Section Four – Determining Technology

8. McLuhan, Turing, and the Question of Determinism (pp. 91-96): Marshall McLuhan arrived at Cambridge University in the fall of 1934. He enrolled at Trinity Hall (Marchand, Marshall McLuhan, p. 38) and remained there until the summer of 1936, when he received his Bachelor’s degree, having ‘set the foundations for almost all of his subsequent intellectual work’ (Marchand, p. 41). By extraordinary coincidence, Alan Turing, then a Fellow of King’s College, was at the same time ‘supplement[ing] his fellowship by supervising undergraduates in next-door Trinity Hall’ (Hodges, Alan Turing, p.5). Their paths quite possibly crossed, although John Polanyi, who knew them both, states that McLuhan, ‘sadly’, never spoke of Turing.²…

9. Angels and Robots (pp. 97-106): In the mid-1970s, Marshall McLuhan proposed to revisit his foundational text, Understanding Media, in order to address the generation that had experienced the transition from visual space to acoustic space—from the space produced by print media to the space produced by electronic media. Whereas visual space was abstracting, monological and eye-bound, argued McLuhan, acoustic space was involving, dialogical and multi-sensual. What, asked McLuhan, were the implications of this massive shift? The question is no less pertinent now that the move into the electronic regime has advanced so considerably, with the spatial element having become crucial to an understanding of…

Section Five – Being Mediated

10. Marshall McLuhan’s Echo-Criticism (pp. 109-114): ‘Environment’ was the term employed by McLuhan in his elaboration of the way in which media attained epistemic status, becoming, in effect, the frame of reference for a given historical period. Although environmental groups such as Greenpeace (Dale, McLuhan’s Children) take McLuhan as their progenitor, insofar as he provided them with a paradigm for the mediatics of environmentalism, McLuhan’s ‘environment’ differed radically from theirs in that he rejected their notion of ‘nature’.¹ Media had become the new environment in his argument, and media would be the only way out, through the creation of anti-environments. The gestalt dynamic of environment and…

11. McLuhan and the Technology of Being (pp. 115-124): As the terms ‘Facebook’ and ‘YouTube’ suggest, we are increasingly experiencing our being via technologies of mediation; if Facebook implies an extension of corporeality, YouTube more complicatedly points towards an extension of our conscious self. Brian Rotman has expressed this phenomenon as a process of ‘becoming beside ourselves’, which suggests the displacement of fixed notions of being by processual notions of becoming, and the way in which these processes are taking us beyond defined notions of selfhood—from the self to the ‘selfie’. McLuhan’s media theory pertains directly to this increasingly relational sense of being emerging from the mediascape through…

12. The Tragedy of Media: Nietzsche, McLuhan, Kittler (pp. 127-148): Friedrich Kittler asserts provocatively in Gramophone Film Typewriter that Nietzsche heralds media philosophy in his statement “[o]ur writing tools are also working on our thoughts” (quoted p. 200). This reference to Nietzsche opens a significant historical and critical avenue onto media philosophy as practiced not only by Kittler but also by McLuhan, despite the fact that McLuhan’s media philosophy emerged from a rhetorical tradition that was only partly related to the philosophical tradition in which Kittler saw himself to be the mediatic heir of Nietzsche.² Yet this philosophical tradition is key to the emergence of media philosophy as a discourse…

Coda: On the 50th Anniversary of Understanding Media (pp. 149-152): The 26 chapters that comprise the second half of Understanding Media proclaim for media a cultural impact equal to that of the alphabet, while suggesting that to understand the alphabet as a medium asserts a claim to a new philosophical paradigm—amedia philosophy. The seven opening chapters of the book propose media as the trivium and quadrivium of a post-humanistic epistemology.¹ Behind the alphabetic quotient hovers the digital as a universal mode of translation. And the subtitle places mediation in complex relationship to the bios.

Published by: Amsterdam University Press   –   ISBN: 9789089649508   –   Release date: 15-10-2016   –   Edition: Hardback   –   Pages: 202   –   Series: Recursions   (Source: )

See for Richard Cavell’s biography.

richard-cavell Richard Cavell

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