‘Technology, Rhetoric, and Cultural Change: Walter J. Ong, S. J. in the Age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter’
Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, USA – February 7-8, 2014
Gonzaga University will host an interdisciplinary conference Feb. 7-8 celebrating the work of Jesuit scholar and teacher Walter J. Ong, considered among the foremost theorists of rhetoric in the 20th century. The conference is titled, “Technology, Rhetoric, and Cultural Change: Walter J. Ong, S. J. in the Age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.”
A student of Marshall McLuhan and Perry Miller, Father Ong’s dissertation on the importance of Peter Ramus, a 16th century logician who developed a deeply influential pedagogy, brought him an international audience. Over the course of his long career, Ong published several books and hundreds of essays, most arguing that the technology of human communication is reflected, however indirectly, in human consciousness.
This conference will celebrate Fr. Ong’s legacy and the tradition of Jesuit scholarship. As enthusiasts of new media daily claim its transformative status, the conference will explore – using the lens of Walter Ong’s scholarship – these powerful new communication tools and the emerging world they promise.
Gonzaga Academic Vice President Patricia O’Connor Killen will offer a welcome at 5 p.m., Feb. 7, followed by a keynote lecture by English Professor Sara van den Berg, of St. Louis University, who will discuss “The State of Ong Scholarship.” Offering the concluding keynote lectures on Feb. 8 at 3:15 p.m. will be Regis University religious studies Professor Randolph Lumpp, who will discuss “Going Global with Walter Ong: The Society and the Site,” followed by a lecture from Gonzaga communication Professor John Caputo will discuss “Walter Ong: How The Seamless Web of Technology is Restructuring Consciousness.” The conference, to be held in the Jepson Center for the School of Business Administration (click for campus map), features scholars from throughout the world who will present lectures on the following themes: Ong and Writing/Literature; Orality; Language Studies; and Ong and Philosophy. Click the following link to view a list of conference participants. To register online for the conference, visit the following website.
Known for his work in Renaissance literature, intellectual history, and the evolution of consciousness, Fr. Ong authored more than 450 publications and the perennially popular “Orality and Literacy,” which was translated into a dozen languages, both European and Asian. A Saint Louis University Professor Emeritus, the William E. Haren Professor Emeritus of English, and Professor Emeritus of Humanities in Psychiatry, Fr. Ong’s scholarship has influenced numerous fields and countless scholars. He gave lecture tours in Western Africa, Japan, and across Europe.
Fr. Ong’s work was deeply interdisciplinary. His scholarship was difficult to classify by traditional disciplines. His students labeled his courses not English but “Ong-lish” for his vast treatment of topics in any class. He explained in a letter that he did his graduate work in English because “English seemed intellectually and culturally roomier and more open than other subjects. It could encompass what they did and more – could open the way into almost anything.”
The Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Language, Media and Culture at St. Louis University is an academic focal point that promotes interdisciplinary research in the humanities.
Fr. Ong was active until the end of his life. His last article, “Digitization Ancient and Modern: Beginnings of Writing and Today’s Computers,” published in 1998, won the Media Ecology Association’s Walter Benjamin Award for Outstanding Article in the Field of Media Ecology in 2000. He died in 2003.
For more information, please visit the conference website or contact Megan Taylor<mailto: email@example.com> via email or at (509) 313-3567. Media seeking more information should contact Professor Caputo<mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org> via email or at (509) 313-6656 or Peter Tormey<mailto: email@example.com> in Gonzaga University News Service via email or at (509) 313-6132.
See the following previous postings on this blog on:-
Walter Ong & Marshall McLuhan @ Saint Louis University, http://tinyurl.com/78joo4c
More on Walter Ong & Marshall McLuhan, http://tinyurl.com/kufutxo
The 100th Anniversary of Walter J. Ong’s Birth (1912-2003), http://tinyurl.com/qg2ra6t
Marshall McLuhan (center) & Father Walter Ong, SJ (right, seated) at SLU
Eileen G. Mangubat CDN FILE PHOTO
Journalism in time of calamity
If journalism is done well, it empowers communities, saves lives, dispels dangerous rumors, cultivates compassion and keeps hope alive.
These are some roles of the media in covering disasters, according to publisher Eileen G. Mangubat in her inaugural lecture at the annual Marshall McLuhan Forum on Responsible Journalism held at the Marcelo B. Fernan Cebu Press Center Theater in Cebu City.
Mangubat, who is also acting editor in chief of Cebu Daily News, was conferred the 2013 Marshall McLuhan Fellowship by the Canadian Embassy yesterday. Newly installed Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder handed the award to Mangubat.
“I’m very pleased to be here today and to present this McLuhan award to Eileen, to recognize her contribution to journalism in this country and for all the work she has done to promote the values of good faith and responsible journalism that has no boundaries and borders,” Reeder said.
Mangubat is the first Cebuano and the third community journalist to be named a McLuhan Fellow. The other two were Diosa Labiste of Iloilo City in 2010 and MindaNews editor Carol Arguilles of Davao City in 2011.
As part of the fellowship, Mangubat will travel to Canada in February for a two-week study and speaking tour.
Learning from disasters
Mangubat described 10 roles of the media ranging from providing a “reality check” to rallying the community behind relief efforts and “zapping rumors”.
“Community journalists know the power of local stories and images to connect with the various publics that we reach. The work keeps us grounded,” she said in her presentation “Journalism in the Time of Yolanda: The Evolving Role of the Media in Covering Disasters.”
She also told an audience of mostly mass communication students that journalism was “not just a job, but a vocation” carried out for public service.
“While everyone else is hunkering down, finding a warm, dry place to wait out the storm, you (journalists) are being sent to the front lines to be a witness of this awful occurrence. And the mission extends beyond that, to telling the story of how people are more than victims,” she said.
With back-to-back disasters of the Oct. 15 Bohol-Cebu earthquake and supertyphoon Yolanda in Nov. 8, she said it made her see more clearly the importance of the news media “not just in showing the scope of damage – as the traditional bearer of bad news – but in pushing the basic job of truth telling in other roles to achieve a broader sense of public interest, “ she said.
She cited as an example the prime attention given to the private sector’s support of the #BangonSugBohol”, a unified donation drive for calamity victims of the earthquake and supertyphoon Yolanda.
“What the media did was to help energize it by covering it as a news story.”
While it’s important to cover the big story in a calamity, “Community newspapers use another lens to focus on small but significant details,” such as stories of survivors which offer lessons in “perseverance, love of family, and sacrifice,” she added.
“Keep hope alive; cultivate compassion. These are two roles the media doesn’t do often enough. Or sometimes, we do it badly by trivializing what should be an exercise of human dignity,” she said.
Mangubat, who has been a journalist for 30 years, said the first job of the media in a calamity is to report the facts of damage and loss as well as to give a sense of why it happened.
“The journalist is an observer who tells it as it is. This also means not confusing one’s personal preferences with the work at hand,” she said.
Mangubat cited as an example broadcaster Korina Sanchez’s remark dismissing CNN reporter Anderson Cooper as not knowing what he was talking about in reporting about the lack of government leadership in the devastation in Tacloban City right after supertyphoon Yolanda.
As the wife of Secretary Mar Roxas, she should have avoided to comment.
“All Cooper had to do was show his tapes. Korina the broadcaster had violated the rule of conflict of interest and damaged her own credibility because she was never in Tacloban,” she added.
Mangubat, who finished a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, admitted that the media committed lapses.
“There are many things we could have done better,” Mangubat said. She added that while the media put out public advisories and typhoon warnings days before Yolanda hit, nobody explained the full threat of a storm surge.
“What happened in Yolanda? A fatal lapse in communication. No one really understood what a ‘storm surge’ meant. In painful hindsight, the choice of term alone could have saved thousands of lives,” Mangubat said.
“We didn’t see that (storm surge) as the number one threat, even President Aquino. I looked up our raw reports in the Pagasa announcements and even the President’s national TV address. The storm surge advisory was somewhere buried in the body. It didn’t make any impact,” she aded.
Another media role she suggested was to “partner with peers”.
She cited the joint project of Cebu’s three newspapers to set up the #Relieftracker, a database to monitor where relief donations were sent in Cebu.
“In the community press, we compete fiercely for readership. But in this calamity of Yolanda, we found a common cause.”
On the question of whether it’s the role of a news organization to raise funds for calamity victims, she said that “if an organization has the heart and the means to do these efforts with transparency and good bookkeeping, by all means, the help is welcome. But it should be driven by a real spirit of service, not corporate ego,” she said.
Skyline of Metro Cebu
Canadian-Indian artist Mansaram’s films, “Rear View Mirror”, “Intersect” and “Devi Stuffed Goat and Pink Cloth” were screened at Experimenta 2013, India’s first and only independent festival celebrating moving image art. Presented in Bangalore, India, this groundbreaking festival showcased over 50 films and videos from across the world, hosted live experimental music performances, installations, and talks over 5 days at the Max Mueller Bhavan and Badami House. Curated by Shai Heredia, Mansaram’s featured work captures elements of Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic ideas that continue to define and clarify our media-saturated world.
1st December| Sunday | 5:30pm | 30mins | MMB
ARTIST PROFILE – PANCHAL MANSARAM
Curated by Shai Heredia
Panchal Mansaram was born in 1934 in Mount Abu, Rajasthan. In 1966, Mansaram immigrated to Canada, where he met Marshall Mcluhan and A.V. Isaacs. In this series of films and videos Mansaram’s work captures elements of McLuhan’s prophetic ideas that continue to define and clarify our media-saturated world.
1. ‘Rear View Mirror’ Canada/India 1966-2011 16mm on video sound 13 min
“I had the privilege of meeting Marshall McLuhan, soon after arrival in Canada from India. I was already impressed by his ideas through magazines back home. Encouraged by him I did a mixed media concert at the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto, titled East West Intersect, in 67. Later I started doing a series of paintings titled Rear View Mirror in early 70’s, the title borrowed from McLuhan. I was inspired to do a film on the same subject. It was shown in India and Canada. In 2011, I had reedited this film as part of a show at Ed Video media art Centre in Guelph. As in the case of ‘Rear View Mirror’ we are constantly creating our past, while living in the present. Past appears in present in various forms; paintings, drawings, photos, memories, words, sculptures, films. I have woven some of those remnants thru this medium.” - P. M.
Descriptions of Mansaram’s other two films can be found in the full Experimenta 2013 programe (pdf): http://tinyurl.com/mga6uxx
Marshall McLuhan and P. Mansaram at the opening for Mansaram’s ‘Rear View Mirror’ exhibition at the Picture Loan Gallery in Toronto, 1974.
A publisher of a Cebu-based newspaper has been chosen to be the 2013 Marshall McLuhan Fellow by the Embassy of Canada.A statement from the Canadian Embassy in Manila on Monday said veteran journalist Eileen G. Mangubat is “recognized for her noteworthy efforts to steer and maintain an independent and professional community press in Cebu.”
Mangubat, publisher and acting editor-in-chief of Cebu Daily News, is the third community journalist to receive the McLuhan Fellowship, the Canadian Embassy said.
The Marshall McLuhan Fellowship, named after the world-renowned Canadian communication scholar, is the Embassy of Canada’s flagship media advocacy initiative. Launched in 1997 to encourage responsible journalism in the Philippines, the Fellowship underlines Canada’s belief that strong media is essential to a free and democratic society.
The program, with financial support from Sun Life of Canada, provides the winner with a study tour to Canada. This will be an opportunity to interact with media counterparts and to discuss current governance issues with Canadian government officials and members of civil society. The winner will also have the chance to sit as a fellow at the McLuhan Institute in Toronto.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder will present the award to Mangubat on Tuesday, December 3, 9 a.m., at her inaugural lecture at the Marcelo B. Fernan Press Center in Lahug, Cebu City. Admission to the lecture is free. — KBK, GMA News
Dr. David R. Olson
David R. Olson (born in 1935) is one of the most eminent proponents of Literacy Theory and was a member of the Toronto school of communication, and at one time a director of McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. Influenced by Jack Goody’s work, he studied with Jerome Bruner, and has been particulary interested, in many books including A world on paper, by the consequences in thinking and cognition implied by the emerging of writing and reading. He combines cognitive psychology with educational theory, history of literacy and media anthropology. His research into writing and literacy began with the seminal article From utterance to text: the bias of language in speech and writing (1977), in which he analyzed text, the most advanced form of literacy, as a decontextualized and autonomous kind of discourse. His further explorations of the subject were summed up in his book The World on Paper: The Conceptual and Cognitive Implications of Writing and Reading (1994). The book, being the important supplement to Literacy Theory, develops the thesis that text as it is understood was the result of the long cultural evolution, which formed the cognitive bases for theoretical and scientific thought, and laid the foundations for subjectivity in modern understanding.
David Olson published also: Psychological Theory and Educational Reform: How School Remakes Mind and Society (2003), Jerome Bruner: Cognitive Revolution in Educational Theory (2007), and, as co-editor and co-author, Developing Theories of Mind (1990), Literacy and Orality (1991), Modes of Thought: Explorations in Culture and Cognition (1996), The Making of Literate Societies (2001), Literacy, Narrative and Culture (2002), The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy (2009). (Edited source: http://tinyurl.com/l2qptfu )
Here is a quote by David Olson, from a 2009 interview. The full interview can be found by following the link after the quote:
“It is difficult to anticipate the cultural importance of a new technology. Clearly digitalization has opened up new and rapid modes of communication, linking people in new ways within existing communities and creating new ones– chat groups and so on. However, historically and culturally, the big transformations reflected the invention of writing systems, whatever their form, and the invention of print. The former was important because it gave permanence to the word, allowing and inviting people to look more carefully at language itself. So we got the invention of logic and more specialized forms of discourse including “scholarly” language. The second, printing, was important in that it altered readership dramatically, allowing everyone, or almost everyone, to become a participant in the discourse. As we say, it democratized literacy. So, what does digitalization add? Less to literacy, I suspect, than to economics, manufacturing, social planning (airline ticket bookings and the like). Literacy, as a matter of extending the uses of language, so far as I can tell, has not changed much” (Interview, 2009 full interview at http://skhole.fr/node/208 ).
“Conceptually, I am a child at at least a step-child of Jerome Bruner, Jack Goody, Marshall McLuhan and Eric Havelock.” - Preface to The World on Paper (1994)
This is an excerpt from a copyright article of the same title published by me, Alex Kuskis, in (2011) Explorations in Media Ecology, 10(3&4), pp. 313-333. This is Part 5 and additional excerpts from this essay will be published in future postings.
3. The Probe as Pedagogy
Again, that’s terminology used by the author of this essay, not McLuhan, but the phrase applies McLuhan’s idea of an intellectual probe to education and supports his endorsement of discovery learning, since that’s what probes are meant to do – discover something new. The Book of Probes defines the probe as: “… a means or method of perceiving. It comes from the world of conversation & dialogue … Like conversation, the verbal probe is discontinuous, nonlinear; it tackles things from many angles at once” (McLuhan & Carson, 2003, 403). On the need for probing in education, McLuhan wrote:
“Education on all levels has to move from packaging to probing, from the mere conveying of data to the experimental discovering of new dimensions of experience. The search will have to be for patterns of experience and discovery of principles of organization which have universal application, not for facts. … our whole world … has already shifted from data packaging to probing of patterns” (McLuhan, 1966, 41-42).
4. Classroom without Walls
In “The Book of Probes” (2003) McLuhan is quoted as saying that: “The metropolis today is a classroom, the ads are its teachers. The traditional classroom is AN OBSOLETE DETENTION HOME, [his emphasis] a feudal dungeon” (p. 126). McLuhan asserted the need to take learning out of classrooms; hence the 1977 book written in collaboration with Eric McLuhan and Kathryn Hutchon, “City as Classroom”, McLuhan’s only book dedicated exclusively to education. Oddly, it’s intended for classroom use, but many of the assignments are experiential, designed to take students out into the cityscape.
He writes elsewhere: “… 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” (McLuhan, 1966). Later he expanded the ground for education not just to the city or cities, but rather to the whole world: “The little red schoolhouse is already well on its way toward becoming the little round schoolhouse” (McLuhan & Leonard, 1967). Thus the global village was morphed into the global school, which is a remarkable anticipation of the Internet, perhaps the most powerful learning platform yet devised.
1In his book, Canadian Communication Thought, Robert Babe argues for the recognition of a distinctly Canadian paradigm of communication studies.1Grounding his observations in the scholarship of “ten foundational thinkers” – particularly Dallas Smythe, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan – Babe describes ‘Canadian Communication Thought’ as being inherently dialectical, critical, holistic, ontological, oriented towards political economy, and concerned with mediation, power, democracy and dynamic change.2
2Dialectics and critical theory are at the forefront of this Canadian paradigm, representing the country’s unique political and geographic terrain. Its dialectical predispositions stem from several factors including the country’s embrace of British conservatism and a spirit of “collectivity and commonality;” its proximity to the United States and the differences between a “garrison mentality” of “communitarianism” in Canada and a frontier mentality of individualism in the US; and a geographic landscape that engenders both “bleakness” and “imagination.”3 The push and pull between languages (English and French), cultures (a multicultural society with a visible First Nations population), and normative concerns for democracy, equality, and power further underscore a dialectical and critical tradition of hermeneutic inquiry. Accordingly,
…foundational Canadian communication thought emphasizes the importance and the power of the human imagination, and it studies how our imaginations are moulded, or at least influenced, by prevailing institutions, by predominant media of communication, by our stories or myths, by our educational system, and by our place in the world.4
3Proximity to the United States is another contributing factor to this dialectic Canadian identity as: “Canadians are normally immersed in American media, and so are quite aware of American perspectives, even while knowing that these perspectives do not necessarily represent accurately the Canadian situation.”5 In concert, these aforementioned characteristics demarcate the Canadian communication research and scholarly experience and tradition as different and separate from that of the United States. Communications research in America (according to Babe) grew out of a tradition of studying ‘transmission;’ what Harold Lasswell called “administrative research,” and exhibited an attitude that eschewed critical interrogation of the media industries which generate huge sums of individual and corporate capital in the country.6 In countenance to the United States, as Babe further observes, “for Canadians, democracy in part means resistance to hegemonic incursions from outside the country so of course Canadian scholarship, even in the mainstream, is more critical.”7
- 1 Robert E. Babe,Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers(Toronto: University of To (…)
- 2 Hamilton (2010) makes the important rebuttal that we must be careful not to take such claims at fac (…)
- 3 Babe, Canadian Communication Thought, Chapter 1.
- 4 Babe, Canadian Communication Thought, 32.
- 5 Robert E. Babe, “Innis and the Emergence of Canadian Communication/Media Studies,” Global Media Jou (…)
- 6 Babe, “Innis and the Emergence of Canadian Communication/Media Studies,” 19.
- 7 Babe, “Innis and the Emergence of Canadian Communication/Media Studies,” 19.
Source http://inmedia.revues.org/696 (the rest of this article is a review of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Communications Association (CCA) held in Victoria, British Columbia, in June 2013.)
“I perceive communication to be the value of Canada, the highest good of a state where understanding and misunderstanding, conciliatory conversation and vitriol, where constant negotiation and the limits of language, coexist. We have had to learn how to contact one another over an enormous land space, across five and a half time zones, in what was once a wilderness of scattered settlements, in what is now a sprawl of suburban edge cities and satellite towns. Technology forges connections and disconnections here.” - Bruce Powe, “a tremendous Canada of light” (1993), revised & republished as “ Towards a Canada of Light” (2006)
Half a century ago, Canadian media philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village” to describe the inevitable social transformation brought on by new forms of electronic communications. Hitched to satellites whirring through outer space, these technologies, he predicted, would create unities in a world of opposing cultural traditions, religious philosophies, and political ideologies.
The funeral of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 25, 1963, showed how that could be done. It was the first globally significant event to be globally televised. Dignitaries from around the world, on learning of the assassination, had rushed to America’s capital city on intercontinental jet aeroplanes, a relatively new travel technology — only about five years old — that, together with satellite telecommunications, had begun reorganising humankind in McLuhan’s terms. 92 nations were represented at the funeral by 220 high-ranking officials of what appeared to be every possible racial and ethnic configuration. Dressed in their finest formal attire, military or otherwise, medals bristling from their chests, the leaders (almost all of them male) marched side by side in silent dignity behind the horse-drawn caisson bearing the coffin of their slain counterpart.
If the true stars of this hours-long, commercially uninterrupted, live TV broadcast were the president’s family — his handsome brothers, his adorable children, and, most of all, his magnificent widow — these assembled world leaders were more than simply a cast of extras. They were as essential to the larger meaning of that day as the neoclassical government buildings that lined the funeral route.
We can deconstruct their presence in this city and beneath those buildings as a sort of latter-day ancient Roman procession, in which all nations come to pay tribute. Those who don’t risk imperial wrath.
But, from another perspective, the mixture of races and faces among the official mourners may well have inspired onlookers with a sense of hope — justified or not — for a new internationalism, multiculturalism, and global justice.
Surely the most famous image of all from the Kennedy funeral is one that has had considerable staying power. It shows the president’s three-year-old son John Jr. — known affectionately as John John — clutching at his mother with one hand while raising the other to salute his fallen father, whose flag-draped coffin had been lowered onto the caisson.
Whether shown in a full shot that includes his mother, sister, and uncles, or cropped to show him alone (as presented on the closing page of Life‘s memorial edition, which appeared on newsstands a few days later), that single image probably did as much as anything else that weekend, or, indeed, the entire twentieth century, to pull together McLuhan’s global village. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/nbszxme )
Telstar 1 was launched on top of a Thor-Delta rocket on July 10, 1962. It successfully relayed through space the first television pictures, telephone calls, fax images and provided the first live transatlantic television feed.
Imagery and texts range from microscopic algae to Marshall McLuhan for a dual exhibit that is a dialogue between artifacts, living organisms and systems of inscription. The two artists consider the connection between human evolution and technology.
Sandler, of Ilan Sandler Studio Inc., has made large public sculptures, including Lace Up at the Emera Oval, the School Chair in Dartmouth and the temporary Ursa Major’s Visit for the 2011 Nocturne: Art at Night.
Here Sandler makes giant, life-sized sculptures, like statues, of macro views of microscopic diatoms, which are of ancient origin and are among the most common types of phytoplankton. The statues are digital prints inscribed on glass.
The Left Index, by Sandler, is an amazing, giant macro image of a fingerprint as a sculpture of fragmented steel. Leaf Chair is an aluminum chair printed in a photograph of a magnified autumn leaf. Sandler has us questioning invisible or overlooked genetic and scientific systems in organic and everyday life.
Bean, an artist, writer and NSCAD University photography professor, looks at the history of writing machines in photographs of artifacts like the typewriter, IBM computer card punch and the Enigma machine, invented at the end of the First World War for enciphering and deciphering secret messages.
He examines Marshall McLuhan in the fascinating work, Illuminated Manuscripts, 2010, of motion graphic photomontage on two 55-inch flat-screen monitors. These are mounted to the wall and tilted to look like an open book.
He makes a monument to the typewritten word in eight photographs of enlarged typewritten paper and in photographs of typewritten paper crumpled and tossed aside, an expression of frustration that is familiar to some and totally lost to others.
Bean quotes McLuhan, Gertrude Stein and Heraclitus (“scattered gathers, what has gathered blows apart”) in a look at written symbols and the significance of written communication, apart from his examination of the nature of obsolescence. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/nj4fgmy )
See also http://tinyurl.com/pjhgxj4
The Communication Galaxy: Discoveries, Boundaries, & Opportunities (22-24 Nov., 2013: Ottawa, Canada)
The Communication Galaxy: Discoveries, Boundaries, and Opportunities
The legendary Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) prophetically predicted the future of global media communications when he voiced, in one of his most frequently quoted passage of his book: “if a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent” (1962: 41). Indeed, McLuhan’s work revealed the “magical” world: the new media of communication—radio, television, film, photography, satellites, computers, the Internet, and social media.
This conference builds on McLuhan’s notions of “galaxy” and “global village,” where he argued that with the new technological advances of the media (especially television, during his time), societies are restoring the “tribal” character that existed before the invention of print. The world has become a “global village” where people send and receive messages instantly. In 1970, McLuhan told Ed Fitzgerald of CBC television: “You could say that with the satellite, the global village has become a global theatre … [with] everybody on the planet simultaneously participating as actors” (Benedetti & DeHart, 1997: 66).
A fundamental goal of this conference, therefore, is to showcase the various spheres of our current global communication galaxy, evident in the multi-disciplinary framework of human communication, and to demonstrate different emerging issues in the practice of media and technology.
Dr. Graham Murdock, Loughborough University, UK
McLuhan coined one of his best known phrases, the ‘global village’, against the background of the first simultaneous broadcasts by satellite. His vision for a new borderless culture echoed the optimist predictions of world unity and reconciliation that had greeted every transnational communications technology since the advent of the telegraph. Since he wrote, the world has become more interconnected and communications networks –particularly the internet- have played in central role in bringing this about. But this push to ‘globalization’ has increasingly become the battleground for competing conceptions and ambitions and the terrain of intersecting crises.
The world-wide embrace of marketization has been underpinned by the concerted promotion of consumerism- the promise that personal consumer choices are the only true sphere of individual freedom and self –realisation. But delivering on this promise, and the philosophy of growth it presupposes, has generated an escalating environmental crisis, unsustainable levels of person debt, and an accelerating gap in income and wealth.
In the political sphere we see the resurgence of fundamentalisms built around binary contrasts between ‘us’ and ‘them’, friends and enemies, anchored in purist readings of religious texts and national narratives that will admit no ambiguity.The selective translation of these beliefs into militant action has prompted states to intensify levels of surveillance and security producing their own resilient
classifications of threats and risks.
At the same time, we also see a gathering struggle for justice informed by an ethos of cosmopolitan citizenship and the new commons. This paper explores these three dimensions of tension and conflict in the contemporary global landscape focussing on the ways they are translated into struggles over command of communication systems.
Saint Paul University, 223 Main Street, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1C4
More information at http://tinyurl.com/nbvyy6r
Harold Innis and Ted Carpenter have been documented on this blog as key figures in the McLuhan Galaxy. I want to document the other principal figures associated with the Toronto School of Communication, specifically Eric Havelock and David R. Olson, along with some of the key members of the Centre for Culture & Technology such as Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Donald Theall, Dorothy Lee, Tom Easterbrook, Sigfried Giedeon, Ashley Montagu, Karl Polyani, Arthur Porter and others.
Eric Alfred Havelock (June 3, 1903 – April 4, 1988) was a British classicist who spent most of his life in Canada and the United States. He was a professor at the University of Toronto and was active in the Canadian socialist movement during the 1930s. While at Toronto, Havelock began formulating his theory of orality and literacy, establishing the context of a later movement at the University interested in the critical study of communication, which Donald F. Theall has called the “Toronto School of Communications.” Havelock’s work was complemented by that of Harold Innis, who was working on the history of media. The work Havelock and Innis began in the 1930s was the preliminary basis for the influential theories of communication developed by Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Snow Carpenter in the 1950s.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he served as chair of the classics departments at both Harvard and Yale. Although he was trained in the turn-of-the-20th-century Oxbridge tradition of classical studies, which saw Greek intellectual history as an unbroken chain of related ideas, Havelock broke radically with his own teachers and proposed an entirely new model for understanding the classical world, based on a sharp division between literature of the 6th and 5th centuries BC on the one hand, and that of the 4th on the other.
Much of Havelock’s work was devoted to addressing a single thesis: that all of Western thought is informed by a profound shift in the kinds of ideas available to the human mind at the point that Greek philosophy converted from an oral to a literate form. The idea has been very controversial in classical studies, and has been rejected outright both by many of Havelock’s contemporaries and modern classicists. Havelock and his ideas have nonetheless had far-reaching influence, both in classical studies and other academic areas. He and Walter J. Ong (who was himself strongly influenced by Havelock) essentially founded the field that studies transitions from orality to literacy, and Havelock has been one of the most frequently cited theorists in that field; as an account of communication, his work profoundly affected the media theories of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. Havelock’s influence has spread beyond the study of the classical world to that of analogous transitions in other times and places. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/2cesbdx )Donald Theall writes of Havelock’s influence on McLuhan and Innis:-
The foundation of the Toronto School begins with Havelock and the way he interpreted Aeschylus’s play, Prometheus Bound, as a commentary on the dilemma of the rise of technology and its creation of a new sense of space, time and memory in a post-technological world dominated by a shift from orality to writing – an argument he was later to develop at great length in a book McLuhan praised highly, The Preface to Plato.
Innis openly admitted Havelock’s influence on his own work with his interest in communication technologies and the shift in biases toward time and space which resulted in various media. McLuhan’s early work in his Cambridge doctoral thesis, Thomas Nashe and the Learning of his Time, and his first book, The Mechanical Bride, provided him with a unique access to Havelock’s work, presenting possibilities of reinterpreting, expanding and critiquing many of Havelock’s, and later Innis’s, insights. McLuhan was able to use the history of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric and their impact on shaping the poetic and directing learning from Greece to Elizabethan England to extend Havelock’s history of Greek culture to that of the history of culture from the Roman Empire to the Reformation. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/pxvdmy8 )
Scholars at a Lecture (1736) by William Hogarth [the attending scholars look bored]
This is an excerpt from a copyrighted article of the same title published by me, Alex Kuskis, in (2011) Explorations in Media Ecology, 10(3&4), pp. 313-333. This is Part 4 and additional excerpts from this essay will be published in future postings.
Twelve Major Themes in McLuhan’s Commentaries on Education
A close reading of McLuhan’s major and minor publications, especially those focused on education and learning specifically, identifies a list of repeated themes that reoccur in different books and articles. Twelve themes have been identified for this study, which together amount to a coherent vision of how education should be conducted in the post-literate electronic age.
1. “Cool” Pedagogy
“Cool” pedagogy is a term originated by the author of this article, not by McLuhan himself, though the idea derives from McLuhan’s distinction between a hot medium and a cool one, which he explained for Playboy Magazine: “… a hot medium excludes and a cool medium includes; hot media are low in participation, or completion, by the audience and cool media are high in participation” (McLuhan, 1969a). McLuhan argued that pedagogy should be “cool”, so as to invite learner participation, interaction and involvement, not the traditional transmission of knowledge in classrooms, lectures and books. In one of his letters, McLuhan quotes Francis Bacon on the desirability of teaching “broken knowledge” because: “… aphorisms, representing a knowledge broken, do invite men to inquire farther; whereas Methods, carrying the show of a total” do not (Molinaro et al, 1987, p. 444). Teachers shouldn’t try to tell everything about any subject being studied, but rather should allow learners to discover portions of the topic for themselves. McLuhan advocated discovery learning, whereby students would find things out for themselves by working collaboratively on topics that interested them.
2. Elimination of Lectures
The need to eliminate lectures follows from the idea of cool pedagogy, lectures being a “hot” medium and therefore low in participation. Lectures promote passivity and non-involvement, knowledge transmission with little retention, not knowledge construction. McLuhan and Leonard wrote in a LOOK Magazine article (1967):
“Lectures, the most common mode of instruction in mass education, called for very little student involvement. This mode, one of the least effective ever devised by man, served well enough in an age that demanded only a specified fragment of each human being’s whole abilities. There was, however, no warranty on the human products of mass education.” (Mcluhan & Leonard, 1967)
In his short book titled “Counterblast” two years later, McLuhan concluded: “The lecture is finished in the classroom” (1969b, p. 72). But that declaration was premature, as only in the last decade have educators, especially in higher education renewed criticisms of lectures as the primary pedagogy in institutional education (Honan, 2002; Mazur, 1996).
Paul Levinson on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Levinson
Toronto in the 1950s, looking north on Yonge Street
It was Donald F. Theall, Marshall McLuhan’s first PhD student in English Literature, later English and Communication scholar, and President of Trent University who coined the term Toronto School of Communication, as he himself relates:-
“In 1983 in a lecture to an audience in Paris at a UNESCO sponsored symposium on McLuhan, I coined the phrase “The Toronto School of Communication” to describe this phenomenon as an analogy with what at that time was widely known as “The Cambridge School of English”. There was a deliberation in my doing this, since McLuhan as an undergraduate and then a graduate student at Cambridge was associated with this movement during its major impact on literary studies, literary theory and the connection of popular culture with those subjects. Intuitively (and most probably consciously), therefore, McLuhan viewed the multidisciplinary project that he and Carpenter started as the establishment of a “school of thought” which would have a substantial future impact (or perhaps more precisely it should be called “a school of perception” since both McLuhan and Carpenter became more concerned with percepts than concepts)”.
However, it is to be noted that others, notably David R. Olson and Derrick de Kerckhove, attribute the origin of the term “Toronto School,” though not “Toronto School of Communication”, to Jack Goody, so perhaps both Theall and Goody should get credit, the latter for “Toronto School” and the former for its expansion to “Toronto School of Communication”.
Dr. Donald Theall
Theall goes on to name the foundational figures of the Toronto School: Marshall McLuhan, Ted Carpenter, Harold Innis, also adding Eric Havelock later:
“The point at which to begin then is the coming together of McLuhan and [Ted] Carpenter within the context of Toronto in the late 1940s, a marriage of a softer, non-behavioural social scientist, a forerunner of the human sciences, with a historian of literary education and of contemporary poetry and the arts. Within this encounter, Innis ultimately played a secondary role, since the ways in which they supplemented and complemented Innis used some of his insights, but critiqued and transformed them through principles and methods derived from archeology, poetry, the medieval, Renaissance and post-Enlightenment arts, aesthetic criticism and anthropology”. The entire essay can be downloaded as a pdf from ( http://tinyurl.com/pxvdmy8 ).
The book on the Toronto School of Communication is yet to be written (although, please note the collection of essays identified below), but a number of essays available online discuss the idea in broad strokes:-
By Derrick de Kerckhove: “Havelock, McLuhan and, to a lesser degree, Innis, all addressed the issue of the structure of the communication medium itself. They have gone much deeper into the analysis, and that is where the strength of their most interesting conclusions is found. While Innis, owing to his early training in the staple theory, remained primarily concerned with the networking aspects of the ecology of a given medium, Havelock and McLuhan paid closer attention to the distinguishing features of the media themselves. They were looking for possible effects of media deep into the mechanics of the writing system or the electronic medium in question”. (essay available as a pdf from http://tinyurl.com/lqefwg8 )
By Ana Viseu: The Toronto School writes extensively on the effects of any technological change, and particularly on the effects of the change from “oral” to “written” societies. These thinkers advocate the idea of writing as the basis of western culture, or as McLuhan puts it: “By the meaningless sign linked to the meaningless sound we have built the shape and meaning of the Western man” (Olson, 1994, p. 5). The print technology – that arose from this new representation system — is associated with the “suppression of poetic consciousness, and the victory of the written word, the logos” (Kroker, 1984, p. 114). (essay available from http://tinyurl.com/mvyoj4v )
And by Elihu Katz: “McLuhan and his later adherents proposed to understand media as vehicles/engines of (a) change (b) in the mental processing (c) of individuals (d) in the long-run (e) as a result of unique technological attributes of the different media. This combines with the emphasis laid by Innis and developed by his followers on conceptualizing media’s ultimate effects as (a) change (b) in social organization (c) of societies and institutions (d) in the long-run (e) in response to shifting media ecologies. Either of these approaches thus posits that the introduction of new media technologies is destined to bring about thoroughgoing and long-lasting change.” – From Watson, R., & Blondheim, M. (Eds.) (2007). Jerusalem & Toronto: Hebrew University Magnes Press & University of Toronto Press, p. 4.
Howard Engel, right, director of the McLuhan Initiative at the University of Manitoba’s St. Paul College, presents Eric McLuhan with the third annual Medium and the Light Award Oct. 23. Eric is son of Marshall McLuhan, the famed philosopher of communication theory.- Photo by Michael Swan
Written by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register - Friday, 01 November 2013TORONTO – When Marshall McLuhan woke up on a typical work day he didn’t immediately grab a New Testament. He grabbed three. One in the original Greek, the Vulgate Latin translation and then a version in another language he felt a need to work on - - German, Portuguese, maybe Italian.
His son Eric McLuhan remembers it as a process of linguistic triangulation. By looking at various translations his father could deepen his sense of the original and full meaning of the text.
“It would give him something to meditate on,” said Eric. The morning sessions with Scripture would give McLuhan “ideas, thoughts, approaches that were sufficiently outside the box.”
Morning meditation often led McLuhan to new insights about what it meant to communicate, to listen, to see and to read. Insights such as “The medium is the message” — probably his most famous aphorism.
While McLuhan always resisted any attempt to reduce his sayings to a single meaning, there is no doubt the first sense he had was the sense of Christ as the medium who is also the message, said Howard Engel, the director of the McLuhan Initiative at the University of Manitoba’s St. Paul College.
Engel awarded Eric McLuhan with the third annual Medium and the Light Award at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of McLuhan’s famed office and classroom in the coach house behind the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto Oct. 23. The event saw more than 50 scholars in the tiny old coach house including many of his students of 40 years ago. The younger scholars got to sit on the floor, just as their elders had done in the 1960s and ’70s. The Medium and the Light Award is given to thinkers who have done extraordinary work researching, extending and amplifying McLuhan’s religious insights.
“A lot of people don’t associate religion and Marshall McLuhan’s Catholicity with communications theory,” Engel said.
But you don’t really get Marshall McLuhan if you don’t consider his profound religious commitment, said his son.
Eric McLuhan’s own work in communications theory and criticism includes editing the 1999 book The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion by Marshall McLuhan, after which the St. Paul’s College award is named.
In the 1950s McLuhan left the University of Manitoba, MA in hand, to pursue advanced studies at Cambridge University in England. The colonial boy was told he would have to re-do his BA and MA before he would be ready for doctoral studies at the prestigious English university. It was during that period of re-examination that he became a Catholic.
“He wasn’t born into the Church,” said Eric McLuhan. “He worked his way in, almost kicking and screaming. He was a very skeptical, very pragmatic man. He wanted proof before he would accept anything. His conversion was of that character as well.”
Eric recently donated 6,000 of his father’s books to the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. The books are prized by McLuhan scholars for the many notes the great man made in the margins as well as personalized indexes he would compile on the end pages.
But the Fisher Rare Book Library didn’t get the Bibles.
“I’m still using them,” said Eric.
Source: The Catholic Register http://tinyurl.com/l7djpey
By Philippe Theophanidis
“Detribalization by literacy and its traumatic effects on tribal man is the theme of a book by the psychiatrist J. C. Carothers, The African Mind in Health and Disease (World Health Organization, Geneva, 1953). Much of his material appeared in an article in Psychiatry magazine, November, 1959: “The Culture, Psychiatry, and the Written Word.” Again, it is electric speed that has revealed the lines of force operating from Western technology in the remotest areas of bush, savannah, and desert. One example is the Bedouin with his battery radio on board the camel. Submerging natives with floods of concepts for which nothing has prepared them is the normal action of all of our technology. But with electric media Western man himself experiences exactly the same inundation as the remote native. We are no more prepared to encounter radio and TV in our literate milieu than the native of Ghana is able to cope with the literacy that takes him out of his collective tribal world and beaches him in individual isolation. We are as numb in our new electric world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture”. ☛ Understanding Media: The Extension of Man by Marshall McLuhan, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965, p. 16.
In Understanding Media, McLuhan writes about “technological trauma” (66), “the major trauma of the telegraph” (252), “the trauma of industrial change” (Ibid.) and how “the transition from mechanical to electric technology is so very traumatic and severe for us all” (342). The general idea that there may be a correlation between the introduction of new technologies and mental illness played an important role in McLuhan’s work. This idea was in turn strongly inspired by the work of physician and ethnopsychiatrist John Colin D. Carothers (1903-1989).
McLuhan had also written at length of the traumatic effects of literacy in his previous book The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962). In fact, McLuhan acknowledged in a letter of admiration he wrote to J. C. Carothers that the impulse to write The Gutenberg Galaxy came directly from reading his article “The Culture, Psychiatry, and the Written Word.” (quoted in the above excerpt):
St Michael’s College
December 20th, 1963
Dear Dr Carothers:
It was reading your article on “Culture, psychiatry and the written word”, that decided me to settle down and write the Gutenberg Galaxy. It was published in 1962 by the University of Toronto Press and reprinted by Routledge & Kegan Paul Company.
The mosaic form in which I present the Galaxy has baffled some readers. It is a form that permits a considerable degree of natural relating of matters that cannot be presented in ordinary lineal exposition. I was happy to be able to quote your article extensively.
There is really no excuse for my having delayed so long to express my admiration of your work. It was of great use to me, indeed.
Prof. H. M. McLuhan
(retrieved from “Responses to Raymond Prince’s ‘John Colin D. Carothers (1903-1989) and African Colonial Psychiatry’ [TPRR, 33(2): 226-240]” by Raymond Prince, Sunny T. C. Ilechukwu and Jock McCulloch, Transcultural Psychiatry, September 1997, vol. 34, no. 3, p. 410)
The Gutenberg Galaxy indeed offers an exhaustive reading of Carothers’ 1959 article. McLuhan quotes the article at length and borrows from its references in the process. The discussion about the article is in fact longer than the 14-page article itself. The Canadian media theorist summarizes what he found so compelling about the work of the ethnopsychiatrist in the following way:
“[Carothers] great contribution has been to point to the breaking apart of the magical world of the ear and the neutral world of the eye, and to the emergence of the detribalized individual from this split”. (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1962, p. 22)
McLuhan’s account of Carothers’ work gives him the opportunity to lay down his own theory about the intimate relationship between culture and technology and, therefore, about the significant effect produced when a modification is introduced in the latter, creating a “split” in experience, a “division of faculties”.
Although Carothers’s monograph received positive reviews when it was first published (see from 1954 Human Biology, The American Journal of Psychiatry and The Eugenics Review) its theories are today subject to some controversy. In 1995, Jock McCulloch published a book titled Colonial Psychiatry and the African Mind where he explores the issues surrounding the concept of “African Mind”. The author argues that such a concept is “premised on the colonial notion of African inferiority” (Amazon, Google Books with preview).
Read the rest at http://tinyurl.com/pa8l79k .
Philippe Theophanidis is currently a Ph.D.c with the Department of Communication at University of Montréal where he also taught for five years (Médias et culture populaire, Théories de la communication, Communication médiatique and Innovation et médiation sociotechnique). Prior to his Ph.D., he has completed a M.A. in Film Studies.
circa 1939: A French officer points in the direction of Berlin, from a fort on the Maginot Line.
This is an excerpt from a copyrighted article of the same title published by me, Alex Kuskis, in (2011) Explorations in Media Ecology, 10(3&4), pp. 313-333. This is Part 3 and additional excerpts from this essay will be published in future postings.
Educational Institutions as Maginot Lines
McLuhan used the metaphor of the Maginot Line, the French static line of defensive concrete fortifications and tank obstacles, built between themselves and Germany and Italy before World War II, comparing it to the change-resistant educational system and its reluctance to adopt new media and methods. The advancing German armed forces simply diverted around the Maginot Line, attacking France through Belgium, thereby outflanking the French defensive positions and making them useless. Similarly, students avoid the change-resistant educational system by dropping out:
“We relate everything to the fixed point of change. An educational system that tries to hold a line is making the Maginot Line mistake. What happens to Maginot Lines is that people ignore them and go around them. The dropouts are just people who are going around the Maginot Line of our educational system, looking for some other source of entry into the territory of their times”. (McLuhan, 1966, p. 41)
The attack metaphor is apt because the new media do indeed attack the prevailing communication environment of schools, both in McLuhan’s day and in our own; they do so by diverting the interests and attention of students away from the books, classrooms and lectures with which institutional learning is still bound up. That the educational status quo cannot win this conflict is suggested by comparison with the transition from the orality-based learning of the early medieval era and the Gutenberg era of book-centric learning in classrooms. McLuhan notes:
“When the printed book first appeared, it threatened the oral procedures of teaching and created the classroom as we know it. Instead of making his own text, his own dictionary, his own grammar, the student started out with these tools…Today, these new media threaten, instead of merely reinforce, the procedures of this traditional classroom. (McLuhan, 1957, p. 25)
Just as today’s media-focused students are diverted from book learning by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, texting, and smartphones, so in McLuhan’s time they were diverted by TV, movies, rock and roll music and radio.
Here at Second Nature we’re celebrating Halloween and All Saints’ Day by channeling the ghost of Marshall McLuhan. How you ask?
We’re reading the only e-mail Neil Postman ever sent in which he poses as the ghost of Marshall McLuhan:
This is the Ghost of Marshall McLuhan speaking to you. I don’t have to tell you from what world I come. I am using Chris Nystrom’s facility in order to reach you. I will say what I have to say only once. You will not hear from me again unless you persist in your foolishness.
We’re also reading the famous Wired interview with Marshall McLuhan, conducted via email 16 years after his death in 1980. If this isn’t a good ghost story, what is?
The fallacies of this interview with McLuhan are as follows: About a year ago, someone calling himself Marshall McLuhan began posting anonymously on a popular mailing list called Zone (firstname.lastname@example.org). Gary Wolf began a correspondence with the poster via a chain of anonymous remailers . McLuhan (who would have been 85 this year) said he now lives in a beach town in Southern California named “Parma.” (This town does not exist.) One after another, tiny hints, confirmed by third parties close to McLuhan decades ago, convinced Wolf that if the poster was not McLuhan himself, it was a bot programmed with an eerie command of McLuhan’s life and inimitable perspective. After many rounds of e-mail, the conversation got down to the meat of the matter: What does McLuhan think about all this new digital technology?
Continue Reading: Channeling McLuhan at Wired.com
This item sourced from Second Nature Journal: http://tinyurl.com/pc3dk6l
The Disconnect Between Education and Student’s Lives
Since at least the 1950s, McLuhan saw a disconnect between the information environment that existed outside of schools, which was electronic, image and visually-biased, requiring involvement in depth, simultaneous rather than segmented and linear, and tending to retrieve aspects of the learning conditions of oral cultures that had been obsolesced by writing long ago. Writing in 1964, he noted that: “Today, the ordinary child lives in an electronic environment; he lives in a world of information overload” (McLuhan, 1964b, p. 52). Television had become the primary source of learner information and knowledge about the world, with movies, radio, popular music, and to some extent, computers, contributing to the electronic media ecology. He opined that: “Any moment of television provides more data than could be recorded in a dozen pages of prose” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 52). Children could not help but be conscious of the “Niagara of data” they were exposed to outside of school, compared to which their “nineteen century classrooms and curricula, where data flow is not only small in quantity but fragmented in pattern” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 52), undermined their motivation to learn. The result was school dropouts, both psychic and physical:
“The youngsters coming out of a highly integral electronic environment go to school and are confronted by a fragmented, specialist environment of subjects and hours and instructions which baffle them. They know that this form of fragmentation does not correspond in any way to the world they’re living in… When the school fails to make sense of their environment, they drop out, either physically or psychologically. The psychic dropout far outnumbers the physical dropout which also is on the increase.” (McLuhan, 1966, p. 40)
According to McLuhan, physical dropouts are bad enough, with large numbers of disaffected students, perhaps as many as one out of three or more, physically leaving the educational system before graduation; however, arguably worse are the “psychic dropouts”, those who remain in the system, just going through the motions of learning, engaged in shallow rather than deep learning, perhaps just learning enough to pass the tests and get their diplomas. Students could only be alienated when some of them, often the brightest and best, came to sense that:
“Our classrooms and our curricula are still modeled on the old industrial environment. They have not come to terms with the electronic age and feedback. What is indicated for the new learning procedures is not the absorption of classified and fragmented data, but pattern recognition with all that implies of grasping interrelationships”. (McLuhan, 1964b, p. 53)
McLuhan was especially dismayed by what he saw in the Canadian educational system of the 1950s and 1960s:
“Canada is still almost entirely a 19th century country… Its educational system is anachronistic: students are still being processed through the old fragmented specialist chopper and they might as well be on a carousel… in some entertainment park. Our youngsters at school are reacting to this, and dropping out of school is one response… When the school fails to make sense of their environment, they drop out, either physically or psychologically. The psychic dropout far outnumbers the physical dropout which also is on the increase”. (McLuhan, 1966, p. 40)
McLuhan also writes that: “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it” (McLuhan, 1964b, p. 199). The school system, because of its intrinsically conservative nature, tends to move with change rather than ahead of it. Indeed, it can be argued that the educational system moves behind the changes that occur in the rest of society and has done so for decades. The educational system has been likened to an amoeba with “an uncanny ability to ingest a new idea … without changing [itself] very much” (Gardner & Barnett, 2003). Amoeba-like, it simply absorbs all media and reform initiatives, and flows remorselessly onward, remaining essentially unchanged.Maxwell Public School in Windsor, Ontario was built in 1928.
Jian Ghomeshi is an award-winning broadcaster, writer, musician and producer. He is the host and co-creator of the national daily talk program, Q, on CBC Radio One and CBC TV. Since its inception in 2007, Q has garnered the largest audience of any cultural affairs program in Canada and has become the highest-rated show in its morning time slot in CBC history. Q is also now broadcast across the United States, on PRI.
Sean Foley is Director of CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi, as well as a writer, amateur saxophonist, and a longtime fan of Marshall McLuhan.
The following is a short essay on Marshall McLuhan narrated by Jian Ghomeshi on his CBC Radio One Q program on Wednesday, October 23 as an introduction to a live debate on the question – Is the Internet making us smarter or stupider? The debaters are Clive Thompson and Steve Easterbrook and the whole debate is well worth listening to.
Listen to the introductory essay by clicking on the link at the beginning of this sentence.
ESSAY ON MARSHALL MCLUHAN
We use things to help us accomplish tasks.
We call them tools.
And we focus mainly on how well they work, to get the job done.
There are tools that many of us can identify at a glance; and, in our highly specialized world, there are things we suspect are tools, but we couldn’t be sure what they’re for.
(That can trigger a particularly daunting feeling at the dentist’s office).
And there are tools that we use all the time that we don’t even recognize as such.
A car. Language. Money.
“Media” — that’s the term the late, visionary social critic and philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, used for all of these things, and much more.
Here’s a question about tools.
When we’re using one, do we ask, ‘how is this working …ON ME?’
We know what the tool is supposed to be doing FOR us…
….but what about what it does TO us?
That question was a huge part of Marshall McLuhan’s thinking.
The effect of various media on humankind.
And I quote: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter, our tools shape us.’”
That quote is often misattributed to McLuhan…
…and the error can be found many times over, if Google is your tool.
In fact, it was coined by a close associate of McLuhan’s…John Culkin, a former Jesuit priest, author, and teacher. With some help from William Blake.
But McLuhan said it often. The effect of our tools on us was something McLuhan constantly strove to point out.
He saw himself as a person who studied the transformational effects of communication.
...’How people are changed by the instruments they employ.’
He said that. In 1974. You can see him saying it, on the internet.
For McLuhan, this work seems to have been deeply personal.
He admitted he sought understanding in a world of innovation so that he could neutralize its effects…
‘So then you know where to turn off the button’, as he put it….back in 1966.
Now, our communication is as immersive and immediate as ever.
And whether you love being online, or hate it…
…whether you find the internet disconcerting, or a source of community and connection…
Whether you think it’s making us smarter….or …stupider…
It’s probably a good idea to bring awareness to the tools we use.
To pay attention to how they shape us….individually, and collectively…
….as we use them to do what we need to do.