A Dialogue with Professors B. W. Powe and Robert K. Logan, St. Michael’s College, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 4:45pm

McGraw-Hill hardcover edition (1964)

St. Michael’s Book and Media Program

 Cordially invites you to

An Event Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the

Publication of Marshall McLuhan’s Book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

A Dialogue with Professors B. W. Powe, York University  and Robert K. Logan, University of Toronto

Moderator – Marc Glassman

Understanding Media Cover (1964)

Signet Paperback edition (1964)

B. W. Powe is a former McLuhan student, a professor of English at York University and author of the recently published Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Alchemy and Apocalypse (2014)

 Bob Logan is a former McLuhan collaborator, a U of T physics professor, St. Michael’s College Fellow and author ofMcLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight (2013)

 Marc Glassman is a Ryerson University adjunct professor and founder of the Pages Unbound Festival

 Date: Monday, November 10th, 2014

 Time: Pre-Event Reception: 4:00 pm, Dialogue Event: 4:30 – 6:00 pm

Location: Fr. Robert Madden Hall, Carr Hall

 100 St. Joseph Street, St. Michael’s College, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4


Categories: Blog

The Medium is the Massage: The Film (1967)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 6:31pm

A NOTE TO READERS: I’ve been informed that the McLuhan Estate purchased “The Medium is the Massage” film, described in my posting below, from McGraw-Hill with the intention of making it available on the Official MM site: . The party tasked to do that erroneously assumed that it could also go to other sites, including YouTube. But that was not the intent, and it has been removed from YouTube and other places and hence the code linking my posting below to YouTube no longer works. Michael McLuhan, who runs the estate, has informed me that the film will become available on the official site in a couple of weeks. I will post a note here and inform my subscribers of its availability at that time and provide a direct link to it. Sorry for the inconvenience………..Alex

I posted a note on this blog about this film on August 14, 2011 (see ) with the  comments below:-


The Medium is the Massage – The book (1967)

All McLuhanists know the book by Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore titled The Medium is the Massage (1967) and most are familiar with the LP that came out around the same time with the same title. But I suspect that few are aware of the film that was distributed that same year (1967) by McGraw-Hill Education under the same title. The only public showing this 54 minute film appears to have had was on NBC TV, as the entry below from TV Guide indicates. I saw it at the New Museum located in the Bowery in New York City in August, 2011, viewing it on a 16 mm copy of the film loaned by the Pratt Institute, which was red with age and in deteriorating condition. It’s essential that someone preserve a copy of this valuable film and digitize it for the posterity for the insights it gives on Marshall McLuhan’s ideas and era.

Somebody must have read what I said, because the film has now been digitized and made available on YouTube. The time length of the film is just under 54 minutes. Most people will not have seen this film, which is well worth watching; in it McLuhan discusses the need for pattern recognition at a time when media communication is at the speed of light, among other ideas….Alex

Here’s the YouTube video, narrated by actor Edward Binns:

Categories: Blog

New Book: McLuhan’s Global Village Today: Transatlantic Perspectives

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:45am

McLuhan’s Global Village Today

Edited By Carmen Birkle, Angela Krewani, Martin Kuester

2014 | Pickering & Chatto | 242 pages

Marshall McLuhan was one of the leading media theorists of the twentieth century. His work extended beyond academia, making him part of the ‘popular culture’ which he helped to define. This collection of essays explores the many facets of McLuhan’s work from a transatlantic perspective. Balancing applied case studies with theoretical discussions, together the chapters provide an insightful look at the legacy of the man who coined the term ‘global village’.

McLuhan’s Global Village Today: An Introduction – Carmen Birkle, Angela Krewani and Martin Kuester

Part I: McLuhan and Media Theory
1 In-Corporating the Global Village – Richard Cavell
2 Metaphorical Effects: McLuhan’s Media – Jana Mangold
3 Hot/Cool vs Technological/Symbolic: McLuhan and Kittler – Andreas Beinsteiner
4 Global Immediacy – Florian Sprenger
5 The Complementary Aspects of Marshall McLuhan and Postmodernism in the Literary Study of the Internet: Exemplified in the Rhizome Theory of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari – Martin Speer
6 Dubjection: A Node (Reflections on Web-Conferencing, McLuhan and Intellectual Property) – Mark A McCutcheon

Part II: McLuhan and Literature
7 Herbert Marshall McLuhan: Before The Mechanical Bride – David Staines
8 ‘Cambridge was a Shock’: Comparing Media from a Literary Critic’s Point of View – Bernhard J Dotzler
9 Master, Collaborator and Troll: Marshall McLuhan, Wilfred Watson and Brian Fawcett – Martin Kuester
10 Taking Action: What Comics Demand of Their Recipients – Anne Hoyer

Part III: McLuhan and Technical Media
11 Radio Voices: Reflections on McLuhan’s Tribal Drum – Kerstin Schmidt
12 McLuhan’s Paradigms and Schafer’s ‘Soundscape’: Parallels, Influences, Envelopes, Shifts – Sabine Breitsameter
13 Literary Modernists, Canadian Moviegoers, and the New Yorker Lobby: Reframing McLuhan in Annie Hall – Paul Tiessen
14 The Animated Medium is the Animated Message (?): Reading Animated Moving Pictures with Marshall McLuhan – Philipp Blum
15 Marshall McLuhan and the Emergence of American Television Theory – Angela Krewani
16 ‘The Medium in Your Pocket’ – A McLuhanian Approach to New Media – Raphael Peter (Source: )

Thanks to Martin Speer for informing me about this book, which is the product of a conference held at the University of Marburg in Germany in May, 2011, that I posted information about in this blog here: .

Logo der Philipps-Universität Marburg

Categories: Blog

Call for Papers: International Joint Conference on Marshall McLuhan’s Faith & Works, Winnipeg, Oct. 2015

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 10:03am

The First Joint Conference 

International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity (IISTC)

and The Marshall McLuhan Initiative


McLuhan’s Faith and Works

Click on image for expanded view

October 18-19, 2015 St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, CANADA

Conference Coordinators: Read Mercer Schuchardt ( Wheaton College ; Howard R. Engel ( St. Paul’s College

St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba is delighted to host the First Joint Conference of the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity (IISTC) and The Marshall McLuhan Initiative.  The IISTC, founded in 2013, is the publisher of Second Nature Journal (online at  St. Paul’s College is the major Catholic institution of higher learning in the province of Manitoba, Canada ( The University of Manitoba, Marshall McLuhan’s first post-secondary alma mater, was founded in 1877 as Western Canada’s first public university.  The purpose of The Marshall McLuhan Initiative, founded in 2007, is “to honor, celebrate, and extend the life’s work of Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), who grew up in Winnipeg, graduated from the University of Manitoba, was a devout Catholic, a beloved professor of English literature, prophetic poet, satirist, and the renowned communications theorist, visionary, and media guru that we recognize today.” The Marshall McLuhan Initiative has a special interest in the religious thought and life of Marshall McLuhan, and in his Canadian Prairie roots. The International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity has a special interest in the religious thought and life of Marshall McLuhan in that he was a founder of the school of thought now known as Media Ecology, was the direct inspiration for Neil Postman’s program at New York University, and was a lifelong adherent to the faith of Christianity.  It is with this unique perception of the importance of McLuhan’s faith on his work that we proceed to explore in depth both the concepts and percepts of McLuhan’s Faith and Works

“Faith is a mode of perception” according to McLuhan.  McLuhan had this faith and practiced it daily by reading scripture and attending mass, and yet he rarely mentioned it or wrote much about its role in his life’s work of analyzing and understanding media forms.  Or perhaps all McLuhan ever did was analyze media from the detached observational viewpoint that the faith had granted him?  Scholars, critics, biographers, colleagues and interlocutors both inside and outside his faith tradition disagree and debate about the nature of his faith and the nature of its role (or lack thereof) in his otherwise “secular” academic work.  Until 1999, with the publication of The Medium and The Light, knowledge of McLuhan’s faith was itself fairly limited.  As more material comes forth and as more of the religious aspect of sensory perception is allowed into academic discourse, now is the time to have an open, provocative, invigorating, and challenging discussion of just what, how, where, when, and why did McLuhan’s faith play a role in his life’s work. 

The conference organizers invite papers, panels, debates, workshops, short films, videos, musical or theatrical entries, artworks and poetry that explore this theme.  McLuhan once observed of his prairie roots, “I think of Western [Canadian] skies as one of the most beautiful things about the [Canadian] West and western horizons.  The [Canadian] Westerner doesn’t have a point of view.  He has a vast panorama, he has such tremendous space around him… he has a total field of vision.”  In keeping with McLuhan’s perception of this “total field of vision,” the conference organizers welcome submissions that address the conference theme from the widest possible angle.  Submissions on any topic of interest to the IISTC (and to readership of Second Nature Journal) are also encouraged, but centrality of the conference theme in received submissions will play a role in prioritizing conference presenters.

Please send 3-paragraph proposals or completed papers to by March 15, 2015 for consideration. We will notify you of acceptance by April 15, 2015.

The conference site at University of Manitoba is surrounded by the beautiful and historic city of Winnipeg, where Marshall McLuhan was raised from age four until he left for Cambridge University in 1934. Attendees will note that 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the McLuhan family move to Winnipeg.  The private house in the Fort Rouge area of Winnipeg was the McLuhan family home from 1919 to 1934, a time which represents the longest McLuhan lived at any address in his whole life.  Winnipeg is known as the cultural cradle of Western Canada, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.  In addition to the conference, visitors can enjoy world-class cultural, historic, and geographic attractions, such as the newly opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights (  See for a more complete offering on what’s happening in Winnipeg and how to maximize the enjoyment of your visit. We encourage conference participants to extend their visit one or more days to avail themselves of Winnipeg’s offerings.

The registration page for the “McLuhan’s Faith and Works” Conference is here:


For your convenience, we provide you with the following accommodation information: The conference organizers suggest booking your rooms at the CanadInns Fort Garry Destination Centre (204-261-7450; toll free: 1-888-332-2623) on 1824 Pembina Hwy, which is offering a special rate of $118 (reg $150) for a standard (2 queen beds) room per night for conference attendees, and runs a complimentary shuttle service to/from the Winnipeg Airport from 8am to 9pm daily.  The CanadInns reservations Web site is at

The Queen Bee Hotel (204-269-4666; toll free 1-866-431-4666) at 2615 Pembina Hwy is slightly further away, but offers low cost rooms at a smaller establishment, and is offering rooms at a $10 discount to conference attendees.  Please mention the McLuhan Conference to receive a preferred booking rate at either hotel. Discounted rates apply for stays ranging from October 16 to October 20. See their Web page through Tourism Winnipeg at,102743/01025/queen-bee-hotel

Guidelines for Submission of Abstracts (Deadline: March 15, 2015)

For Manuscripts:  1. Manuscripts should be 2,500- 7,500 words (approximately 10 to 30 double-spaced pages).  Include a cover page with your academic or professional affiliation and other contact information.  Include a 150-word abstract with the title.  Please use APA style.

For paper and panel proposals:  1. Include title, 150-word (min) to 500-word (max) abstract, and contact information with your proposal.  2.  Outline, as relevant, how your paper or panel will fit the conference theme.

Inquiries should be directed to the Conference Coordinators:  Read Mercer Schuchardt, Wheaton College, 630-752-5943 or Howard R. Engel, 204-253-0419

For more information on the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity please see or our publication Second Nature Journal at .

507 Gertrude Avenue, Winnipeg, Marshall McLuhan’s childhood home

507 Gertrude Avenue, Winnipeg
Categories: Blog

Tribalism & Reflections on Race (and Identity)

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 10:40am

An Excerpt From Culture Worrier by Journalist Clarence Page 


 Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change by Clarence Page, Foreword by Chris MatthewsCulture Worrier: Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change by Clarence Page, Foreword by Chris Matthews

When the pioneer media guru Marshall McLuhan visited my university during my student days, he said something that has stuck with me. A student asked what he thought of the “black power” movement that was simmering at the time. “White America is detribalizing,” he observed in his characteristically prophetic fashion, “and black America is re-tribalizing.”

He said more, but the elegant imagery and symmetry of that statement has stayed on my mind ever since. McLuhan used the term “tribe” a lot. He spoke and wrote about “tribal man” versus “technological man,” for whom modern media are extensions of the self. In these and in other ways, he was far more often quoted than understood. But what he was saying made clear sense to me. It was the civil rights era. White America was relaxing its historic customs, institutions and traditions of white privilege. Black America, particularly my young generation—presenting cool but feeling very cautious—was turning inward, rejecting the melting-pot assimilationist values of our elders and reaching back to discover our roots in a place to which we never had been, a romanticized Eden called “Africa”—or in some super-righteous circles, “Afrika.”

Fast forward. Were McLuhan around today in the new media age of Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram and the cloud—and once he got through with his I-told-you-so’s—I believe he would observe something quite the opposite of what he said about racial tribes in the 1960s. He might well observe that African-Americans in the age of Barack Obama have been detribalizing while white Americans in the age of tea party politics are re-tribalizing.

Or maybe he, like the world, would be more complicated than that. In McLuhanesque terms, I have seen all Americans re-tribalize—as in, rearrange ourselves less strictly along lines of race or ethnicity than along lines of shared culture, values, interests and attitudes. Today’s tribes are less distinctly racial and ethnic than cultural and political. Such is the new neotribalism that has defined my career as a reporter and my past three decades as a columnist, from which the works in this book were selected. I’ve written a lot about race and ethnicity, but race only has been the most obvious marker of far more significant cultural and tribal relations in our society. Ambrose Bierce got the point with his dour Industrial Age definition of “the Conservative” as “a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”

———- [ snip ] ———-

McLuhan, who died in 1980 at age 69, had an idea of what was ahead. “The tribalizing power of the new electronic media, the way in which they return us to the unified fields of the old oral cultures, to tribal cohesion and pre-individualist patterns of thought, is little understood,” he wrote. “Tribalism is the sense of the deep bond of family, the closed society as the norm of community.” Had he stuck around long enough to have seen increasingly vast and diverse new political media and vast audiences tuning in not only to their own favorite opinion but also their own favorite version of facts, I suspect he once again would have said, “I told you so.”

Reprinted with permission from Culture Worrier by Clarence Page, Agate Bolden, September 2014. (Read the rest of this ecerpt at:


Along with tribalism and race, the author of this book should have included  identity and its loss, which was of even greater concern for Marshall McLuhan, who he cites throughout this excerpt. Identity and loss of identity are at the root of much of the violence and discord that we see in the world today. A McLuhan quote:-

 “The violence that all electric media inflict in their users is that they are instantly invaded and deprived of their physical bodies and are merged in a network of extensions of their own nervous systems. As if this were not sufficient violence or invasion of individual rights, the elimination of the physical bodies of the electric media users also deprives them of the means of relating the program experience of their private, individual selves, even as instant involvement suppresses private identity. The loss of individual and personal meaning via the electronic media ensures a corresponding and reciprocal violence from those so deprived of their identities; for violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence.” – “Violence of the Media”, Canadian Forum, 1976

See McLuhan speak about identity on this video excerpt from Marshall McLuhan Speaks 

Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction.  - Marshall McLuhan

Categories: Blog

On the Media: McLuhanisms 50 Years Later & an Interview with Nicholas Carr

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 6:52pm

On the Media is a weekly one-hour National Public Radio program devoted to media criticism and analysis. See .

WNYC’s Sara Fishko left us with some intriguing questions [regarding Marshall McLuhan]. To answer them, Brooke speaks to Nicholas Carr about how Marshall McLuhan’s theories have held up, 50 years later. Carr’s latest book is called The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, and examines the impact of our growing dependency on computers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

GUESTS: Nicholas Carr     –     HOSTED BY: Brooke Gladstone

Click on the following to hear the interview with Nicholas Carr:


About Nicholas Carr:

  Nicholas Carr

Categories: Blog

The Medium is the Message: Marshall McLuhan on Media, Humor, & the Media Child

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 7:09pm

From The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, Bantam Books, New York, 1967.

 Penguin Edition

 An Essay by Menachem Feuer of York University, Toronto, from his Schlemiel Theory blog (republished by permission). This is an excerpt; read the whole essay at . [Marshall McLuhan], like [Norman] Mailer, appealed to an entire generation of youth in the 1960s. McLuhan wanted to create a buzz of sorts around his ideas about media. So, in order to make his concepts accessible, McLuhan worked together with Quentin Fiore to create a text juxtaposed with collaged images that anyone could pick up, read, scan, feel, and understand how the medium is the message. This book, published in 1967, is entitled The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects.  (An audio version of the book also was circulated at the time; the correlation between the two, however, is complicated.)

What I find most striking about this little book (without page numbers) [actually, there is some pagination] is the fact that it sees the subject of this new media transformation as a kind of man-child and it finds that the best medium for educating the man-child to be humor.

McLuhan begins by noting that our “anxiety” with the new age has to do with the fact that we are approaching the changes we are going through with the “wrong tools”:

Everything is changing – you, your family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to “the others.” And they’re changing dramatically…Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions. Our “Age of Anxiety” is, in part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools – with yesterday’s concepts.

However, “youth instinctively understands the present environment – the electronic drama.” They understands everything in terms of “interfaces.” They also understand that education can longer be based on the previous educational system which was too “serious.” Today, in the media age, humor must be the new basis for education:

Our time presents a unique opportunity for learning by means of humor – a perceptive or incisive joke can be more meaningful than platitudes lying between two covers.

One needs to live in the “social drama” by way of the witty response which focuses on “means or processes rather than ‘substance’.” And instead of the “family circle” or the school being the basis of education, “character no longer is shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world’s a sage.”  This last pun, playing on Shakespeare, indicates that our new kind of education is, because of the media “buzz”… everywhere.

Juxtaposing a picture of a young boy, McLuhan writes, in a section entitled “Your Neighborhood”: “you can’t go home again.” This section suggests that the child is, so to speak, abandoned to the endless time and space of the media. What is a child to do? Wouldn’t this provoke anxiety? What role does humor or wit play vis-à-vis this child’s new anxiety and homelessness?

Anticipating these questions, McLuhan writes about “the child” of the past and compares it to “today’s child.”

The “child” is an invention of the seventeenth century; he did not exist in, say, Shakespeare’s day. He had, up until that time, been merged in the adult world and there was nothing that could be called childhood in our sense.

Today’s child is growing up absurd, because he lives in two worlds, and neither of them inclines him to grow up. Growing up – this is our new work, and it is total. Mere instruction will not suffice.

What I find so fascinating about McLuhan’s comments about “today’s child” is the fact that he is describing a “man-child” of sorts (a schlemiel). His description rings an interesting note if it is juxtaposed to A.O. Scott’s recent New York Times Magazine article entitled “The End of Adulthood.”  As I noted in a blog on Scott’s article, Scott finds it nearly impossible –with the sheer amount of films, TV shows, and young adult fiction (read by people in their ’30s and ’40s – for us to “grow up.”   He sees this problem pronounced in Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow’s popular films. They pronounce the “end of adulthood” and a perpetual adolescence.

Judd Apatow & Adam Sandler – filming “perpetual adolescence” Editorial note:- McLuhan had written about the emasculated immaturity of North American males earlier in his career, notably represented by the comic book figure of Dagwood in the Blondie comic strip in The Mechanical Bride (1951). New York: Vanguard, pp. 68-69: “Each evening the male tends to assume the little-boy role, not only in the hope of reducing the frightening tensions which attach to his vestigial father role but also to excuse himself from the burden of being a downtown quarterback by day”. 
Categories: Blog

Invitation to a Book Launch: Rita Leistner’s Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 4:06pm

You are invited to the launch of Rita Leistner’s unique book 

Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: iProbes & iPhone Photographs

The Time: October 29, 5:30PM to 8:00 PM

The Place: Alumni Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto 


The Northrop Frye Centre, which is hosting the event, has asked that people rsvp if they can (so they will know how much food & drink to provide):

See website:

From a recent review:-

This book is astonishing!

Rita has an MA in Comp Lit, and she has written essays for other people’s books on conflict photography, but here she gets philosophical and whimsical in ways that will surprise everyone. She really takes the idea of photography as a communication technology and runs with it.

Here is what the back of the book says better than I can paraphrase:

“In 2011, Rita Leistner embedded with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan as a team member of the experimental social media initiative Basetrack. What resulted is Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan. In this insightful and provocative, playful and original merging of theory and practice, Leistner applies the pioneering Canadian media theorist’s ideas on language and technology to contemporary warfare and increasingly ubiquitous smartphones.” ( )

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan & David Carson: The Book of Probes

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:24pm

Originally posted on Miss Rosen:

book-of-probes_i6 med_probes_sprd_1-jpg81zGOB8eVPL

“All the new media, including the press, are art forms which have the power of imposing, like poetry, their own assumption,” Marshall McLuhan observed. We live in a time when new media is so ubiquitous as to be omnipresent and the only escape from the world we’ve built is to be out of satellite range—or, even more difficult, to simply turn it off.

But we don’t because we won’t because, like the greatest pharmaceutical drugs, new media has rewired our brains to change the way in which we perceive ourselves and the world itself. The way in which we live has become so extreme that we are hard pressed to remember how we operated any other way. We take for granted the way in which these interactions create and define experience, allowing ourselves to fall under the spell, whether we want to or not. At a time when to…

View original 821 more words

Categories: Blog

An Interview with Derrick de Kerckhove

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 7:55pm

Derrick, who used to work closely with Marshall McLuhan, is a Professor of the French Language department at the University of Toronto and of the Sociology department at the Federico II University in Naples, scientific director of the Italian magazine Mediaduemila and research director at the UOCDerrick de Kerckhove [was] Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology and Professor in the Department of French at the University of Toronto. He was an associate of the Centre for Culture and Technology from 1972 to 1980 and worked with Marshall McLuhan for over ten years as translator, assistant and co-author. He co-edited the book The Alphabet and the Brain (Springer Verlag, 1988) with Charles Lumsden which scientifically assesses the impact of the Western alphabet on the physiology and the psychology of human cognition. Brainframes: Technology, Mind and Business (Bosch & Keuning, 1991) addresses the differences between the effects of television, computers and hypermedia on corporate culture, business practices and economic markets. The Skin of Culture (Somerville Press, 1995) is a collection of essays on the new electronic reality. Derrick’s latest book,Connected Intelligence (Somerville, 1997) was launched in 1997.

This is an edited English translation of a recent interview in Spain taken from .


You started studying French language and Literature.

It was an accident. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It cultivates your sensibility and you do become critically aware… you learn methods of looking and feeling. But I think I would have probably been a better architect. I loved being an architect, but I didn’t realize it was so good.

Afterwards you studied Sociology and new technologies.

That was an accident too. Now that I think of it, my life is nothing but a series of wonderful accidents. I was very much bored by French Literature and my wife, who was my fiancée then, said that if I was bored at the University of Toronto because you are only at the French department you are stupid. You should go and listen to the famous people here, who are really well-known around the world for being who they are. She gave the names of Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye and Robertson Davies. Robertson Davies was a writer, a novelist, and he was OK. Frye was a really famous literary critic, a big guy, but I didn’t find it that exciting. But McLuhan… that was amazing! I couldn’t understand anything he said. Maybe that’s why it was interesting!   …..

Let’s talk a bit about Marshall McLuhan. You consider him your master.

Absolutely. Without him I wouldn’t be here.

He said that “the medium is the message”. Does this mean that everything is done and said and we cannot expect anything new to appear in arts or culture?

No, what is happening now is as big as the Renaissance, and it could be much bigger. It is a big change of being. It is not just a change of mood or politics, it is a change of being. Exactly where we are going I am not absolutely sure, but we are exploring possible ways of being. Cinema is a good example, I call it “Pinocchio 2.0”: Blade runner is one example of being a replicant, Tron is going inside the machine, Avatar is going 3D into the screen and beyond, The Truman show is being the focus of attention of the whole world not knowing that one is such… I used to throw away the American cinema because of the happy endings and so, but no, they are very intelligent and they know what they are looking for. I have always been fascinated by the way we project our image.

McLuhan wrote also about the “global village”, and it was in the sixties, when no one could even imagine internet. Was he like a 20th century Jules Verne?

No, it was different. He discovered that teaching Literature to young American students was hopeless, they didn’t get it. So he questioned which was their culture, and he saw this advertising. He wrote a book, The Mechanical Bride, where he was actually analyzing pictures and asking the people what did it say to them. They thought that was interesting. And that’s how he began studying culture as an object of analysis.

The Skin of Culture


Derrick de Kerckhove lays the foundation for his provocative ideas by reviewing the roots of  literacy. Starting with the emergence of the alphabet, the reader is taken on a journey of man’s  quest to learn who he is and what he wants in an ever-changing universe. There is a full  elaboration on the more recent developments. He places us in the transition from an age of  broadcast technologies to that of a networked global environment. We are brought from the  collective mind, as influenced by television, to the convergence of individuals being productive  within a broader system. Empowerment, we are told, is now possible as a result of these new  forms of consciousness.

Categories: Blog

The Laws of Media – A Conceptual Tool for Understanding Media

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 6:42pm

the tetrad is imaged as a double Mobius strip

In Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village (1989), published posthumously, Marshall McLuhan summarized his thinking about technology in a concise tetrad of media effects. The tetrad is an analytical tool for considering the effects on society of any technology/medium, artifact, or idea (put another way: a means of explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of a technology, artifact or idea) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical/analytical tool, offering his laws as questions to to be asked of any technology, artifact or idea:

  1. What does the artifact enhance?
  2. What does the artifact obsolesce?
  3. What does the artifact retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does the artifact reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?

The laws of the tetrad exist simultaneously, not successively or chronologically, and allow the questioner to explore the “grammar and syntax” of the “language” of media. By flip or reverse, McLuhan meant that a technology or artifact “overheats”, or reverses into an opposing state, when pushed to its extreme. (adapted from )



In this excerpt, innovation expert Jeff DeGraff applies the Laws of Media to the process of innovation, which illustrates how these laws can be applied to human processes or ideas:-

The late Marshall McLuhan, University of Toronto professor and cultural guru, suggested a functional definition for innovation that is easily recognizable by anyone in any type organization.



An innovation…

  1. Enhances something: Think about how Google was a late entrant into the search biz but lapped the field with its simple approach
  1. Eliminates [obsolesces] Something: Think about how Charles Schwab eliminated the need for stock brokers by connecting the back office of the trading house directly to the customer
  1. Returns Us to Something [Retrieves] in Our Past: Think about how the desire to have home cooked family meals has lead to the proliferation of underground dining and slow food restaurants
  1. Over Time Reverses [Flips] into Its Opposite: Think about how e-mail was going to set us all free but instead enslaved us with its ubiquitous and overwhelming demands

It is assumed that the more potent the innovation the more it embodies the four attributes and vice versa.

McLuhan understood that innovation was specific to the situation that gave rise to it or destroyed it. So he focused on its effects and not its causes. He warned that a one size fits all approach with its simple checklist would do more harm than good and lead to a form of intellectual and creative myopia.

Innovation has a transformative power for brief period of time when it produces the ability to create or destroy value. After that it becomes the standard, the norm and the ordinary. Like milk, it has a shelf life and goes sour over time. (Excerpted from )

Image 2: “Laws of Media: Mobile Phone”, Marshall McLuhan, from Laws of Media, 1988, page 153.


Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan on Computers & the Future Internet

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 4:53pm

My apologies to subscribers; the beginning portion of this posting that you received earlier was unintentional; I accidentally hit the publish button instead of the preview one. As an example of Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic ability, discussed in the last posting, consider his perceptive comments about computers, at a time when only large mainframe computers existed, and his premonitions about a future technology that came to be the Internet. This excerpt is from Robert Logan’s 2013 book, McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight. Toronto: Key Publishing.


So many of McLuhan’s pronouncements about the effects of electric media are prophetic because it seems as though he was aware of the coming of the Net, the Web and other digital media. A simple example of his prescience is that he, in fact, through his writing foreshadowed the Internet. William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, certainly deserves credit for coining the term cyberspace but long before Neuromancer was written or even conceived of, McLuhan (1967, p. 67) described the Internet in the following passage in response to being asked “How is the computer affecting education” McLuhan’s response was an almost exact description of the Internet:

“The computer in education is in a very tentative state but it does represent basically speeded up access to information and when it is applied to the telephone and to Xerox it permits access to the libraries of the world, almost immediately, without delay. And so the immediate effect of the computer is to pull up the walls of the subjects and divisions of knowledge in favor of over-all field, total awareness – Gestalt”.

McLuhan’s description of the Internet was complete with the exception of packet switching if you allow Xeroxing to represent the reproduction of a hard copy by a printer. And he opined this description two full years before the development of ARPANET in 1969, the forerunner of the Internet.

An even earlier remark by McLuhan (1962) in the Gutenberg Galaxy also foreshadows the Internet:

“A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve individual encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind”.

One can also interpret without too much of a stretch the retrieval of “individual encyclopedic function” in the above quote as a foreshadowing of Wikipedia as Derrick de Kerckhove once did (the provided link doesn’t work).

McLuhan not only foreshadowed the Internet and Wikipedia, but he also foreshadowed, a Web site that connects companies that have a problem to solve with experts that Innocentive has aggregated. They call the process “Open Innovation,” which they describe as follows:

“Open Innovation allows many people from different disciplines to tackle the same problem simultaneously and not sequentially. Anyone can participate with collaborative technology and Open Innovation training. When many minds are working on the same problem, it will take less time to solve it”.

McLuhan (1971) in a convocation address at the University of Alberta said:

The university and school of the future must be a means of total community participation, not in the consumption of available knowledge, but in the creation of completely unavailable insights. The overwhelming obstacle to such community participation in problem solving and research at the top levels, is the reluctance to admit, and to describe, in detail their difficulties and their ignorance. There is no kind of problem that baffles one or a dozen experts that cannot be solved at once by a million minds that are given a chance simultaneously to tackle a problem. The satisfaction of individual prestige, which we formerly derived from the possession of expertise, must now yield to the much greater satisfactions of dialogue and group discovery. The task yields to the task force.

McLuhan not only foreshadowed the development of the Internet and crowd sourcing he with his co-author George B. Leonard in an article in the popular magazine Look also explained why the digital media would be so compelling to young people and to a certain degree their elders. They suggested that the age of print and the fragmentation that it encouraged was over (McLuhan and Leonard, 1967).

More swiftly than we can realize, we are moving into an era dazzlingly different. Fragmentation, specialization and sameness will be replaced by wholeness, diversity and, above all, a deep involvement… To be involved means to be drawn in, to interact. To go on interacting, the student must get some-where. In other words, the student and the learning environment (a person, a group of people, a book, a programmed course, an electronic learning console or whatever) must respond to each other in a pleasing and purposeful interplay. When a situation of involvement is set up, the student finds it hard to drag himself away.

He and Leonard (ibid.) also predicted that the relationship to humankind’s knowledge would change with electrically configured information as we are beginning to see in this the Internet Age.

When computers are properly used, in fact, they are almost certain to increase individual diversity. A worldwide network of computers will make all of mankind’s factual knowledge available to students everywhere in a matter of minutes or seconds. Then, the human brain will not have to serve as a repository of specific facts, and the uses of memory will shift in the new education, breaking the timeworn, rigid chains of memory may have greater priority than forging new links. New materials may be learned just as were the great myths of past cultures as fully integrated systems that resonate on several levels and share the qualities of poetry and song.

Still another foreshadowing of McLuhan was that of the smart phone as described by his biographer Phillip Marchand (1989, p. 170).

“He told an audience in New York City shortly after the publication of Understanding Media that there might come a day when we would all have portable computers, about the size of a hearing aid, to help mesh our personal experiences with the experience of the great wired brain of the outer world.

What makes this prediction even more amazing is that there were no personal computers at the time, no cell phones and no Internet (i.e. ‘the great wired brain of the outer world’)”.

The notion of the need for keeping messages short and hence the power of the one-liner foreshadows in our digital era texting, instant messaging and Twitter.
Marchand, Philip. 1989. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. Toronto: Random House.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1967. “The New Education.” The Basilian Teacher, Vol. 11 (2), pp. 66-73.

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan: Prophet of the Internet Age

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 6:15pm

Photograph of Marshall McLuhan

From: Marshall McLuhan Speaks

Marshall McLuhan has been called the prophet or oracle of the Electric Age before. In an era of futurists and prognosticators such as Toffler, Naisbitt and Bucky Fuller, the futurist label could well be applied to McLuhan too; however, he avoided it, claiming instead to be writing about the present: “The present is very difficult to see. It takes enormous energy, and most people don’t have enough energy to see anything, let alone the present. That’s why they talk about the future.” (The Book of Probes, p. 530). However, the following article calls him a “media futurist” and one can see why from his cited comments:-


“Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. “Time” has ceased, “space” has vanished. We now live in a global village…a simultaneous happening.”  -Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is The Massage (1967)

The fact that you are reading this not in a book or were spurned to read this through electrical circuitry through the expanse of Facebook or Twitter spills the irony water flow over the glass like Marshall McLuhan would have seen.

Our global connectiveness and the never ending stream of online perpetuity has created a world consciousness.  Twenty four television, reality shows, streaming live data, cellular service, instant information, and the promotion of the Westernized world into every facet of reality on Earth has not stopped since Canada’s favorite futurist weirdo wrote his first book on media in 1951, The Mechanical Bride, an extensive examination of popular culture when popular culture was just starting to take off.  Most people though have no idea who McLuhan is, and how his thoughts go hand in hand with what our “global village” has begun today.

To many Herbert Marshall McLuhan was an explorer of the word and language, a constant searcher of the meaning of our mediums.  By 33, McLuhan had already compiled two sets of BA’s and MA’s from the University of Manitoba and Cambridge, finishing his PhD from Cambridge in 1942.  He had began to teach English literature to students at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1930s when he began his directions toward pop culture and used his thoughts on the advertising of the day to compare great literature to his bored American students.  His critical analysis of the pop-up world his students lived in with cigarette billboards and vacuum radio jingles permeating their pathways enabled him to parallel his literature world to their world.  McLuhan saw that there was no difference in the message world, only in the information that was being pushed.

“Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment,” McLuhan said in a 1969 Playboy magazine interview“Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ…the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it.  I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.”

If you have no idea what McLuhan is talking about, take a number.  At the time of his numerous books, interviews, and television appearances, Marshall still could not be completely understood.  His language spoke in code, and he himself seemed somewhat pleased to be the smartest person in the room.  At his apex in the human media world in the late 1960s and early 1970s, McLuhan’s strange ideas drenched the same media culture he often lambasted.  He basked in their glow while news men and television presenters just tried to get a hold of what he was talking about.

It was after the release of his third book, Understanding Media in 1964, that McLuhan thrust himself on the public domain that he wrote about.  While the counterculture roared to find meaning past the turbulent 1960s, McLuhan rose as a messiah of the medium, a truth seeker whose hard to understand ideas fit nicely with live free mantra of that time.  Everyone wanted to see and be seen with McLuhan as Warhol, John and Yoko, Dick Cavett, and many others all made their play for the man.

One could see why.  He was exciting.  He said crazy things.  He always sounded like some guy from the future using terminology that you knew, but piecing phrasing together like no one could really quantify.  Take a look at these quotes that I put next to things he knew nothing about to give you insight on where he thought we were going, and you be the judge of his prophetic ways:

Google and search engines “Instead of buying a book, you will go to the telephone and describe you interests, your needs, and your problems…and all at once with the help of computers, they will xerox all your materials to you personally.  (1966)

Facebook and Identity:  “In the new electric world, where everybody is involved with everybody, where everybody is involved in complex processes, the old identity cards, the old means of finding out who am I, will not work. (1968)

The Connected World Information World“The global village is not created by the motor car or by the airplane.  It is created by electronic information movement.”  (1968)

Retro-Revivals“Because we ordinarily what we see in the present is in the rearview mirror.  What we ordinarily think of as the present is really the past.  Content is always the previous medium.  It is impossible for man to look straight at the present because he is so terrified by it…and so revivals are everywhere today.  Revivals of clothing, of dancing, of music, of shows, of everything, we live by the revival.  It tells us who we are or were.” (1968)

24 Hour News, Twitter, and the Instantverse:  “You no longer have to be everywhere in order to do everything.  The same information is available at the same time in every part of the world.  The world is now like a continuing sounding tribal drum where everybody gets the message every time.  A princess gets married in England, boom, boom, boom, go the drums.” (1966)

McLuhan died in 1980 after a life as a trend predictor, future poet, educator, and even a provocateur.  It’s a shame more people don’t know about him, or maybe, he was there all along, a phonetical  resonance that remains for us to keep uncovering for another 100 years. (Source: )

We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.  - Marshall McLuhan

Categories: Blog

The Medium Is the Message, 50 Years Later

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 3:50pm

The medium is *still* the message, I might add. This essay by Paul Hiebert underlines the continuing relevance of Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of his most important book, “Understanding Media” (1964). McLuhan’s ideas were descriptive of media both of his own time and especially now, when much of what he wrote anticipated our New Media of today. Both Paul Levinson and yours truly are cited.


Marshall McLuhan.jpg

Marshall McLuhan, c. 1936 at the age of 25 The Medium Is the Message, 50 Years Later

BY PAUL HIEBERT • September 30, 2014

Five decades on, what can Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media tell us about today?

He had a thing for clip-on neckties. He once said LSD was the lazy man’s form of Finnegans Wake. When deciding whether a book was worth reading, he’d flip through its table of contents then skip ahead to page 69. If page 69 offered no insight, he’d put the book down and move onto the next. In a 1951 letter to Ezra Pound, he described himself as an “intellectual thug.”

That man was eclectic Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who lived from 1911 to the very last day of 1980, the same year CNN launched. This year, however, marks the 50th anniversary of his famous work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, which builds upon his famous aphorism: “The medium is the message.” Last April, the Journal of Visual Culture devoted an entire issue to exploring Understanding Media‘s enduring influence. Article titles include “I Sing the Senses Electric,” “Reading for the Noise,” and “Terrorphone.”

Along with the success of his 1962 book The Gutenberg Galaxy, which describes how changes in communication technologies (e.g. the printing press) fundamentally alter people’s orientation to the world, Understanding Media propelled McLuhan into the realm of pop-culture priesthood. He appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and the cover of Newsweek. Executives from General Electric and IBM arranged private meetings. In the New York Herald Tribune, Tom Wolfe wondered if McLuhan was the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, and Einstein. A 1965 piece in Harper’s, titled “Marshall McLuhan: Canada’s Intellectual Comet,” states, “like it or not, he is on his way to becoming one of those annoying ‘seminal’ thinkers whose arguments you must adapt, incorporate, or dispose of before pressing ahead in his field or—as McLuhan clearly believes—into areas well beyond it.”

The most important part of this essay can be found at .

Paul Hiebert is the editor of Ballast, a Canadian-centric Website about culture and politics. See .

The content below is from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968 – 1974 (see )


In Understanding Media, McLuhan surveys changes in perception affected by evolving media environments, from early print culture to modern television. For McLuhan, the media environment of the electronic age demanded radically new pedagogy to help young minds navigate these new conditions. Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, influenced by McLuhan’s work, promoted experiments in new media as responsive to these shifts in culture, offering new possibilities for teaching and learning for an electronic age.

Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New American Library, 1964).

Understanding Media

Understanding Media Ad

Advertisement for Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in the Whole Earth Catalog

Categories: Blog

B.W. Powe In Conversation with Philip Marchand, Victoria College, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 4:18pm

Victoria College, University of Toronto, the Northrop Frye Centre, the University of Toronto Press and Pages Unbound present -

Powe Vic College Poster

A multimedia presentation & B.W. Powe in conversation with Journalist and McLuhan Biographer Philip Marchand Wednesday, October 15, 5 – 8 PM FREE Alumni Hall, Victoria College University of Toronto 73 Queen’s Park Crescent East

Click below to view UofT’s poster for this event:

BW Powe MM_Frye Event Poster 2014

B.W. Powe     


Categories: Blog

McLuhan and I Ching: An Interological Inquiry by Peter Zhang

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 11:57am

Translated by Brian Browne Walker The I Ching or Book of Changes

Peter Zhang, Grand Valley State University

ABSTRACT This article explores under-examined resonances between I Ching and McLuhan’swork. It presents I Ching as a metamedium, shows that McLuhan’s four laws of the mediahave precursors in I Ching, and evaluates the relevance of I Ching in the age of digital media-tion. The article illustrates that studying I Ching in comparison with McLuhan’s work opensup numerous opportunities for mutual illumination between the two. RÉSUMÉ Cet article s’intéresse aux interrelations peu explorées entre le Yi-King (ou « Livredes transformations ») et l’œuvre de Marshall McLuhan. On y montre que le Yi-King peutêtre conçu comme un « métamédia » au cœur duquel il est possible d’identifier des éléments paraissant anticiper les quatre lois des médias proposées par McLuhan. On s’y intéresseaussi à la pertinence du « Livre des transformations » à l’ère de la médiation numérique. Aubout du compte, cet article démontre qu’une étude comparative du Yi-King et de l’œuvre deMcLuhan ouvre la voie à plusieurs possibilités de correspondances mutuellementéclairantes. ***** “The East goes outer with our old hardware as fast as we go on the innercosmic trip of oriental fantasy with our new electric circuits and circuses.The West has ‘discovered’ the I Ching and a concern with theprocesses of hidden environments”. (McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 20) Here is a short excerpt from this fascinating paper:- This inquiry is interological in the sense that it allows us to reexamine I Ching through the lens of McLuhan’s work, and vice versa. It has been a fruitful exercise so far. For one thing, we realize that the term “interology” captures a crucial dimension of McLuhan’s work, and media ecology in general. “Media ecology as interology” is a topic that deserves the space of a full-length article. It is a project I need to finish next. Furthermore, I would not have realized that I Ching is a metamedium if I had not started this inquiry. This emergent understanding sheds light on the DEW Line card deck, which embodies the modus operandi of McLuhanesque explorations. Although aligning “hot vs. cool” with “yang vs. yin” seems to be the most natural move to make, I would not have made the move if it were not for this project. Incidentally, although the subtitle of Laws of Media is “The New Science,” this inquiry shows that “The Book of Changes” may not be a bad alternative, after all, especially when the book is translated into Chinese.  My attraction to McLuhan’s work dates back to graduate school, when I was pondering the notion of “looking at” communication as opposed to “looking through”communication. The “irritant” came from Dr. Robert Terrill, who sees McLuhan as one who “looks at” media instead of “looking through” media. As I found out later, this distinction comes from Richard Lanham, the rhetorician and media ecologist in disguise. My admiration for McLuhan has increased over the years as I become more familiar with his work. I appreciate his mental agility, poetic wisdom, encyclopedic knowledge, and his amazing capacity to encapsulate and repurpose the works of other people, dead or alive. Over the years, I have seen traces of Lao Tzu and Confucius in McLuhan’s work. Then, as I was studying Laws of Media (McLuhan & McLuhan, 1972), I suddenly recognized the I Ching in him, which led me to undertake this inquiry.  …. I write this article for a multifold purpose—partly to satiate my own intellectual curiosity, partly to rekindle interest inChing   in the international media ecology community, partly to suggest to like-minded scholars that there is an under articulated intellectual kinship between the immemorial I Ching and McLuhan, the metaphysician of media, and partly to put interology to practice. Yet the real stake that calls this inquiry into being is not theoretical, or intellectual, but ethical and existential, and hence the section on I Ching in the age of digital mediation and cybernetic control. I hope this comparative study or interological inquiry has created numerous opportunities for mutual illumination between I Ching and McLuhan’s work. The full article can be found in the Canadian Journal of Communication, 39.3, 2014, pp. 449-468, which subscribers can access at . The paper can also be accessed at here . “The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line card deck, co-designed by McLuhan and Harley Parker and released in 1969, is more or less a derivative of the yarrow stalks and hexagrams used by I Ching -informed diviners …. The deck helps one to see around the corner, get unstuck, and overcome one’s psychological blind spot. The benefit is a sense of “throughness …”                            
Categories: Blog

Extension, amputation, alienation & Narcissus Narcosis: McLuhan’s Concepts Applied to New Media

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 11:26am

Quik Pod

 Russian futurologist and writer Andrey Miroshnichenko illustrates the value of Marshall McLuhan’s media concepts of extension, amputation and Narcissus Narcosis, when applied to today’s digital media, in this case, the photographic capabilities of smartphones. This excerpt is taken from his book Man as Media: The Emancipation of Authorship, published in Moscow this year, which I highly recommend……..AlexK

Correction, Sept. 22, 2014: Andrey, the author, has informed me that this essay is NOT from his book Man as Media; it is one essay from his ongoing blog focused on media located at . However, my recommendation for reading the book stands; it has some original ideas to contribute and deserves to be better known.

Extension, amputation, alienation… Copying!

by Andrey Miroshnichenko

McLuhan wrote that the tools shape not only users and their needs, but the entire environment as well. Thus, the automobile has given rise to several industries, and a network of highways and roadside infrastructure, including motels, supermarkets, etc. Arguably, merchandising – the technology of supermarket shelving – was preordained by Ford-T, in the same way that the size of a ballistic missile can be traced back to the width of a Roman chariot. The tools determine the environment even when it comes to little details, where the links to the tools are not obvious, but the origin of these links is inescapable.

I was at an airport once when a young couple walked by. The guy was taking a selfie, holding his camera on a special stick to capture a larger image. Sticks have been used as holders before, but old tripod mounts were used to take pictures of other people. Now, the mount is turned at an angle that makes it possible to take selfies from a distance: that of an extended arm.

This stick extends the arm as perceptibly as a fishing pole, but with one major difference. A fishing pole extends the arm outward to ensure better control of the external world. The selfie stick extends the arm in order to apply the extended function to the operator. At this point, it occurred to me that, in fact, the entire course of technological development and of civilization has all been leading up to the creation of an environment for selfies.

However, the tools that create an environment are, in turn, subject to some outward global logic than that which that describes them. Nothing happens without a reason: even sheep wear sheepskins.

After all, all tools created by man over the course of history serve to gradually improve the ability of humans to copy their own selves through tool-assisted McLuhan body extension, or the amputation of functions (such as memory or writing) using external devices. Then (and this is happening already today) – through copying a rendered image (creating an improved person in social media or/ and selfie mania). All this amounts to an ever-accelerating and concentrating practice of copying skills, from cave paintings all the way through the Vitruvian Man.

Eventually, an ultimate copy should appear.

An ultimate copy would be a copy which, like myself, has its own will (See the chapter, The paradox of self-copying). The ultimate copying means extending the personality into the external material, to the point of complete amputation. It is the logical conclusion of McLuhan’s “narcissism.” The race of extensions leads to a set of amputations that results in the complete alienation of self. It is funny: the selfie is the harbinger of the alienation of self.

Well, the time has come to buy a camera stick: an arm extension for taking selfies. Now we extend our arms not with a spear, a fishing pole or a hoe, but with a selfie stick. This telescoping selfie armed arm represents the quintessence of the last 12,000 years that have elapsed since the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution.


Miroshnichenko edited

My name is Andrey Miroshnichenko. I am a media futurologist, journalist, writer and public speaker. I have a PhD in Journalism and Linguistics, and am a coordinator for the Russian Association of Futurologists, a Fulbright-Kennan scholar (2012-13), and an author of a number of books. My blog is about old and new media. The new digital environment, and the future of humankind are also part of my interests. Actually, the drafts of my upcoming books are stored here to alienate them from myself and get an outside perspective. No decorations, just juice from the brain. My blog is here: .

Categories: Blog

Harold Innis (1894-1952) in the Great War

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 10:47am

 Harold Innis in uniform

Harold Innis goes to war

By MEL WATKINS   –   September 16, 2014

The great Canadian scholar Harold Innis fought and was wounded in the trenches in the First World War. The experience changed his life forever. So argues A. John Watson in his brilliant biography, Marginal Man: The Dark Vision of Harold Innis, on which this blog draws.

The title and the sub-title tell it all. Fighting under British command, Innis, coming from the margin — albeit privileged — of the British Empire, was compelled to encounter Canada’s colonial status. The experience was the genesis of Innis’s resolve to create Indigenous scholarship from his hinterland status. These are the roots of today’s Canadian Political Economy and Canadian Studies, and later of the Toronto School of Communications and the study of media. The war was also to make Innis suspicious of authority and give his scholarship a sharpness that was rare at the time.

Fighting in the trenches also subverted Innis’s Christian faith. When he went to war he had been seriously considering entering the Baptist ministry. In Europe, however, he saw the barbarism, and how each antagonist claimed God’s backing, and how the Germans looked no different from him close up. Rather than the clergy, he returned to do graduate work in economics at the University of Chicago and then to teaching at the University of Toronto, and the rest is history.

It has become a key part of the official narrative of the war that from it emerged Canadian nationalism — though not in Quebec — and the demand, not for independence (that would be so unCanadian) but for increased autonomy within the Empire. Read the rest at .

See also Harold Innis: An Intellectual at the Edge of Empire by Mel Watkins: .

Harold Innis

6834943    The Bias of Communication By Harold A. Innis University of Toronto Press ISBN 978-0-8020-9606-7 (paper) 226 pages

Categories: Blog

A Reassessment of Marshall McLuhan by a Public Relations Professional

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 6:49pm

Marshall McLuhan was fascinated by advertising in all its forms, though his opinion of it was ambiguous at best; likewise advertisers and marketers were fascinated by McLuhan from the start of his prominence. San Francisco’s Howard Gossage had a strong influence in making McLuhan’s ideas known during the 60s (see earlier posting on this blog ). The following article is a reappraisal of McLuhan’s work and influence by a public relations professional. 

Marshall McLuhan: A media guru reconsidered

 by Paul Seaman   –   19 July 2012

Marshall McLuhan at the CBC - Photo by Henri Dauman, Life Magazine

Photo by Henri Dauman / The Estate of Marshall McLuhan/Life Magazine

Marshall McLuhan was born 101 years ago on 21 July 1911 and he’s been greatly missed since 1980. This piece dedicated to his memory was first published last year [in 2011]. It was the opener here in a series of profiles probing the legacy of important figures in the PR realm: Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud, Walter Lippmann and Daniel Boorstin and more. So to first-timers and old-timers reading this sketch, enjoy the ride.

There’s a lot to be admired about the “prophet of the electronic age” who said “if it works it’s obsolete.” Marshall McLuhan coined the term the “Global Village.” He also produced classic phrases such as “the medium is the message,” “the medium is the massage”, and the “Age of Anxiety.” And he’s credited with conjuring “turn on, tune in, drop out,” over lunch with the 1960s advocate of LSD trips, Timothy Leary [which is dismissed by those who knew him best.]

McLuhan was the archetypal-media studies guru. Not only was he an icon of the 1960s counterculture, he also went on to become the “patron saint” of the newly launched Wired Magazine in 1996. They identified with McLuhan’s vision of decentralized, personal, and liberating electronic technological development that transcends time and space. They warmed to his vision of how electronic media would wipe away contemporary society’s traditional values, attitudes and institutions.

There is after all, as Andrew Keen has pointed out, much in common between the wired generation’s utopianism and the communal ideals of the hippies. As McLuhan told Playboy Magazine in 1968:

“The computer thus holds out the promise of a technologically engendered state of universal understanding and unity, a state of absorption in the logos that could knit mankind into one family and create a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace.”

That language, in the form of “one world, people and planet,” is endorsed by much (too much because it’s complete nonsense) of the mainstream corporate and PR world today: see here and here.

McLuhan: still Wired

Still, for some good reasons, McLuhan remains an inspirational thinker to a new generation of youth. He appeals to those who want to break free from looking at the present in the rear-view mirror. He appeals to those who wish to create something completely different to what’s gone before and to those, including corporations and politicians, who wish to appear “in touch” and “cool.” In McLuhan’s words:

“These kids are fed up with jobs and goals [traditional ones, anyway], and are determined to forget their own roles and involvement in society. They want nothing to do with our fragmented and specialist consumer society. Living in the transitional identity vacuum between two great antithetical cultures, they are desperately trying to discover themselves and fashion a mode of existence attuned to their new values; thus the stress on developing an “alternate life style.”

In Wired‘s launch issue interview with a virtual McLuhan, whose consciousness they said had been preserved in a programmed bot, he says that the real message of media today is ubiquity. It is not something that we do. Rather it is something we are part of from the outside that excites all our senses. It is, he said through Wired‘s medium, as if we have amputated not our ears or our eyes, but ourselves, and then established a total prosthesis – an automaton – in our place. He (ok, his cyber-ghost) adds:

“Postindustrial man has a network identity, or a net-ID. The role is now a temporary shift of state produced by a combination of environmental factors, like in a neural network. This possibility has always been latent in the concept of role, but in the machine age this was perceived as a danger, while today it is simply a game – we no longer see shifting roles as dangerous and taboo and therefore theatrically compelling. Rather, we follow these shifts as if we were doing a puzzle or kibitzing a chess game. Yes, the medium is the message, but this does not mean and never meant that the content of the medium is a conscious reflection on itself. The medium is the message because it creates the audience most suited to it. Electronic media create an audience whose shifting moods are as impersonal as the weather.”

So, regardless that McLuhan’s name is no longer household fare (unlike, say, Warhol’s), his influence remains as significant among cyber-nerds as it was among beatniks. In fact his thinking is arguably more significant today, given the amount of hype that surrounds the cyberspace, Web 2.0 world.

So what was he really about? (Read the rest at )

 Advertisements constitute the only 'good news' in the newspaper. news, good. Meetville Quotes

 Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance. environmental, world. Meetville Quotes

Marshall McLuhan on Advertising:-

“Advertising is a vast military operation, intended, openly and brashly to conquer the human spirit. The critics of advertising miss the bus entirely by complaining about false claims. Nothing could be less important than the false claims of advertising. It is the total icon-making activity that matters, and in the degree that these men are icon-makers, they, certainly, these agency men, they certainly have the right to call themselves creative artists; whether they perform a good, benign social function is open to question, but as creators of tremendous effects, they are artists. Remember an artist is primarily concerned with getting your attention; whether he is a poet or a musician, his first wish and hope is to trap your attention. This is the first hope and wish of every advertiser. He is an artist certainly to that extent. He wants to shape your attention, to shape your sensibilities, to create an effect upon you. Whether you believe a word he says couldn’t matter less to him; he is interested only in effects, and not in changing your opinions or thoughts about anything. And this is also true of a poet; couldn’t care less about what you thought or felt about him or anything, as long as he gets his effect across.” - Marshall McLuhan, CBC Radio Broadcast “Ideas”, 1960s

“The objective of advertising men is the manipulation, exploitation, and control of the individual” (McLuhan, The Mechanical bride, 1951, p. 21)

Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.” – Marshall McLuhan

“The modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.” – Marshall McLuhan

“Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.”Marshall McLuhan

“Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness. A demand that you yield your private consciousness to public manipulation.” – Marshall McLuhan (1964, Understanding Media, p. 232)

“The historians and archeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.”

Categories: Blog

Why the Internet Needs a “Mad as Hell” Moment

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 11:12am

This longish critical essay by Drew Reed is about both TV & the Internet. The author is right. McLuhan said that obsolesced media are re-purposed and become art forms, as for example TV obsolesced movies and legitimized them as art, and movies did the same to theatre. Now the Internet is doing that to TV, which by happenstance is experiencing a new “golden age”, while the Internet has become the medium of choice for stupidity. This is a short excerpt from the article that prominently mentions Marshall McLuhan and castigates the stupidization of the Internet, partly attributing it to the removal of gatekeepers like editors, directors and producers. Anyone can publish or upload anything to the Internet and the content that ends up there is mostly crap; finding the good stuff is a necessary skill and constitutes a part of information literacy. I have added my comments to the excerpt below in square backets [    ].


Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) in the movie Network (1976)

Waiting for the Internet’s ‘Mad as Hell’ Moment Now that TV is the place for serious people with long attention spans, we’re really in trouble   –   by Drew Reed

[Marshall McLuhan] was a professor from Canada who was famous for his landmark 1964 book, Understanding Media, about TV and other media. In the title of the first chapter of the book, which has become probably the most famous chapter title ever, he stated that “the medium is the message” —  in other words, technology shapes human life. He also distinguished between “hot” and “cool” media: hot media exclude participation, cool media prompt higher levels of participation.

After devising this intriguing and potentially very useful system of media classification, he then uses it to analyze television in a perplexing, Freakonomics-y way: he calls it a “cool” medium. Why, Marshall, why? His case is a bit shaky. For instance, in relation to film (a hot medium, of course) the television image is lower quality. Therefore, TV is a cool medium. Huh? What happens when we invent the UHDTV 48 years later? His response is that the higher quality would make it a different medium. There you have it, folks. The TV you’re watching today isn’t really TV. [No - you said it yourself; it's UHDTV, arguably a different medium created by different technologies. "The medium is the message!"]

McLuhan felt that television and “the electric age” brought people together, unlike writing — as well as earlier electronic media — which isolated and divided, and were therefore hot. TV, a cool medium, would foster greater participation (apparently the ability to channel surf counts as “greater participation”) [No Web 2.0 applications, especially social media, create greater participation.] and turn us all into one big happy global village. [No, "the global village makes maximum disagreement and creative dialog inevitable". - McLuhan in the Playboy interview, 1969] Okay, so he wasn’t that sappy about it, but that was the basic idea.

But if “the medium is the message”, and technology controls our collective fate, would television really steer us toward greater participation in the societal decision making process? Or would it merely deliver bread and circuses, or at least just circuses, to our households at light speed? [How about both?]


Then, in the 1976 movie Network, Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) issued the line that’s been stuck in your head since you looked at the opening photo of this article: I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore! Why was he mad? Because he was “a human being, goddammit!” And he wanted everyone watching his show to shout out their windows that they were “mad as hell” too. If you don’t get the references, just click through the link above to watch the original clip.

Now, to be fair, the counter-cultural-ness of this was called into question somewhat by the fact that it was released by a major movie studio. But nonetheless, it struck a chord. A good chunk of the American people realized that by that point, the purpose of TV in practice was not to educate so much as to stupefy.


We’ve come full circle — or should I say say, full circus. The internet, the biggest revolution in written text since Gutenberg’s printing press, has perhaps undone much of the progress the printing press has made. There’s a universe of information at our fingertips, yet we seem nearly as susceptible to “bread and circuses” as we were in Roman times, when most people couldn’t even read.

Is the medium really the message? Are we masters of our fates, or is our course predetermined by our technological milieu? The answer is, as it has been throughout this essay, a little bit of both. Perhaps Rome would not have been taken over by Augustus if there had been a hashtag #EtTuBruti. Or perhaps people would be too busy tweeting about gladiator matches to care.

Or maybe technology is bad. Maybe today, without the mind-melting combination of TV and the internet, we’d be less distracted, and able to come up with more effective solutions to climate change and the fact that our society is founded on the physical impossibility of perpetual growth. Maybe we need just the right kind of technology; after all, no one complained about the printing press killing attention spans, but everyone complains about TV and the internet doing so. Or it could be that, no matter what kind of media we use, we’re subject to the same greed and ambition that eventually brought down the Roman Empire. All the technology in the world — or none of it — will never change the fact that we’re human, all too human.

Nevertheless, I still have a few shreds of hope left. Despite the TV/internet death cycle and absurdities like #catfish, humanity can get better, we can confront its long term issues, and technology has a role to play. But the internet needs a “mad as hell” moment. People need to be shaken out of their hashtags and convinced to pay attention to the things that matter.

It’s something so important that we might need to say it with old media, the way Network used film to comment on television. How about a TV show? After all, TV’s having a “golden age” right now, and the internet most certainly isn’t.

But somehow I have a feeling that the best we can hope for is a GIF file, or maybe a couple of tweets. Oh well. At least it makes for a catchy tagline: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m going to tweet about it!”

 Read the full article at here:


“Nothing is inevitable provided we are prepared to pay attention.” – Marshall McLuhan

 Marshall McLuhan

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