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McLuhan Salon – Bad New Days & Ahuri Theatre, October 15, 2017, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 5:09pm

McLuhan Salon #2: Flashing Lights

We are pleased to partner with Bad New Days and Ahuri Theatre for our second McLuhan Salon this fall to take place Sunday, October 15 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St W) at 2:00 PM.

First, we are treated to an innovative play Flashing Lights where Marshall McLuhan makes cameo appearances, and then to a McLuhan Salon discussion lead by a stimulating panel, including Flashing Lights director Adam Paolozza, author Guillermo Verdecchia, actor Dan Watson.

Created by award-winning Bad New Days (The Double) and Ahuri Theatre (This is the Point), “Flashing Lights: A High Tech  Fable About our Digital Lives  “is an original play exploring how digital technology is radically shaping human evolution. It tells the tale of an unremarkable guy who inexplicably becomes famous. His dizzying rise and fall effects everyone around him, in particular, his family; his savvy wife and their child”.

The play weaves a hyper-realistic, absurd narrative, with the use of everyday technology like smartphones and tablets, into an atmospheric theatrical style that responds to our anxiety about the future and the speed of technological advancements. Drawing on the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, Sherry Turkle, Jean Baudrillard and other theorists, Flashing Lights speaks to the growing anxiety about the future and to the vertiginous feeling that time itself is speeding up. Will humankind’s frail, flesh, and blood selves be able to keep up?

This new play has been created collaboratively by award-winning theatre artists Adam Paolozza (Dora Award Spent & The Double), Guillermo Verdecchia (Governor General’s and Chalmers Award Winner), Ken MacKenzie (Kim’s Convenience, Brantwood), Dan Watson (This is the Point, What Dream it Was), Liz Peterson (Performance About A Woman, Capitalist Love Duets) and Miranda Calderon (Butcher, Taking Care of Baby).

FLASHING LIGHTS
Co-Produced by Bad New Days & Ahuri Theatre
The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. West
Sunday, October 15, 2:00 PM: SHOW + McLUHAN SALON
Tickets Pay What You Can Afford $5 | $20 | $45 | $60
Book 416-538-0988 | www.theatrecentre.org 

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The McLuhan Salons

are curated by Paolo Granta and David Nostbakken, and sponsored by the St. Michael’s College – the McLuhan’s intellectual home in the University of Toronto – and its popular Book & Media Studies program, in conjunction with the Estate of Marshall McLuhan and several high-level academic and cultural institutions. The series is generously supported by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation. Register Now

“Since Sputnik put the globe in a ‘proscenium arch,’ and the global village has been transformed into a global theater, the result, quite literally, is the use of public space for ‘doing one’s thing'”. – Marshall McLuhan From Cliché to Archetype, 1970


Categories: Blog

University of Toronto English Prof Fred T. Flahiff: Student of McLuhan & Biographer of Sheila Watson

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 10:39am

Professor Fred T. Flahiff (1933 – 2017)

By Lynn Crosbie   –   September 27, 2017  Professor. Critic. Author. Friend. Born July 7, 1933, in Vancouver; died March 9, 2017, in Toronto, from complications following a stroke; aged 84.

“What a world, what a world,” was Fred’s refrain, sounding something like a honeyed mantra: What sweet sounds he takes with him.

He was Professor Flahiff to me when we met during my first year of PhD studies at the University of Toronto when he was acting chair of the English Department, and my “Jane Austen and the Brontes” instructor.

He would become Fred the night his friend, and mine, Professor Leslie Sanders and I burst in on him – surprising the dearly modest man in his pyjamas and robe, and he would remain close to my heart for almost 30 years, and still.

Fred meant a great deal, if not the world, to so many of his students. At the beginning of each year, and this is unheard of, he held a personal meeting with everyone. He was an exceptionally dedicated professor.

While considering the somewhat Eliotic Dr. F.T. Flahiff, it occurs to me that a great professor does not teach you information, but how to think – about the information at hand; about everything.

Fred called his students “Miss” and “Mister”; He never taught without a suit and tie. He was nonplussed by students who wore hats indoors; he had a large laugh and a love of the absurd.

When asked how to write an exam, he said, “Astonish me.”

“I feel like a little bird sometimes,” he told me, of lecturing, “singing on a branch.” When I became a professor, I understood him: how much of what we say is just ambient noise; how much, in his case, was as clear and lovely as, to cite Shelley’s praise of the skylark, “a star of Heaven.”

There is much to say about Fred: about his crush on the city of Rome and the actress Angela Lansbury, his piety, and vast, protean mind; about his collection of signed movie-star glossies, including, which amused him to no end, Claudette Colbert in The Egg and I; about his cherished Jack Shadbolt illustration of novelist Sheila Watson.

His cooking was terrible and endearing (macaroni with onion quarters and corn) and he had an acute love of cinema – a few years ago, he gave a Trampoline Hall lecture about his strange and persuasive respect for The Godfather: Part III.

He loved opera, Stanley Kubrick, writer Sheila Watson, his niece Theresa and near-son, Matthew Bronson, who lived in the flat below him.

Fred grew up in Vancouver, with his adored parents and two brothers – the rough, broad-voweled accent of this city popped up occasionally in his lofty, lovely voice.

He moved to Toronto in the 1950s, where he completed his graduate work at, and was hired by, the University of Toronto.

He never married; he had no children, except the hundreds and hundreds of students who moved in and out of his life; who loved him, truly. The bookshelf in his dining room-slash-office was covered with tacked-up photographs of former students’ children, often sitting with a beaming Fred.

Fred’s thesis, its defence presided over by a harried Marshall McLuhan, having rushed back from shooting Annie Hall, had to do with place. Place, as he perceived it in Shakespeare and Milton, those great writers of artistic blueprints, wherein one’s location and identity is fixed and central in the former, and moveable, fluid in the latter: “All places thou.”

I learned about Austen and Brontë this way, and I learned about humanity, through the notion of who we are and what we value; and through other of his piercing insights – “The world will come to you,” he assured me, in my youth, and it did.

He radiated that life is strange and beautiful: One would leave his small, gorgeous orbit, feeling invested in the possible.

Lynn Crosbie is one of Professor Flahiff’s former students. (Source: https://goo.gl/J4aAFU)

Sheila & Wilfred Watson with Marshall McLuhan

F.T. Flahiff first met the renowned Canadian author Sheila Watson when they were both graduate students in Marshall McLuhan’s graduate seminar at the University of Toronto. The two formed a connection that, 40 years later, compelled Watson to entrust her biography to FlahiffAlways Someone to Kill the Doves: A Life of Sheila Watson was released in 2005. (Source: https://goo.gl/GmVKyt )


Categories: Blog

When John Lennon & Yoko Ono Met Marshall McLuhan, 1969

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 7:32pm

By Richard Metzger

Although John Lennon and Yoko Ono were undoubtedly two of the very most famous and talked about people of 1969, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan was no slouch in the worldwide fame department himself. And so it was an inspired pairing indeed, organized by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, when the peace-promoting Beatle and his avant-garde artist wife met up with the celebrated intellectual and author of The Medium is the Massage and Understanding Media on December 19th.

Lennon and Ono were in snowy Toronto doing press to bring attention to their “War is Over” billboard and poster campaign. Huge posters and billboards had been posted in twelve countries proclaiming “War is over! If you want it. Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.” The campaign was launched in the major cities of New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. There were over 30 roadside billboards put up in Toronto alone and a large billboard hung next to the US Armed Forces recruitment office located on New York’s Times Square.

McLUHAN: “Can you tell me? I just sort of wonder how the ‘War Is Over,’ the wording… The whole thinking. What happened?”

JOHN: “I think the basic idea of the poster event was Yoko’s. She used to do things like that in the avant-garde circle, you know. Poster was a sort of medium, media, whatever.”

 YOKO: “Medium.”

JOHN: “And then we had one idea for Christmas, which was a bit too vast, you know.”

YOKO: “We wanted to do it.”

JOHN: “We wanted to do it, but we couldn’t get it together in time.”

YOKO: “Maybe next year.”

JOHN: “And to do something specifically at Christmas. And then it got down to, well, if we can’t-do that event…”

YOKO: “We did this.”

JOHN: “…what we’ll do is a poster event. And then how do you get posters stuck all around the world, you know. It’s easier said than done. So we just started ringing up and find it out. And at first, we’re gonna have… We had some other wording, didn’t we, like, ‘Peace Declared.’ And it started up, there’s a place in New York, where you can have your own newspaper headline, you know. There’s a little shop somewhere in Times Square. And we were wondering how to, sort of like, get it in the newspapers as if it had happened, you know. And it developed from that. Well, we couldn’t get the front page of each newspaper to say war was over, peace declared or whatever.”

McLuhan’s full interview of John Lennon can be found on this blog here: https://goo.gl/atCrAf

The following Tuesday reporters in Ottawa were astonished to find out that the Lennons had met, in private with then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of the country’s current PM Justin Trudeau. Confronted afterward by a crush of reporters, microphones and TV cameras, Lennon was asked: “Did you find him to be a beautiful person?”

“I think he is,” the Beatle replied:

“If there were more leaders like Mr. Trudeau, the world would have peace.”

High praise indeed coming from John Lennon. He later told friends that Prime Minister Trudeau had said how important it was for him to understand what young people wanted and that he’d hoped to meet up with them again in more casual circumstances. After meeting with Trudeau, the Lennons had an appointment with Canada’s Health Minister about softening the penalties for cannabis possession.

Whereas the Trudeau meeting was off-limits to the media save for one photographer, John and Yoko’s fascinating discussion with Marshall McLuhan was captured on film for posterity.

Source: https://goo.gl/UChUhs


Categories: Blog

McLuhan in New York – at Fordham University, Friday, October 13, 2017

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 10:00am

(Click on image for larger view)

From Fall 1967 to Spring 1968, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan spent one academic year in New York City as the Albert Schweitzer Chair of the Humanities at Fordham University, invited by John Culkin S.J., Chair of the Department of Communications at Fordham. McLuhan in New York took the city by storm. The vibrant New York intellectual and artistic vortex provided the right kind of environment to germinate McLuhan’s provocative and unconventional ideas, to capture the city’s imagination. McLuhan’s impact at Fordham was also instrumental in drawing worldwide attention to the idea that technological engagement plays a fundamental role in the structuring of human perception.

On Friday, October 13th, 2017, Fordham University, at its Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan, will host a public event with Eric McLuhan, Paul Levinson, and John Carey, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of McLuhan’s intellectual presence in New York City. The initiative’s goal is not only to pay homage to McLuhan and his intellectual legacy, but also to probe how McLuhan’s work is still pertinent to the general understanding of our media environment today. Teri McLuhan will be a special guest. Eric McLuhan will also present his latest book The Lost Tetrads of Marshall McLuhan (2017).

The “McLuhan in New York” event is presented by the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York and the Book & Media Studies Program at the St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, in conjunction with the Estate of Marshall McLuhan.

With: Eric McLuhan, The Lost Tetrads – Independent scholar

Paul Levinson, The Omnipotent Ear – Fordham University

John Carey, The Responsive Chord – Fordham University (Clarification Addendum: Tony Schwartz is the author of The Responsive Chord; John Carey will be speaking about the book on this occasion because he wrote the Forward to the 2nd edition of the book published earlier this year. See https://goo.gl/kuZjVc )

Welcoming words: Jacqueline Reich, Fordham University, Paolo Granata, University of Toronto
Greetings: Teri McLuhan

Tony Schwartz, Marshall McLuhan, and John Culkin at Tony Schwartz’s famous basement studio on W 56th Street in New York, 1967

(Click on image for larger view)

Eric McLuhan, PhD, is an internationally-known and award-winning lecturer on communication and media, Dr. McLuhan has over 40 years’ teaching experience in subjects ranging from high-speed reading techniques to literature, communication theory, media, culture, and Egyptology. He has taught at many colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. In addition to co-authoring “Laws of Media” in 1988 and working closely for many years with his father, the late Marshall McLuhan, he has also been deeply involved in exploring media ecology and communications.

Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. His nonfiction books, including The Soft EdgeDigital McLuhanRealspaceCellphone, New New Media, McLuhan in Age of Social Media, and Fake News in Real Context have been translated into 12 languages. His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (winner of Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999), Borrowed TidesThe Consciousness PlagueThe Pixel EyeThe Plot To Save SocratesUnburning Alexandria, and Chronica. He appears on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, and NPR.  His 1972 LP, Twice Upon a Rhyme, was reissued in 2010.  He was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Top Ten Academic Twitterers” in 2009.

John Carey brings 25 years of experience in media-industry research and product development to his teaching at the Gabelli School of Business. His clients have included Google, American Express, AT&T, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Primedia, A&E Television Networks, Digitas, The Online Publishers Association, PBS, Cablevision, Rainbow Media, Scholastic and XM Satellite Radio, among others. Professor Carey has served on the advisory boards of the Adult Literacy Media Alliance, the Annenberg School For Communications and Fordham’s Donald McGannon Communication Research Center. He was a commissioner on the Annenberg Commission on the Press and Democracy, has been an invited lecturer in more than a dozen countries and has presented his research to the boards of major media companies in the United States. Before coming to Fordham, he taught at Columbia Business School and at New York University.

Fordham University School of Law, 150 W. 62nd St. New York, Room 7-119


Categories: Blog

A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan by John Culkin, S.J., 1967

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 10:06pm

John M. Culkin SJ, PhD (1928-1993), leading media scholar, critic, educator, writer & consultant.

This is an important essay that was published in the Saturday Review, March 18, 1967, that helped introduce Marshall McLuhan and his ideas to a wider North American audience and especially educators. It introduced the quotation “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” that for a long time was widely attributed to McLuhan while it was actually written by John Culkin based on an idea that probably originated from McLuhan. Here are the first two paragraphs and part the third paragraph of the essay:

By JOHN M. CULKIN, S.J., director of the Center for Communications, Fordham University

EDUCATION, a seven-year-old assures me, is “how kids learn stuff.” Few definitions are as satisfying. It includes all that is essential—a who, a what, and a process. It excludes all the people, places, and things which are only sometimes involved in learning. The economy and accuracy of the definition, however, are more useful in locating the problem than in solving it. We know little enough about kids, less about learning, and considerably more than we would like to know about stuff. 

In addition, the whole process of formal schooling is now wrapped inside an environment of speeded-up technological change which is constantly influencing kids and learning and stuff. The jet-speed of this technological revolution, especially in the area of communications, has left us with more reactions to it than reflections about it. Meanwhile back at the school, the student, whose psyche is being programed [sic] for tempo, information, and relevance by his electronic environment, is still being processed in classrooms operating on the postulates of another day. The cold war existing between these two worlds is upsetting for both the student and the schools. One thing is certain: It is hardly a time for educators to plan with nostalgia, timidity, or old formulas.
Enter Marshall McLuhan. 

He enters from the North, from the University of Toronto where he teaches English and is director of the Center for Culture and Technology. He enters with the reputation as “the oracle of the electric age” and as “the most provocative and controversial writer of this generation.” More importantly for the schools, he enters as a man with fresh eyes, with new ways of looking at old problems. He is a man who gets his ideas first and judges them later. Most of these ideas are summed up in his book, Understanding Media

Please read the rest of this article, and in fact you can download a pdf of the first 3 pages of the article, from here: https://goo.gl/zCC32M 

 

However, to download the section of the Saturday Review that contains pages 70 to 72 that complete the Culkin article, download the pdf that contains those pages from here: https://goo.gl/z5DVF4

Culkin’s “tools shape us” quote is near the beginning of the continuation of the article on page 70:
3) Life imitates art. We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us. These extensions of our senses begin to interact with our senses. These media become a massage. The new change in the environment creates a new balance among the senses. No sense operates in isolation. The full sensorium seeks fulfillment in almost every sense experience. And since there is a limited quantum of energy available for any sensory experience, the sense-ratio will differ for different media…

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936) – “We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us”.

See also on this blog “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” at https://goo.gl/pnVZFi


Categories: Blog

Gould’s Variations and the Human Qualities that Foster Remarkable Creativity

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 7:19pm

Dear Friends,

We are happy to team up with the Glenn Gould Foundation and celebrate the 85th anniversary of Glenn Gould’s birth. On Sept. 23 at 2:30 p.m., the Glenn Gould Foundation, with the support of the Toronto Symphony, will be presenting Prof. Joshua Cohen of Apple University as he gives his specially created multimedia presentation on Gould’s Variations and the Human Qualities that Give Rise to Remarkable Creativity.

Join us to celebrate Glenn Gould!
Further details and registration below. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Cheers!
Paolo Granata
http://thetorontoschool.ca

THE GLENN GOULD FOUNDATION …

Gould’s Variations and the Human Qualities that Foster Remarkable Creativity

Join us on September 23rd for an inspiring presentation in which Apple University’s Prof. Joshua Cohen discusses Glenn Gould’s artistry and his ceaseless pursuit of perfection.

Glenn Gould, the greatest pianist of the past century, thought that musical performance has an ethical importance: it aims at an experience of ecstasy, which creates a sense of distance from the world. Drawing on a presentation he gives to executives at Apple, using illustrations from Gould’s work, Joshua Cohen will discuss the meaning of this ethical ideal, explain how Gould’s 1982 recording of the Goldberg Variations reflects this ambitious aspiration for musical performance, and explore the human qualities that foster remarkable creativity.

September 23, 2017 – 2:30 PM

Glenn Gould Studio
250 Front Street West, Toronto, ON

TICKETS Starting at $25

Go here https://goo.gl/JwoUfQ Read more on Prof. Cohen and his work on Gould:

  • Maclean’s Magazine
  • CBC News
  • Musical Toronto

 


Categories: Blog

The McLuhan Salons Are Back Presented By St. Michael’s College

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 09/06/2017 - 4:55pm

Presented by the St. Michael’s College – the McLuhan’s intellectual home in the University of Toronto – and its popular Book & Media Studies program, in conjunction with the Estate of Marshall McLuhan and several high-level academic and cultural institutions, a new series of McLuhan Salons takes place from September 2017 to April 2018 in different dynamic city locations further dissolving the boundaries of the university and the city in bringing the multi-disciplinary multi-practice approaches to bear made famous by Marshall McLuhan.

For this Inaugural Salon we have teamed up with MomenTO – Toronto’s Heritage of Innovation. Join us to kick-off the series!

Thursday, 14 September 2017, 7:00 PM

At Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie Street, Toronto)

The Twin Legacies of Marshall McLuhan and CityTV

While Marshall McLuhan’s students at the University of Toronto were learning that “the medium is the message” in the 1960s, down on Queen Street West a decade later a team of people were experimenting with a new kind of television. Over the last forty years, CityTV has changed the way the news is reported, brought music videos to Canadian youth, and given us “Speaker’s Corner”. During its heyday in the 1980s and 90s, the station’s mix of innovative programming and its depictions of a young, urban, multicultural Toronto were delivered with a distinctive visual style and occasionally cheeky tone.

Special guest: Michael McLuhan

Join distinguished speaker Ira Wagman (Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication) for a discussion that brings together the legacies of Marshall McLuhan and CityTV as two of Toronto’s innovators in the world of media and communication.
Special guest: Michael McLuhan.

This event is presented by the University of St. Michael’s College, Book & Media Studies Program at the University of Toronto, in conjunction with MomenTO: Toronto’s Heritage of Innovation. We are grateful for the support of Artscape Wychwood Barns, as our venue partner.

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The McLuhan Salon series is generously supported by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation.
MomenTO is produced by the City of Toronto in partnership with the Province of Ontario’s Ontario 150 Program and the Government of Canada. We are grateful for the support of Artscape Wychwood Barns, as our venue partner.

The event is free and open to the public. You are encouraged to register online. Register Now


Categories: Blog

Two More Recently Published Books on Marshall McLuhan in Poland

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 09/06/2017 - 11:38am

Rough translation of the title:

The science project of the new Marshall McLuhan: The philosophical consequences of changing forms of communication 

By Bartlomiej Knosala

The author attended the Media Ecology Association conference at St. Mary’s College of California, near San Francisco, this past June where he presented a paper and kindly gave me a copy of his book. It is available for sale here for anyone interested: https://goo.gl/Zq7NMf

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Between science and art: Marshall McLuhan’s Theory and Practice of Art 

By Dr. Kalina Kukiełko-Rogozińska

Based on her dissertation, it was published by the National Center for Culture in Poland and received a prestigious award from the International Council for Canadian Studies (ICCS).

The author in her dissertation analyzed the principal media theories of Canadian Professor Marshall McLuhan, who is now considered to be one of the most prominent media scholars. In addition to systematizing McLuhan’s ideas, Kukiełko-Rogozińska also presents a profile of this prominent media studies scholar. (Source https://goo.gl/VZ1orU ).

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See also the following published on this blog on August 16, 2017: The First Polish Translation of The Gutenberg Galaxy Just Published at https://goo.gl/VDPpuv .


Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan on Discovery Through Suspended Judgment

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 09/04/2017 - 5:15pm

McLuhan’s “challenge and collapse: the nemesis of creativity” July 27, 2014   –   Billy Caba, 1995

In McLuhan’s “challenge and collapse: The nemesis of creativity” [Chapter 7 of Understanding Media] he talks about Bertrand Russell’s “technique of suspended judgment” in the first paragraph. He also compares this to A.N. Whitehead’s “technique of discovery”. Both believed that these were the great discoveries of the 20th century. The “technique of discovery” basically means that whatever someone is trying to discover, they work backward until they get to the very essence of what that is. At first, this was pretty confusing but the example that McLuhan gave helps a lot. For instance, in art, you start off with an effect or an emotion. And then you keep adding to the art work so that it resembles that emotion or effect. The “technique of suspended judgment” as McLuhan put it, goes further. This technique predicts certain outcomes. The example that McLuhan gives is that an unhappy childhood can produce an unhappy adult. 

Connecting this with technology you can see how taming fire can result in a furnace being created; where it can either heat a home, make weapons such as swords, or just cook food.

When it comes down to trying to understand these concepts, I began to realize that I was doing the same thing that A.N Whitehead and Bertrand Russell were doing. They are simply trying to better understand technology and where it comes from. They are trying to better understand the human condition in regards to technology just like I am trying to understand them.

Throughout human history, human beings have constantly been inventing new technologies but also asking questions about that technology and how it changes us. Which is understandable; since the biggest thing separating our species from other animals is our use and creation of technology. The “technique of discovery” and the “technique of suspended judgment” are the techniques used to simply better understand the world we have created around us.

These concepts were created in the 20th century where human interaction and effect on the world was more apparent than ever. A.N. Whitehead was searching for where technology came from where Bertrand Russell’s wanted to predict where technology was going. But like I stated before, the two, as well as McLuhan, are simply trying to better understand the human relationship with technology. Source: https://goo.gl/L8YPYs

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The Technique of Suspended Judgement – was further explained by McLuhan in a speech at the Learned Societies Canada conference in Montreal in June 1961.

“A. N. Whitehead pointed to the discovery of the nineteenth century as the discovery of the technique of invention. Bertrand Russell pointed to the great achievement of the twentieth century as the technique of suspended judgement. That is, the discovery of the process of insight itself, the technique of avoiding the automatic closure or involuntary fixing of attitudes that so easily results from any given cultural situation – The technique of open field perception. Both the discovery of the method of invention and the discovery of the technique of insight not only concern scientists but humanists, and have been freely used by both of what C. P. Snow calls the two cultures. So much so, indeed, that the resonant statistic of about 95% of the greatest scientists of human history now being alive may apply equally to poets, painters and philosophers”… Source: https://goo.gl/jLW6ov 

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)


Categories: Blog

Why McLuhan Would Have Embraced e-Learning (or, Would He?)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 5:28pm

By Cait Etherington  –  July 21, 2017

 McLuhan Despised Traditional Education

“To expect a ‘turned on’ child of the electric age to respond to the old education modes is rather like expecting an eagle to swim. It’s simply not within his environment, and therefore incomprehensible.”

McLuhan was a writer and critic, but he was also an educator. For decades, McLuhan taught at the University of Toronto, which is among Canada’s oldest and most prestigious universities. While a respected faculty member, McLuhan was by no means the institution’s most conventional professor, and he certainly didn’t hold back when it came to voicing his opinions on the current state of education. In a still frequently cited interview with Playboy Magazine first published in 1969, McLuhan complained:

“Our entire educational system is reactionary, oriented to past values and past technologies, and will likely continue so until the old generation relinquishes power. The generation gap is actually a chasm, separating not two age groups but two vastly divergent cultures. I can understand the ferment in our schools, because our educational system is totally rearview mirror. It’s a dying and outdated system founded on literate values and fragmented and classified data totally unsuited to the needs of the first television generation.”

However, McLuhan wasn’t necessarily pessimistic about education’s future. Indeed, unlike many of his contemporaries, he believed that new technologies, including television, could be used to fix what he saw as the education systems’ most entrenched problems. But he emphasized, “Before we can start doing things the right way, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve been doing them the wrong way.” The “wrong way,” according to McLuhan was rote learning. The right was a self-driven, interactive, and technologically enhanced approach to education that would engage all a learners’ senses.

McLuhan’s 1960s’ Vision for Electronic Learning

McLuhan teaching at the University of Toronto.

While the idea of eLearning was still in its infancy in the 1960s (this was the decade when PLATO, arguably the world’s first eLearning experiment, was developed and first launched), McLuhan had a clear vision for education’s future. He believed that to fix education, we needed fewer teachers, more technology, and most importantly, a more positive outlook on technology. A historian by training, McLuhan appreciated that in many respects, education hadn’t changed much since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the late 15th century. To reach today’s students, we needed to stop relying on primarily visual modes of delivery and create multi-sensory, interactive student-driven learning environments. Without using the term eLearning, he even appeared to predict how this education might begin to take shape.

Asked if he would educate his own children in a school, McLuhan, who in fact had six children, told Playboy, “Certainly not in our current schools, which are intellectual penal institutions. In today’s world, to paraphrase Jefferson, the least education is the best education, since very few young minds can survive the intellectual tortures of our educational system.” So, what was McLuhan’s solution? Could “electronic educational aids” help? According to McLuhan, such tools could help but not without a 360 shift in attitude. It is not enough to put TVs in classrooms, he insisted:

We have to ask what TV can do, in the instruction of English or physics or any other subject, that the classroom cannot do as presently constituted. The answer is that TV can deeply involve youth in the process of learning, illustrating graphically the complex interplay of people and events, the development of forms, the multileveled interrelationships between and among such arbitrarily segregated subjects as biology, geography, mathematics, anthropology, history, literature and languages.

Here, it is important to remember that for McLuhan, television was not a passive medium but rather an active one and one that even brought people across great distances together. In many ways, it is in his optimism about television that one encounters his most fascinating and accurate predictions about the electronic age and future of education.

Why McLuhan Would Have Loved MOOCs

There is no question that had McLuhan lived to be 106, he likely would have been an early adopter of MOOCs. First, McLuhan loved an audience and the larger the better. In the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared on dozens of talk shows and news programs and even once appeared as himself in the famous Woody Allen film Annie Hall. Second, McLuhan would have loved the fact that with MOOCs, learners can work at their own pace and using a variety of mediums that engage different types of senses. Finally, and most notably, McLuhan, who coined the term “Global Village,” would have supported MOOCs as a way to bring together learners from around the globe. He may have even considered MOOCs part of what he envisioned as a necessary “retribalization” process in education and society.

While McLuhan remains a controversial figure in media studies and education, it is difficult to deny his ongoing influence. As he once explained, “If we don’t adapt our educational system to [today’s youths’] needs and values, we will see only more dropouts and more chaos.” This was clearly something he got right and on this basis, it also seems likely that had McLuhan reached the ripe old age of 106, eLearning and perhaps, especially eLearning on a massive scale (as seen in MOOCs) would have been one current trend in education to which he lent his full support.

Source: https://goo.gl/FvC5Zw

On the Other Hand: McLuhan’s Reservations About the Electric World

“Discarnate man, according to McLuhan, was electronic man, the human being used to talking to other humans hundreds of miles away on the telephone, used to having people invade his living room and his nervous system via the television set. Discarnate man had absorbed the fact that he could be present, minus his body, in many different places simultaneously, through electronics. His self was no longer his physical body so much as it was an image or pattern of information, inhabiting a world of other images and other patterns of information.”

The effect of this reality was to give discarnate man an overwhelming affinity for ‘a world between fantasy and dream’ and a ‘typically hypnotic state,’ in which he was totally involved in the play of images and information, like a small child fascinated by a kaleidoscope. Psychically, discarnate man suffered a breakdown between his consciousness and his unconscious…

… This destruction of private, personal identity was the unexpected – and toxic – side-effect of the integrated sensuous life McLuhan had happily proclaimed in the early sixties. Now he saw several unpleasant consequences. The children who experienced this destruction were incapable of civilized pursuits”… (From Marchand, P. Marshall (1989). McLuhan: The Medium & the Messenger. Toronto: Random House of Canada, p. 249.)

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“The global village is populated with ‘discarnate’ human beings who no longer exist as physical presences; instead the electronic or discarnate person is simply an image or an information pattern, nothing more … “- Marshall McLuhan

“The effects of discarnate existence are intricate and complex, for if the discarnate world is one of high involvement, it is also a world of profound irony and intellectual distancing. This paradox has to be seen to some extent as a consequence of living at the intersection between participation with the electronic media on the one hand, and the decline of an older, private identity on the other. The electronic world, which McLuhan suggests has retrieved myth and simultaneity, has also displaced private personal identity and thus erased some of the older typographical qualities of seriousness, clarity, linearity and the value of public discourse.

Many of the results of the tension of this paradox are discomforting. We are courted with images. We know at some level that we are being lied to by the advertising images that we consume and that much of televisual information is decontextualized and fragmented. We even congratulate ourselves on our ability to see through the hokum of PR image management. We pride ourselves on our mental superiority. At the same time, our direct and intense involvement with images makes us vulnerable to its exhortations. Unlike discursive language, images do not make arguments or state propositions; they convey a mood, a feeling, a sense of well or ill-being without a clear cut articulation of any issues. The image world is essentially ironic. Like other forms of irony, images say what they do not entirely mean. Nobody is obliged to take them literally, and this creates a false sense of detachment. It is a paradoxical form of perception which can be identified as detached involvement. Images make us think we are detached when we feel highly involved.” – Joe Galbo (Communication, York University, Toronto), “McLuhan and Baudrillard: Notes on the Discarnate, Simulations and Tetrads” in McLUHAN STUDIES: Explorations in Culture and Communication, Vol.1, No.1, 1991, p.105
Source: McLuhan on Maui – https://goo.gl/b5bGS


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