Sketch of McLuhan by Sorel Etrog
This paper offers a retrospective of the images McLuhan used after the “Global Village” to characterize and illuminate the evolution of late-twentieth century media landscapes. A variation of this article was published 2011 in the Canadian Journal of Media Studies 9(1): http://cjms.fims.uwo.ca/issues/09-01/Chrystall.pdf.
The McLuhan revival of the 1990s saw the retrieval of Marshall McLuhan — the post-pop-icon — and his transformation into the “spin doctor for the digital revolution, the ghostly booster for virtual communities and the prophet and patron saint of business on the internet” (Ostrow xvii). Despite Kroker’s earlier assessment, that McLuhan’s works are obsolesced by the new digital environment, McLuhan’s famous phrases began operating as “globally recognizable jingles for the work of multinationals trading in digital commodities” (Genosko 10).1 Since the revival, McLuhan’s phrases have been fetishized within the academy too. In The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics, Media and Communications, for example, Danesi reduces McLuhan’s legacy to that of a communication “theorist,” who argued that electronic technology has transformed the world into a “global village,” best known for coining the phrase “the medium is the message” (140).
Danesi’s treatment of McLuhan is not an anomaly. Since the revival, McLuhan has rarely been afforded escape velocity from his earlier aphorisms and phrases. His critics and commentators all too frequently seek to encounter McLuhan and his oeuvre in a similar manner — through the lens of one or more of his famous aphorisms or phrases — treating the medium solely in terms of a fragment of his message. The fragment of McLuhan’s “message” invoked above all others has been the image of the global village (Dery). McLuhan’s critics and commentators have sought to leverage the global village to inform and focus a variety of critiques of McLuhan’s corpus. Andreas Huyssen, for example, makes the global village an integral part of a reading experiment created to critique McLuhan. According to Huyssen, a truer account of McLuhan’s “media theology” can be seen if we substitute Holy Spirit for electricity; God for Medium; and planet united under Rome for global village (183). Fawcett too hangs his commentary on McLuhan off the global village. He uses the phrase to launch a critique of McLuhan’s apparent optimism for television, over-estimation of the pedagogic possibilities of video, propensity to ignore criticism, Christian optimism, inadequate diagnosis of re-tribalization, misreading of James Joyce, use of overstatement and/or hyperbole, relationship to the wealthy, carelessness, belief in an orderly world, and ignorance of financial and fiscal matters.
McLuhan’s global village has also been a prominent feature in discourses catalyzed by the explosive growth of the Internet. Antecol, for example, looks at the media and communications scene of the late-1990s through the lens of McLuhan’s global village. The crux of his inquiry is “are we there yet?” Has McLuhan’s “prophecy” been realized? Tom Wolfe’s approach is not dissimilar. According to Wolfe, McLuhan is something of a prophet and the global village is the first and most memorable name for the digital universe McLuhan predicted. Cohen offers a similar assessment. He argues that while McLuhan’s acoustic space was not, precisely, cyberspace it appears to have been close enough for those within the sphere of its development to have made the links to McLuhan and to foster the popular belief that McLuhan had prophetically anticipated a world that bore witness to his vision….. (Read the rest at https://goo.gl/fol5pK ).
About Dr Andrew Chrystall – Dr Andrew Chrystall teaches in the School of Communication, Journalism & Marketing, Massey University, New Zealand. His research unfolds from the aesthetic-historical and interdisciplinary approach of Marshall McLuhan, the Toronto School of Communication, and Media Ecology. His research portfolio demonstrates sustained attention to the effects of media and the interrelations between culture and technology. In addition to his primary discipline(s)—Media and Communication Studies—Dr. Chrystall has a background in Public Relations, Sociology and Theology. He also had a vital and exciting career in a variety of “cultural” industries prior to becoming an academic. Dr Chrystall also likes surfing, playing judo and is an underwhelming jazz guitarist.See also on this blog The Metaphor Morphs: From Global Village to Global Theatre – https://goo.gl/eAjgQ2 .
The radicalism of the 1960s was reflected in theorizing about what education should look like in the New Media age of the ’60s. The thinking and method in this book revolve around two poles of thought that were big on the radar screens and in the cocktail party chatter of Sixties-era intellectuals: the ideas of the German-born sociologist, philosopher, and political theorist Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) and those of Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980).
Originally released by Doubleday ⎯ in retrospect, it is remarkable that such a mainstream publisher would become involved in such a subversive project ⎯ Stein and Miller’s Blueprint has just been reissued byInventory Press, a small, New York-based company. Its new, slipcased, facsimile edition faithfully recreates its original design by Marshall Henrichs, which consisted of three fold-out poster-charts and a large-format paperbound book. It adds a second book (the new Instruction Manual), which contains essays looking back at the creation, purposes and impact of the original project. This new, second book also contains, among other components, excerpts from interviews with Stein, Miller, and Henrichs, which were conducted by Jeffrey Schnapp and Paul Cronin between 2012 and 2015.
In the 1960s, Stein, a sociologist, had become known for teaching such innovative courses as “Social Theory” and “Sociology of Literature” at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. In these courses he took what would now be called a broad, multidisciplinary approach to examining art and literature. In fact, for Stein, those subjects merely served as starting points for a wide-ranging consideration of cultural, social, political and economic ideas that had emerged and cross-pollinated over the centuries. Among them, he enthusiastically sought affinities….
Blueprint is not a conventional book. Instead, its poster-charts group together clusters of related theoretical or intellectual themes, or the names of the artists, writers or other thinkers associated with them; they also point to thematic-evolutionary links between the innovations or visions for which they were known. Blueprint’s “charts,” as Stein and Miller refer to them, also offer a road map for a journey through the intellectual history that shaped the outlooks and conditions of the modern age.
Shooting Script, the paperbound book accompanying Blueprint’s charts, which is, again, part of the new, reissued edition, includes Stein and Miller’s own essay explaining the genesis of the project. It offers tips on how to use the charts as a pedagogical tool. Shooting Script also contains an illustrated, experimental-form essay about the German Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) by the Polish-born poet and avantgardistStefan Themerson (1910–1988), and a Fluxus-style questionnaire by Naphtali “Tuli” Kupferberg, the American countercultural poet and founder of the 1960s rock band The Fugs, who died in 2010. Most notably, Shooting Script contains reproductions of the title page and table of contents from a large number of books and journals representing the work and ideas of a wide range of authors. These are the same thinkers, artists, and titles that appear on Blueprint’s charts.If all of these cultural reference points sound mixed-up and unlikely, that was, in a way, the whole point of Blueprint’s bring-together-the-varying-disciplines approach.
It did so by anchoring its thinking and method around two poles of thought that were big on the radar screens and in the cocktail party chatter of Sixties-era intellectuals: the ideas of the German-born sociologist, philosopher, and political theorist Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) and those of Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980), a Canadian who analyzed and put forth theories about the nature and impact of mass media. If, for Stein and Miller, Marcuse’s critiques of capitalism, political systems, and consumer culture evoked the kind of progressive social-political change they hoped to foster, McLuhan’s critical outlook (he coined the phrases “global village” and “the medium is the message”) offered fresh, revealing ways in which to think about culture, technology and the future. (Read the full article at: http://goo.gl/3oDAEu .
New Book Announcement: Media Transatlantic: Developments in Media & Communication Studies between North American & German-speaking Europe
- Offers interpretations of recent developments in media and communication studies
- Is the first to bring together leading media theorists and media philosophers from German‐speaking Europe
- Represents a unique addition to texts related to Friedrich Kittler
- It includes papers on Marshall McLuhan by Michael Darroch, Rainer Leschke and Norm Friesen.
This book reflects recent scholarly and theoretical developments in media studies, or Medienwissenschaft. It focuses on linkages between North America and German‐speaking Europe, and brings together and contextualizes contributions from a range of leading scholars. In addition to introducing English‐language readers to some of the most prominent contemporary German media theorists and philosophers, including Claus Pias, Sybille Krämer and Rainer Leschke, the book shows how foundational North American contributions are themselves inspired and informed by continental sources. This book takes Harold Innis or Marshall McLuhan (and other members of the “Toronto School”) as central points of reference, and traces prospective and retrospective lines of influence in a cultural geography that is increasingly global in its scope. In so doing, the book also represents a new episode in the international reception and reinterpretation of the work of Innis and McLuhan, the two founders of the theory and study of media.
- Table of contents (11 chapters)
Introduction: The Geopolitics of Media Studies
Pages 1-12PreviewBuy Chapter$29.95
What’s German About German Media Theory?
Disciplining Media Studies: An Expanding Field and Its (Self-)Definition
Anonymous Historiography: A Metaphorology of the Constellation in Benjamin, Giedion and McLuhan
Giedion and Explorations: Confluences of Space and Media in Toronto School Theorization
Innis and Kittler: The Case of the Greek Alphabet
Between Orality and Literacy: Plato’s Hybrid Medium and the Foundations of Media Theory
Innis in the
McLuhan and Medienwissenschaften. Sense and Sensation
The Messenger as a Model in Media Theory. Reflections on the Philosophical Dimensions of Theorizing Media
McLuhan Centre Spring Program Final Events: Monday Night Reception & Discussion, May 16; Panel Discussion, May 18
Monday, 16 May, 6 PM – Special Event: Canadian Content in a Digital World
Richard Stursberg will moderate a group of thinkers (Don McLean, Peter Grant, Ramona Pringle, Tessa Sproule) in response to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Meanie Joly, asking for comments on the future of media and Canadian Content in a digital world.
“Canada’s cultural and creative industries are important drivers of innovation and a vibrant part of our economy. The intersection of culture and technology holds tremendous potential for our country’s growth and prosperity.
As we adjust to the realities of rapid technological advances and changing consumer behaviour, I am launching consultations to better understand the challenges and opportunities brought on by this transformation.
These consultations will provide an opportunity to listen and learn from Canadians and examine the federal government’s current cultural policy toolkit.
This project is driven by our belief that the time is ripe to review the role of the federal government in helping Canada’s creative sector navigate this transformation and chart a course to ensure that we are poised to position ourselves as global leaders.
As we engage in the pre-consultation phase of this project, I invite you to help define the scope of the consultation….”
Peter Grant is Counsel and past chair of our Technology, Communications and Intellectual Property Group in Toronto. He has pioneered the field of communications law in Canada, and his practice is substantially devoted to this field, including broadcasting and cable television licensing, satellite services, copyright negotiations, mass media and press law, cultural industries and telecommunications regulation.
Don McLean, Dean of the Faculty of Music since 2011, is best known as an innovative leader, faculty administrator, and professor of music theory and musicology. Awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal through the Canada Council in 2012 for his “exploration of the changing context of music in the academy and society, and innovations in infrastructure development and interdisciplinary teaching and research,” Dean McLean is also known for his signature black T-shirts.
Ramona Pringle (MPS, BFA) is a producer, interactive video artist and host. She specializes in digital multiplatform production and has developed and produced work for CBC, TVO, CTV and PBS where she worked as interactive producer on Frontline’s Digital Nation.
Ramona is currently in production on Rdigitalife.com, which explores the evolving relationship between people and technology, and an interactive documentary project based on her research project Avatar Secrets which has been featured in the New York Times, and presented at events including SXSW, TEDx and Ignite.
Richard Stursberg is a Canadian Media Executive. He has been head of all English services at the CBC, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada, Chairman of the Canadian Television Fund, President of Starchoice and Cancom (now Shaw Direct), President of the Canadian Cable Television Association and Assistant Deputy Minister of Culture and Broadcasting for the Government of Canada. He is currently President of Aljess, a boutique consulting firm. He is the author of The Tower of Babble (2012), named one of the best books of the year by the Globe and Mail.
Tessa Sproule is a digital innovator, visionary leader and change agent with an intense clarity of vision for the future and proven intuition for identifying opportunities in the unrelenting advance of disruptive technologies in the media space. For nearly two decades, she worked with the CBC at the front lines as the media landscape changed, leading legacy media’s response through the dramatically shifting storytelling space. Now she takes a place at the front of the shift as the co-founder VUBBLE, a soon-to-launch digital content discovery service that merges human curation with artificial intelligence in the on-demand short-form video space.WHEN – Monday, 16 May 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT) – Add to Calendar
- WHERE – McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology Coach House Institute – 39A Queens Park Crescent E Off 121 St. Joseph st., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3 – View Map
The event is free and open to the public. You are encouraged to register online.
REGISTER NOW at http://goo.gl/HLTziB
Wednesday, 18 May 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
The Association for Media Literacy in association with the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology presents…..
SPECIAL EVENT – Is there a crisis in critical thinking?There is understandable excitement in living, teaching and learning through media technologies. But are we studying technologies’ effects on thinking, learning and relating? Does 21st Century life need a strong dose of Marshall McLuhan? Panelists: Dr. Sarah Sharma: Director, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology Sylvie Webb: English/Language Arts Coordinator, Toronto District School Board, Media Studies Additional Qualifications Instructor, Author Carol Arcus: Vice President, The Association for Media Literacy Agnes Kruchio: Researcher, editor, author, librarian, educator, University of Toronto Neil Andersen: President, Association for Media literacy, Media Studies Additional Qualifications Instructor, Author
Reserve a Seat via Eventbrite: https://goo.gl/37GHyA
University of Alberta Press, 2016
With Gregory Betts, Kristine Smitka, Adam Welch, Elena Lamberti
In 1914, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis—the founders of Vorticism—undertook an unprecedented analysis of the present, its technologies, communication, politics, and architecture. The essays in Counterblasting Canada trace the influence of Vorticism on Marshall McLuhan and Canadian Modernism. Building on the initial accomplishment of Blast, McLuhan’s subsequent Counterblast, and the network of artistic and intellectual relationships that flourished in Canadian Vorticism, the contributors offer groundbreaking examinations of postwar Canadian literary culture, particularly the legacies of Sheila and Wilfred Watson. Intended primarily for scholars of literature and communications, Counterblasting Canada explores a crucial and long-overlooked strand in Canadian cultural and literary history.
Contributors: Gregory Betts, Adam Hammond, Paul Hjartarson, Dean Irvine, Elena Lamberti, Philip Monk, Linda Morra, Kristine Smitka, Leon Surette, Paul Tiessen, Adam Welch, Darren Wershler.
The event is free and open to the public. You are encouraged to register online.Register Now
Gregory Betts is the Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence, the Director of Canadian Studies, and an Associate Professor in English at Brock University in St. Catharines.
Paul Hjartarson is Professor Emeritus in English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. His scholarly work is on life-writing, Canadian literature, modernism, print culture and the digital humanities. His most recent book, co-authored with Shirley Neuman, is The Thinking Heart: The Literary Archive of Wilfred Watson (2014). Until his retirement, Paul Hjartarson was a Professor of English at the University of Alberta and has published on both Baroness Elsa and Frederick Philip Grove.
Kristine Smitka teaches in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.
Discourse * Disconnect: Is there a crisis in critical thinking? A Panel Discussion at the McLuhan Centre, Toronto, May 18
39A Queens Park Crescent E. Panelists: Dr. Sarah Sharma: Director, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology Sylvie Webb: English/Language Arts Coordinator, Toronto District School Board, Media Studies Additional Qualifications Instructor, Author Carol Arcus: Vice President, The Association for Media Literacy Agnes Kruchio: Researcher, editor, author, librarian, educator, University of Toronto Neil Andersen: President, Association for Media literacy, Media Studies Additional Qualifications Instructor, Author
Reserve a Seat via Eventbrite: https://goo.gl/37GHyA
IBM System/360 Model 50 introduced in 1964.
The Mainframe Was The Message
May 2, 2016 – Hesh Wiener
In 1964, as IBM announced the System/360, Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto, published a remarkable book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. He said each medium, independent of its content, is a powerful social force with characteristics that reshape the way people are interconnected.
McLuhan distilled his thesis to a single memorable phrase: the medium is the message. Like print, radio, movies, and television, computing technologies, from the punch card to the mainframe to the mobile internet, are media, too. IBM doesn’t fully understand this; consequently, it flails and struggles.
Marshall McLuhan: Canadian academic who changed how the world looked at communications media and their impact on society.
One of McLuhan’s observations about media is that they generally carry as content older media. For example, the medium of theatre and the medium of print publishing are the content of films. Films can be the content of television. Television has become part of the content of website presentation. But as one medium uses a predecessor for content, the nature of the newer medium may differ a lot from that of the older one.
As an example, McLuhan characterizes film as a hot medium, by which he means that film in a theatre shown on a big screen with its rich images floods the main sense, vision, with information. The viewer doesn’t have to do much work to catch all the details; on the contrary, the viewer may be overwhelmed. Add in surround sound and even without 3D or VR presentation, the audience is awash in stimulus. By contrast, the same film presented on a small television screen, the kind that was the norm during McLuhan’s time, 50 years ago, requires the viewer to psychologically lean in, to do some mental work to catch the detail. McLuhan calls the low-res TV of his time a cool medium, his term for a medium one that demands effort from a viewer…..
Punch Cards: The prevailing data medium before the System/360 captured the corporate market was the punch card.
Before 1964, IBM had built its business on technology that read a card and printed a line. Some of this technology was still largely mechanical, processing paper cards and sorting or selecting the cards using brushes that felt for punched holes and paper guides that sorted cards into banks of hoppers. The technological high end of IBM’s product line was still migrating from electronic systems based on vacuum tube triodes to circuit cards using discrete transistors. Magnetic tape was the emerging storage medium; disks were not yet sufficiently capacious or adequately affordable to displace mag tape. Tape is still a widely used archiving medium, possibly awaiting extinction by disks in the cloud but by no means assured of consignment to the dustbin of history.
IBM’s corporate thinking, like that of the contemporary industrial empires that were its customers, mirrored the information processing machines it built. Computing, even as it went electronic, involved breaking a problem down into processing components the way an industry assembly process was divided into tasks. The components were executed in sequence, each receiving as input the output from a prior stage of work, each yielding as output the transformed batch of data.
Until very recently, IBM personnel at work were largely shielded by the transition of computing from punch cards to richly interactive mobile multimedia activity. IBM’s System/360 was at first an electronic embodiment of punch card systems and the batch processing technology of earlier computing systems like the IBM 1401. It took IBM a decade to upgrade the 360 to the 370 and even then the early 370 models didn’t feature what would quickly become their defining technological advance: virtual memory. Still, by the mid-1970s IBM was showing customers that computing via CRT terminals was a key step on the path to the future. IBM’s mainframe processor business and, in parallel, its lines of small and midrange systems, was thriving. But by that time, IBM had begun to lose touch with developments in semiconductor manufacturing, communications technology and software that would trip it up during the 1980s.
Just as the mainframe seemed in some ways to be the cinema version of punch card apparatus, a development that was for all practical purposes unknown to IBM management, the personal computer was turning into the television version of the glass house system. The first personal computer that became known around the world was the MITS Altair 8800, featured in Popular Electronics magazine in 1975. In just a few years, dozens of companies were selling hundreds of thousands of small computers. These computers were truly a different medium than the glass house systems they would soon transform and, eventually, as servers developed that used the technology popularized by personal clients, largely replace. Read this entire article at http://goo.gl/MOFkCp . (Thanks to Martin Speer for this article.)