This article from Marketing, the “Advertising, Media & Public Relations” magazine of Canada since 1908, was published on the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. It’s true that Marshall McLuhan’s ideas are of special interest to these professions of persuasion and selling, however I have no idea why this writer calls these key McLuhan ideas “predictions”. Only the fourth one is especially predictive…….AlexK
Marketing looks at five of the media prophet’s predictions through a 2011 lens.
By Matt Semansky – July 21, 2011
Marshall McLuhan would have turned 100 today. Had he made it to the century mark, the Edmonton-born media and culture prophet would have celebrated the milestone in an age when digital technology has proven many of his boldest predictions to be accurate.
More than three decades after his death, the man who gave the world aphorisms such as “the medium is the message” and “the global village” continues to exert influence over academics, culture warriors and anyone trying to make sense of the interplay between society and technology.
McLuhan is of particular interest to the advertising community, having turned many an erudite phrase about the industry in books, lectures and interviews. He once declared that advertising was “the greatest art form of the 20th century,” but his views on the subject were more complex and critical than that oft-repeated quote would suggest. McLuhan did, after all, also describe advertising as “an environmental striptease for a world of abundance” and posited that the primary product advertising promoted was itself.
McLuhan chastened the ad world while acknowledging its increasingly important role in shaping society. It is partly for this reason that he remains such an influence for marketing, creative and media big thinkers around the world. More crucially, though, his striking ability to predict the future is what gives McLuhan such posthumous currency. Although he died long before the age of the internet, his theories are alive in the Web 2.0 world of social media and smartphones.
In honour of McLuhan’s centennial birthday, Marketing looks at five predictions that look especially prescient when viewed in 2011’s rear-view mirror.
•The medium is the message
The most famous and frequently misunderstood of McLuhanisms, it remains as true today as it was in the age of television. McLuhan’s point was that the impact of the medium itself is more significant than the content it carries; that each medium, from light bulbs to computers, conveys a message to its users. The internet, for example, isn’t important because of its endless supply of content, but because it has created a world where we expect content to be endlessly, immediately there.
•The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village
The term “global village” could reasonably apply to the way the internet has condensed a vast world, allowing for the immediate transmission of information from one side of the globe to the other, keeping people connected in spite of geographical distance. McLuhan was specifically referring to electronic media shaping collective, “tribe”-based identities. And today? Just look at the way Twitter and Facebook users organize themselves into groups of followers or how consumers receive messages from their daily deal tribe on their phones.
•We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us
Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook (or so one version of the story goes). But anyone who came of age or was born after his invention will be in some way “created” by it, or whatever social networking platform succeeds it. We now have meaningful interactions with people and brands online as well as in “reality.” Future generations won’t distinguish between the two.
•The age of automation is going to be the age of ‘do it yourself’
The truth of this prediction has been especially inconvenient for owners of traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as marketers who’ve had to adjust from typical “push”-style messaging. Blogging has made everyone a publisher, computer programs like ProTools allow regular citizens to produce professional-quality music and film, and message boards and social media mean consumers don’t just passively accept advertisements that tell them what they want.
•We drive into the future using only our rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future
McLuhan was fascinated by the idea that humans essentially lived in the past, devising solutions for yesterday’s problems. This shadow-chasing certainly plays out in the house of advertising, which is built on the foundation of ever-shifting media ground. Think you’ve identified cool? That means it’s not cool anymore. Still wrapping your head around social media? By the time you do, it won’t be about Facebook and Twitter anymore. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/3cevoy4 )
David will be working with thought leaders in and outside the university to contemplate twenty first century opportunities and alternatives for the McLuhan Program. Given his background in technology and culture, and personal connection with McLuhan, he is the ideal candidate to help develop plans for the Program’s future.
David developed a strong personal and professional relationship with McLuhan in the 1970s as his doctoral student, as an assistant teacher with him, as neighbours at Wychwood Park, and later, as business advisors.
McLuhan is recognized as the first visionary of the cultural and information age, who coined the phrase, “The medium is the message,” “The Global Village,” and many others. He became famous around the world for his work in media theory and communications, and his theories remains highly relevant even today.
For the Fellowship, Nostbakken is asking several thought leaders a series of questions including: What matters in the 21st century around which the McLuhan Program should reposition itself? What approach should we take in the digital age? Who should our partners be within and outside the academic community?
“I hope to support changes by gaining invaluable insight through interviews, discussions and roundtables. They will help us imagine what the McLuhan Program could be for the 21st century,” David says, “as we seek advice, commitments and partnerships.”
Having a teacher-student rapport, and later a working relationship with the University of Toronto’s inspirational intellectual force, David says Marshall’s influence had a profound impact on him and the way he perceives the world.
“He taught me the importance of language and poetic resonance in unlocking new perception and deeper understanding,” says Nostbakken. McLuhan was driven less by career aspirations and more by the desire to know. “This passion for insight and understanding, a kind of quest for truth, rubbed off on those of us who worked with him.”
With a BA in Philosophy and English completed at the University of Saskatchewan, a Masters in Education at University of Toronto, Nostbakken’s PhD thesis was undertaken with the guidance of McLuhan on cultural influences of electronic media.
David says society didn’t pay attention to print until we had television, and the way it has shaped the way we think and act. Further, he says we must understand how important it is to study how technology and culture intersects with other aspects of our lives.
“He rose to prominence in the mid-twentieth century when he explored the impact of print technology which was by then giving way to electronic media including television. While he anticipated the digital global village of our current times, he has left it to us to explore our rapidly changing sphere of the twenty-first century.”
McLuhan’s influence is apparent, as David launched a number of media enterprises and platforms including Vision TV in Canada, WETV International, China Green Channel International, Ecology Global Network, and a number of not-for-profit enterprises including Power of Peace Network with UNESCO and as a founding Director of Digital Opportunity Trust.
David is President of N&N Inc. http://nostbakken.ca/ , a media and communications consulting firm. He serves on a number of boards and splits his time between Toronto and Ottawa, where he teaches strategic communication in social entrepreneurship at Carleton University.
“There are a few things more important than who we are culturally. We now have the technology to discover who we are around the world,” says Nostbakken. In essence, we need to understand our cultural realities worldwide by ensuring that we explore and employ the technological means to do so. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/o3huub7 )
The Coach House
Pearlman is a musical genius, but one who works in the background, creating and teaching the craft as producer, songwriter, creator, manager, poet, theorist, and former record company executive for many famous bands — such as Blue Oyster Cult, The Clash, and Black Sabbath.
He is also founding Vice President of emusic.com — one of the first sites to sell music in the MP3 format, beginning in 1998. In the late 1990s, this was a subscription store for download-to-own online music and audiobooks.
The musical icon is well known internationally as being responsible for inventing many musical trends over the last 30 years, including new genres known as Heavy Metal, Occult Rock, Goth, Punk, and New Wave music.
Pearlman founded, has written for, and produced or co-produced, many LPs that have become groundbreaking albums. In all formats, his recordings have sold an incredible 40 million copies.
Described by the Billboard Producer’s Directory as “the Hunter Thompson of rock, a gonzo producer of searing intellect and vast vision,” Sandy is a musical visionary.
Famous around the world for his innovative ideas and ensuing success, he was portrayed by acclaimed actor Christopher Walken in Saturday Night Live’s parody skit on the making of “The Reaper” (which Pearlman produced for Blue Oyster Cult).
Currently the Dean’s Professor for Interdisciplinary Innovation at the University Toronto, Pearlman was recently the Schulich Distinguished Professor Chair at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the History of Ideas at Brandeis, and a New School Fellow in Sociology and Anthropology.
Over the last few years, at McGill and UofT, Pearlman has taught and created, often in collaboration with Dean Don McLean of McGill, and currently, at the University of Toronto, many “provocative” courses distributed amongst the Music, English, Religious Studies, Law and Management Faculties.
Pearlman says he would describe himself as a “relentless brainstormer on the Future of Media in general, and, the ever tightening embrace of Music by Technology and Technology by Music in particular.”
While at the McLuhan Coach House Institute, he plans to give a seminar on Monday, December 1, 5:00-7:00 pm at the Coach House. He is also scheduled to be giving a public lecture on Wednesday, December 3 at 140 St. George Street, Room 538, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/o3huub7 )
Sandy Pearlman’s credits read like a who’s who of rock radio. A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the History of Ideas, the Billboard Producer Directory called Sandy the “Hunter Thompson of rock, a gonzo producer of searing intellect and vast vision.” As producer and writer for the Blue Oyster Cult, Sandy helped establish the genre of Heavy Metal. (He was one of the founders of Rock Criticism, and literally was the first to use the phrase “Heavy Metal” as it applied to music during his sojourn at Crawdaddy magazine.) BOC recorded and Sandy produced such classics as “Don’t Fear the Reaper, “ “Burning For You,” “Astronomy” (covered by Metallica) and “The Red and The Black” (covered by the legendary Minutemen). (Sandy was even portrayed by Christopher Walken in a Saturday Night Live parody skit of the making of “Reaper.”) He produced the classic second record by The Clash, Give ‘em Enough Rope, along with what was arguably the first “punk” record, The Dictators’ Go Girl Crazy. Sandy worked with the legendary Pavlov’s Dog, who anticipated the goth movement by more than ten years as well as the leaders of LA’s Paisley Underground, The Dream Syndicate. He has collaborated with the likes of Patti Smith (who co-wrote various BOC songs), Phil Manzanera and Andrew Mackay of Roxy Music, Bill Bruford, etc. In recognition of his work, Sandy has received 17 Gold and Platinum records. ( http://tinyurl.com/ko3g89a )
Extended Call for Papers: The 16th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association – Denver, CO, June 11-14, 2015
Metropolitan State University of Denver, Auraria Campus, Denver, Colorado
The Sixteenth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association
Kaleidoscope of Media and Community
Call for Papers DEADLINE EXTENDED
Thursday, June 11 – Sunday, June 14, 2015
Metropolitan State University of Denver
KEYNOTE SPEAKER is Nicolas Carr influential author and thinker on culture and technology. His writing includes The Shallows (NY Times bestseller), The Big Switch, Does IT matter, and The Glass Cage. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. http://www.nicholascarr.com
Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) is proud to host the 16th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association. MSU Denver is Colorado’s land grant university and educates the most diverse student body of any institution in the state. The University is an epicenter for urban impact, transforming lives, communities and higher education. It is with this perspective of dynamic diversity, transformation, and community engagement that we aim to explore the concept of “Kaleidoscope of Media and Community” as the convention theme.
The term “kaleidoscope” means the observation of beautiful forms. When we look through a kaleidoscope, we see a multitude of shapes, colors, and textures combine to create beautiful patterns. . With every turn of the kaleidoscope, the patterns shift and change, yet still combine to create a whole image. As abolitionist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher said, “Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place in the contents. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects. The most tranquil house, with the most serene inhabitants, living upon the utmost regularity of system, is yet exemplifying infinite diversities.” This conference looks at the recursive relationships of media and community as a pattern of continuously shifting, adapting parts combining in an infinite array of possibilities within mediated environments.
The field of Media Ecology is multi-disciplinary in nature, bringing together a broad collection of specialties, perspectives and expertise. This year’s theme of community offers the possibility to think about communities as part of a media’s ecology and its technologies. Community opens our discourse to human interaction that is face-to-face, urban, rural, central, remote, online, hybrid, historical, fictional, human, animal, functional, dysfunctional, young, old, diverse, educated, oral, literate, digital and linked to the technology and media in its environment.
The 16th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association invites papers, panels, workshop sessions, short film and video works, and creative projects that explore the convention theme. Submissions on any topic of interest to Media Ecology are also encouraged. Authors who want their papers considered for the Top Paper or Top Student Paper award must indicate this on their submissions. All submissions will be acknowledged.
The convention site at MSU Denver is located in the heart of downtown Denver on the Auraria Campus. There is a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options within easy walking or biking distance from campus. Rental bicycles are readily available through the city’s program. Discounted rooms will be available at our state of the art on-campus, student-run hotel, the SpringHill Suites at Marriott. An excursion to the mountains is planned for Friday evening. Additional information about lodging, logistics, and events will be forthcoming.
Guidelines for Submission
For Manuscripts (for MEA award submissions):
- Manuscripts should be 4,000-6,000 words (approximately 15 to 25 double-spaced pages).
- Include a cover page (or e-submission page) with your academic or professional affiliation and other contact information.
- Include a 150 word abstract, with the title. Use APA, MLA, or Chicago style.
For Paper and Panel Proposals:
- Include title, abstract, and contact information with your proposal.
- Outline, as relevant, how your paper or panel will fit with the convention theme.
Submission Deadline: January 15, 2015
For more information on the Media Ecology Association and updated convention details, visit www.media-ecology.org.
Technoculture And Human Relationships June 19, 2014
This one is an academic submission — a review of literature — to analyse the effects of technoculture in the new mediated society. – Srirekha Chakravarty
This literature review follows the critical theory of Simon Cooper who follows in the tradition of Heidegger, to posit that it is possible to say both ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ to technology (Cooper, 2002).
In his book Technoculture and Critical Theory: In the Service of the Machine, Cooper theorizes about the hesitation most of us feel towards technological progress; and the imposing nature of technology in recreating social and cultural meanings.
Cooper theorizes that in technoculture, while we welcome the social and cultural transformation, we may set limits on technological mediation (Cooper, 2002).
“New media transforms all culture and cultural theory into an ‘open source.’ This opening up of cultural techniques, conventions, forms, and concepts is ultimately the most promising cultural effect of computerization”- Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Manovich, 2001). The urgency and indeed the overbearing nature of new media technology was elucidated to rather controversial reactions by Marshall McLuhan, who set off the futuristic wheels of understanding the irrevocable relationship between man and machine way back in the 1960s. McLuhan’s practical yet paradoxically deterministic approach to technology and indeed his uncanny acceptance of its effects on human society is reflected in the McLuhanism:
“The most human thing about us is technology” (McLuhan, 1974). The unprecedented developments in Internet-enabled information and digital communication technologies beginning in the early 2000’s, and the consequent transformation of society deepened the roots of technoculture to organically branch out into digital culture and the more punkish cyberculture.
Theorists who were still wrapping up debates on early technoculture – including the brand professed by McLuhan in the 1960s and later vilified by Neil Postman in the early 1990s – found themselves grappling with the way society, culture and technology were radically redefining each other.
Technoculture has been adopted as a construct of the new mediated world since the Internet was opened up for public use in the early 1990s, and spread its roots wider with digitization of information and communication technology over the past decade. The constantly evolving communications technology is a critical element of that culture, where, as Jean Baudrillard (Baudrillard, 1983) said in the context of the television, “our own body and the whole surrounding universe become a control screen.”
Technoculture refers simultaneously to the cultural dimensions of technology and to the technological dimensions of culture (Vannini, 2009).
Beginning with the 1990s, the confluence of computers and communication technologies where it is no longer about computers or laptops but about information appliances, interaction with technology has become as much about what people feel as it is about what they do (John McCarthy, 2004).
There is healthy interest in academia that is viewing technoculture as a contemporary reality – one that exists in a “continuous state of flux” whose transformations have been driven by human inventions (Kozinets, 2010).
And while some skeptics foresee a world inhabited by cyborgs (Haraway, 1991)enslaved by technology, there are others who see no boundaries between technology and culture in a world of cybernatics, bionics and interactive cyberspace (Gibson, 1984). The debate between technology and culture may then seem outdated because technoculture is seen as a “hybridization” of both (Berger, 1996).
The dynamic relationship between technology and culture then makes it necessary to not only keep up with new communicational vocabulary such as ‘googling’, ‘facebooking’, ‘twittering’, ‘texting’ ‘radio blogging’, ‘gaming’, etc., but also to understand the survivability of traditional local cultures against the forces of technology.
While McLuhan himself was never overtly opposed to a technology infused culture, his protégé, Neil Postman (Postman, 1993) took a critical stance on a culture that was becoming more pervasive than pop culture. This review then is a pertinent exercise in analyzing from a socio-techno-cultural perspective, what it means to live in a digital age; and understanding in that context, whether Neil Postman’s antithetical view that culture always pays a price for technology, (Postman, 1998) really holds out.
Advent of technoculture
The advent of technoculture in human society may be traced back to the evolution of communications from the oral tradition to a written one and later to print, to the current day technological breakthrough with computers and mobile phones with broadband capacity.
Given the historical perspective, “technoculture” would map the technologically saturated worlds of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries (Lovlie, 2006).
Welcome to technoculture
Taking a somewhat romanticized view, Phillip Vannini and his colleagues (Vannini, 2009) believe technoculture resides in “old docks, in toy stores, in the hobbyist’s toolbox, and in the refrigerator as much as it resides in the cathodes of an electronic tube or in the chips of a personal computer.”
A clinical view suggests that as communities are increasingly finding their common ground in cyberspace rather than on terra firma (Mitchell, 1996),real world communities are more homogenized and becoming part of a “big, one-world conversation” (Robins, 1999).
What William J. Mitchell talks about is a virtual world where humans will exist as “disembodied and fragmented subjects, freed from the constraints of physical space”. He declares that the new technologically-mediated world will be a post-geographical world where humans effectively will put an end to the “tyranny of distance”.
Mitchell goes so far as to dream up a technocultural utopia of a virtual ‘transparent society’ inhabited by mutually sympathetic persons.
On a more pragmatic note, what is apparently shaping social reality is the idea that technology and culture are no longer mutually exclusive but inseparably linked in a world mediated by Internet and all the devices that allow access to it (Gibson, 1984). Read the rest of this essay and its list of References at http://tinyurl.com/pd3ot3p .
The Manitoban is the student newspaper of the University of Manitoba where Marshall McLuhan earned B.A. (1932) and M.A (1934) degrees in English. The newspaper celebrated its centenary this past Wednesday, November 5. Marshall McLuhan, a student of English at the University of Manitoba during the early 1930s published his earliest essays in The Manitoban between 1930 and 1934 (see list below), along with two essays for ‘toba, a now extinct literary journal. According to the late Richard Osicki of Winnipeg, “Virtually everything for which Marshall McLuhan became internationally renowned was already evident in his public writings as a young man living in Winnipeg and studying at the University of Manitoba” (see http://tinyurl.com/o4htwwg .) The interview below informs us that the full run of 100 years of The Manitoban have been digitized and are available for viewing here: http://tinyurl.com/kk4ojmd . When searching for Marshall McLuhan’s student essays, refer to the list of titles and publication dates below.
By Bryce Hoye , November 4, 2014
A few years ago the digital archivization of the Manitoban was undertaken. Shelley Sweeney, head of archives and special collections at the University of Manitoba, oversaw the venture. The Manitoban spoke with Sweeney about the project.
The Manitoban: Tell me about the Manitoban digital archivization project. When/why/how did it begin? When did it go live?
Shelley Sweeney: [On] April 11, 2010, then-editor-in-chief of the Manitoban Kevin Doole asked if we would be able to digitize issues of the Manitoban. At the time he thought that theManitoban had started in 1911. As it turned out, the first one was published [on] November 5, 1914 instead, giving us extra time to get the project done. We ingested the images into our digital asset management system in November 2013, which allowed users to see the issues, and indexed the whole works by December 2013, which allowed users to search the entire run.
M: Who was contracted to do the work? Can you speak to the kind of processes that were undertaken to get the hard copies to the contractors and to digitize everything?
SS: Heather Robertson, writer and a former editor of the Manitoban, had paid to have the Manitoban microfilmed in 1998. This meant that we could have the microfilm digitized, which was considerably cheaper than digitizing the originals. We contracted a company called Commonwealth Imaging/West Canadian Digital Imaging to digitize the issues from this microfilm. Because the project was so involved, and so lengthy, and because the technology to provide access to the papers changed over a very short period of time, this all made the project cheaper than originally anticipated in the end.
M: What does it mean—for the university, the community—to have all of these issues archived?
SS: Often students are at the leading edge of change in society. Now that these newspapers are available, researchers will be able to trace important cultural movements in the paper and get more ideas about why the students develop these changes. Of course researchers will be able to find out more about the University of Manitoba itself, about student life in general, and about the history of education in Canada. It is interesting that the Manitoban is the only public source of information published consistently about the University of Manitoba.
The people who have written for the Manitoban over the years have also made important contributions to Canadian life. These have included such figures as Graham Spry, who helped propel the development of the CBC; Marshall McLuhan, a leading theorist in communications; Israel Asper, a giant in the communications industry; Peter Herrndorf, former chairman and CEO of TVOntario; Heather Robertson, champion of freelancers across Canada; Andrew Coyne, journalist and commentator with a wide variety of publications and CBC’s The National; and Nahlah Ayed, foreign correspondent with the CBC who specializes in the Middle East, to name a few. [Editorial Comment: Note that all of those named went on to prominent careers in media or communication.]
M: Can you think of any historical coverage in the paper you found particularly interesting/valuable?
SS: I think the Manitoban was quite important to give alternative perspectives on the Second World War, and also how the war affected people who remain behind in Canada. The newspaper provides a very intimate glimpse of the toll the war took. Also, Marshall McLuhan’s articles are quite interesting to read to see some of his ideas in germination.
M: Any interesting anecdotes about the paper you think the readership would be interested in knowing about?
SS: In addition to all the students who wrote for the Manitoban and went on to great things, theManitoban was also successful in getting writers to contribute. For example, Theodore Dreiser, an American novelist and journalist of the naturalist school, contributed a poem about Oscar Wilde for the October 29th, 1943 edition.
This was a real coup for a student newspaper to land someone of his calibre. Also, during the Second World War, three students faced suspension for publishing a poem [that] was interpreted as being “anti-war,” including Albert Hamilton, and Jack Ludwig, who then went on to become a professor of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/kjrkyv4 )
This is a list of Marshall McLuhan’s earliest articles published in The Manitoban:
Macaulay: What a Man! The Manitoban, 28 October, 1930.
Public School Education. The Manitoban, 17 October, 1933.
Germany and Internationalism. The Manitoban, 27 October, 1933.
Germany’s Development. The Manitoban, 3 November, 1933.
German Character. The Manitoban, 7 November, 1933.
George Meredith. The Manitoban, 21 November, 1933.
Canada and Internationalism. The Manitoban, 1 December, 1933.
De Valera. The Manitoban, 9 January, 1934.
Not Spiritualism but Spiritism. The Manitoban, 19 January, 1934.
The Groupers. The Manitoban, 23 January, 1934.
Adult Education. The Manitoban, 16 February, 1934.
Morticians and Cosmeticians. The Manitoban, 2 March, 1934.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow. The Manitoban, 16 May, 1934.
Previous postings on this blog about this topic: Marshall McLuhan the Manitoban - http://tinyurl.com/o4htwwg
Marshall McLuhan’s Earliest Articles in “The Manitoban” - http://tinyurl.com/oq422lb
When Marshall McLuhan met Northrop Frye: An Excerpt from B.W. Powe’s Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy
Two of Canada’s cultural and intellectual giants were also rivals at the University of Toronto.
They were two of Canada’s central cultural and intellectual figures. They were also colleagues and rivals “whose careers unfolded in curious harmony even as their intellectual engagement was antagonistic,” writes B. W. Powe in his new book, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy . In this excerpt, Dr. Powe begins by imagining the meeting of these two great minds.
They met in Toronto in 1946. H. Marshall McLuhan, fresh from Assumption College and Saint Louis University, had just been hired at the University of Toronto in the Department of English. H. Northrop Frye had been an associate professor in that department since the late 1930s. Fearful Symmetry, Frye’s canon-changing study of William Blake, was about to be published. McLuhan’s first book, The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man, would be published in five years. Frye was about to become a public critic of impressive influence. McLuhan’s stardom was to come in the 1960s. Their meeting took place at a faculty gathering in Victoria College on the campus of the University of Toronto. It was a moment of a rare convergence.
They were introduced to one another (by whom?) at a social occasion, a welcoming to new faculty members. The two men shared spiritual pathways. McLuhan was a convert to Catholicism, but he had been born into a Methodist-Baptist family. Frye had been born into the Methodist heritage too, but he had left his fundamentalist-literalist background to become for a time an itinerant United Church minister. He was once asked what his religious vocation brought to his teaching: “I marry and bury students,” he quipped. But his sense that writing and teaching were about elevations of the soul never left him. McLuhan was asked what his spiritual hope might be: “Our only hope is apocalypse,” he said; by this he surely meant revelation and trust: new worlds will come. The two men would be colleagues in the Department of English at the University of Toronto for the next thirty-four years. […]One came from Canada’s western provinces (Edmonton, Alberta). One had come from the east coast (Moncton, New Brunswick). They encountered one another in the centre of Canada, in the city – of Toronto – the country’somphalos. An omphalos is the name philosophers give to an intellectual-spiritual centre, a site of sacred and turbulent power. They met one year after the end of the Second World War. It was almost the midpoint of the twentieth century. The Cold War was beginning.
In a fit of premonitory inspiration, the university hiring committees had summoned the two men who would become the most formidable and influential intellectual-seers that Canada had yet produced. Their offices would be close by. They attended departmental meetings, participated in curricula discussions, shared students, debated points of theory and observation, riffed in conversation, muttered diatribes in private talk and some lectures, in letters and notebooks. Above all they read and reread the other. They would absorb the other’s genius and intensities and use them to fire up their probes and inquiries.
I like to think that at their first meeting the sparks of brilliance between them were palpable. They may have thought: here was someone in Toronto, in the tweedy halls of the university, who could match their inner fire, their proclamations to themselves of the original flame. Frye declared in his journal (circa the mid-1970s), “I had genius. No one else in the field known to me had quite that.” McLuhan wrote in two letters to his mother, Elsie, (on 12 April 1936 and on 28 June 1936) that “My life in Canada will be a continual discontent. My task as a teacher will be to shake others from their complacency” and that he wanted to “tear the hide right off Canada some day and rub salt in it.” Did each man size up the other? Both must have intuited: this is a worthy opponent. All reports of their first meeting are sketchy. The intimations are that the first encounter was cordial. Still they were good readers of atmospheres. Here was another person who had considerable presence.
McLuhan and Frye crossed one another’s paths that day. They would do so again on the wooded campus pathways. They were to cross each other in their ideas and perceptions. When two such powerfully charismatic spirits converge, the moment is a crossroads – it is a juncture, an apocalyptic instant. Can I prove that they instantly recognized the presence of intellectual and spiritual fire in one another? No, but I can imagine what was happening: Frye spent a lifetime teaching that we recreate when we read and reread (all rereading is revisionary); McLuhan teaches that every moment thrives with influences and effects: all times are etched in the here and now.
Two souls had met. A story had begun. Henceforth what they lived would be what they had dreamed for themselves: epic quests of discovery, intellectual journeys that would alter the spirit of their age and the one to come. […]
Read the rest at http://tinyurl.com/lmaxaj8 .
by Tim Kastelle
Even if you’ve never read Marshall McLuhan, you’re probably familiar with a couple of his ideas. Two of most famous quotes are:
The medium is the message.
The human family now exists under conditions of a global village. We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums.
Both of those quotes are around 50 years old now – McLuhan was remarkably prescient. Over the weekend, I read The Book of Probes by McLuhan, which is a fantastic book.
The first 2/3 of the book has McLuhan quotes incorporated in photography/art by David Carson (including the images I’ve included in this post). Check out this review by Miss Rosen for a view of this work as art.
The art is great, but for me the action is in McLuhan’s words – the probes. Grant McCracken built on the idea of probes in his fantastic book Culturematic. Probes are ideas that trigger thoughts and actions. McCracken talks about them as experiments – which resonates with me.
Here are some of McLuhan’s probes (in bold), followed by thoughts they triggered for me:
It is the framework that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame. This gets at McLuhan’s critical point – it’s another way of attacking the idea that the medium is the message. McLuhan is basing much of his argument on the ideas of gestalt psychology – particularly the ideas of figure and ground. The issue is that we can only see a figure in contrast to a background – so the ground is an essential part of what we see. But in our minds, we only process the figure and take the ground for granted.
This is a critical innovation issue. All of that ground that we’re taking for granted gives us great opportunities to innovate. If we change one of the things that everyone just accepts as “the way it is,” then we can change the world.
Every technical innovation creates a new environment that alters the inner image or identity of entire cultures. Here’s another angle on the same point – new ideas change entire cultures! McLuhan’s focus on media did not mean that he was discounting content entirely. But he thought that if we only focused on content, we were missing the bigger picture.
Even in the old sense of a business, moving information far outranks “heavy” machinery. He as talking about the information economy 50 years ago!
Official culture still strives to force the new media to do the work of the old media. But the horseless carriage did not do the work of the horse; it abolished the horse and did what the horse could never do. This is a gross oversimplification, but this illustrates the problem of trying to fit new ideas into old business models. New ideas need new business models, precisely because they are creating a completely new environment.
Any new technology, any extension or amplification of human faculties when given material embodiment, tends to create a new environment. This is as true of clothing as of speech, or script, of wheel. This process is more easily observed in our own time when several new environments have been created. In The Nature of Technology, Brian Arthur argues that “technology” is any useful idea. You can see that thought as well in McLuhan’s probe – new clothing, speech, and words can all create new environments. He also picks up the idea that this creation of new environments is accelerating, so now is a good time to be studying this phenomenon.
Only by standing aside from any phenomenon and taking an overview can you discover its operative principles and lines of force. Ordinary men, however, when confronted by new environments, resort to the rear-view mirror. All collective nouns from McLuhan were gendered – sorry. Anyway, this is an important point – we often try to evaluate new ideas by comparing them to what’s happened before, and this doesn’t work. We can’t extrapolate the past to predict the future.
The whole book is worth reading. I’ve read McLuhan before, but the big insight for me this time around is the figure-ground idea. We make a staggering number of assumptions about the world just to make day-do-day life work correctly. The advantage to doing this is that it makes it easier for us to coordinate action. The disadvantage is that it means that many of the things that we take for granted are fixed, and will always stay the same.
If we can get better at teasing out these assumptions, it provides us with important innovation opportunities.
Edgar Allan Poe’s 1841 short story, “A Descent into the Maelström,” anticipates the systems concepts of chaos and complexity, and provided Marshall McLuhan with a vivid metaphor for popular culture, technology, and the modern media environment. It was invoked in McLuhan’s first book, The Mechanical Bride, originally published in 1951, and McLuhan would make similar references in his later work. The 2002 documentary, McLuhan’s Wake, also drew on the narrative and imagery.
The following YouTube video creatively edits together part of Marshall McLuhan’s final lecture with animation featuring Eric McLuhan’s reading of the Poe story, all taken from McLuhan’s Wake:
It’s worth noting that McLuhan was also quite taken with the Vorticism movement in modern art, the leading proponent and practitioner being Wyndham Lewis, and which also significantly involved Ezra Pound, and was associated with the publication of two issues of Blast, a literary magazine.
Cover of the 1915 BLAST
Now, just to make the connection, let me throw in some computer-generated images associated with the more recently developed science and mathematics of chaos and complexity:
Life is vortex! I love it! And it is so very true. We live on the edge of chaos, as bits of emergent order, animated by the vortex. And while the emphasis here is on the relativity of position in space, and understanding motion, underlying it all is an awareness of time as the fundamental factor, the basic dimension, of existence. A vortex or maelström is a timespace phenomenon.
So, even with that understanding, the solar system is taken out of the larger ecology of the galaxy, which is where the follow up video, The helical model – our Galaxy is a vortex, comes in:
The galaxy is a vortex! And this lends new significance to the title of McLuhan’s second book, The Gutenberg Galaxy from 1962. And in the introduction to that work he explains that galaxy is synonymous with environment, so the Gutenberg galaxy, and what he also refers to as the Marconi galaxy, and a media environment in general, is a vortex or maelström.
And even with the second DjSadhu video, we miss the larger context of the galaxy itself as a vortex, and it’s relation to other galaxies, the supercluster as a vortex as well, and that within the enormity that is the universe. And then, try to relate all that to the full time scale of the big bang, the mother of all maelströms!
Maelström, vortex, galaxy, environment, or if you prefer, dynamic systems characterized by chaos and complexity. And as above, so below, the metapatterns, to use Gregory Bateson’s term, follow a fractal logic of self-similarity across macro and micro scale. This is the kind of thinking, in relation to human existence and our place in the universe, that media ecology is all about. There is no way out of the vortex, but the choices we make will determine whether we sink or swim.
Republished by permission from Lance Strate’s Blog Time Passing at http://tinyurl.com/kc3h5ej .
There has been a recent sometimes heated discussion on the Media Ecology Association’s listserv about the value and applicability of Marshall and Eric McLuhan’s Laws of Media (LoM). As in the past, some media scholars value and apply the LoM in their teaching and writing, while others either willfully or otherwise misunderstand them, do not teach new media for which LoM are especially useful for understanding new communication forms and thus ignore them, or do not like the man himself for whatever reason . I am of the former group, as is my colleague at Fordham University, Paul Levinson, who demonstrates in a posting to his Infinite Regress blog the usefulness of LoM in understanding the evolution of photography from analog film to digital selfies and Snapchat………Alex
Monday, October 27, 2014
Photography Flips into Snapchat
One of the joys of understanding McLuhan is how his insights can leap forth at unexpected times to supply us with a connection or a new insight about a matter – or medium – at hand. About six months ago, I came to realize that the photograph has flipped into the selfie in our own day and age. Just yesterday, I did a little podcast on this subject – in which I also pointed out that radio has flipped into the podcast. And today, just a few hours ago, I realized that photograph has also flipped into Snapchat.
One of the best things about McLuhan’s tetrad or four laws of media is that a given medium can enhance, obsolesce, retrieve, and flip into multiple media. In case you’d like a quick refresher on the tetrad, it is an exploratory tool that McLuhan developed to help us make sense out of the emergence of media. Take radio, for example: It (1) enhances or amplifies sound (speech, music, etc) sent instantly across great distances simultaneously to lots of people; (2) obsolesces the written word as in newspapers as a mode of news delivery; (3) retrieves the spoken word that of course never really went away but was eclipsed to some extent by the products of the printing press; and radio, when it is pushed to its limits, (4) flips into television, which broadcasts like radio but re-inserts the visual into the mix. And, radio, the professional mass medium, also flips into podcasting that anyone with a microphone and a connection to the Internet can do. More on the tetrad in my book, Digital McLuhan, pictured below.But back to photography: its flip into Snapchat is profound indeed, because permanency has always been one of photography’s hallmarks. As Andre Bazin so aptly noted, a photograph rescues an image from “its proper corruption in time”. In contrast, the Snapchat photo is deliberately intended to corrupt over time – and very quickly. Because the essence of Snapchat is that you send someone a photograph that you want him or her to see only when they receive it, and not any time after. If only former Congressman Anthony Weiner had known about Snapchat!
So we can now add Snapchat to the selfie as one of the media that photography has flipped into. Like a reflection in a pool of water, which can also be a selfie and also can disappear as soon as the person staring into the pool walks away, Snapchat epitomizes the ever percolating evolution of media to forms that are at once both new and well established in our past.
Republished by permission from: http://tinyurl.com/kltxhr8
Levinson, P. (1999). Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium. London: Routledge.
In each chapter of Digital McLuhan Paul Levinson provides a clear introduction to one of McLuhan’s key ideas. He then goes on to demonstrate how McLuhan’s writing provides tools to help us think through changes to society and individuals that have been brought about by the internet. Levinson shows how McLuhan’s ideas, so strange and provocative in the 1960s, have become especially relevant in the new millenium.
Addendum: Those academics who dismiss McLuhan’s Laws of Media for whatever reason, might want to reconsider the matter, in view of Professor Graham Harman’s analysis of them from a philosophy of technology perspective:-
“I contend that the tetrads transform not just the philosophy of technology, but metaphysics as a whole. If Darwin gains credit for shaking the stability of ‘essence’ in philosophy, thereby encouraging such figures as Bergson and Whitehead, the McLuhans deserve equal credit for redefining entities as media. In my view, the term media is relevant not just to paper and electric technologies, but also to trees, reptiles, gases and stones, since every object is a medium transmitting the energies and broadcasts of others. The famous phrase ‘the medium is the message’ deserves a place not just in TV Guide, but on a short list of the basic principles of metaphysics. All entities are fourfold media, as the McLuhans have done even more than Heidegger to establish.” (pp. 100-101)
“And no one in the twentieth century, not even Heidegger, does as much as the McLuhans to retrieve the metaphysics of objects as a viable medium.” (p. 122) - Harman, G. (2009). The McLuhans and metaphysics. In J.K.B. Olsen, E. Selinger & S. Riis (Eds). New waves in philosophy of technology (pp. 100-122). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
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
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
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: http://www.marshallmcluhan.com/ . 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 http://tinyurl.com/nubtdq6 ) 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:
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: http://tinyurl.com/kpb5jgq )
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: http://tinyurl.com/kwfutsw .
Call for Papers: International Joint Conference on Marshall McLuhan’s Faith & Works, Winnipeg, Oct. 2015
The First Joint Conference
International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity (IISTC)
and The Marshall McLuhan Initiative
CALL FOR PAPERS
McLuhan’s Faith and Works
Click on image for expanded view
October 18-19, 2015 St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, CANADA
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 secondnaturejournal.com). St. Paul’s College is the major Catholic institution of higher learning in the province of Manitoba, Canada (http://umanitoba.ca/stpauls/). 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (https://humanrights.ca/). See http://www.tourismwinnipeg.com/ 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: http://secondnaturejournal.com/mcluhans-faith-and-works-conference/
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 http://www.canadinns.com/stay/stay-main.php?entry_id=8568
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 http://www.tourismwinnipeg.com/visitors/accommodations/hotels/hotels-south/display,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.
507 Gertrude Avenue, Winnipeg, Marshall McLuhan’s childhood home
An Excerpt From Culture Worrier by Journalist Clarence Page
INTRODUCTION – WHAT? ME WORRY?Culture 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: http://tinyurl.com/nesrpar)
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: http://tinyurl.com/qewuyg3
On the Media is a weekly one-hour National Public Radio program devoted to media criticism and analysis. See http://www.onthemedia.org/ .
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: http://www.nicholascarr.com/
From The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, Bantam Books, New York, 1967.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”.
You are invited to the launch of Rita Leistner’s unique bookLooking 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): http://www.vic.utoronto.ca/academics/Research_Centres/fryecentre/nfcrsvp2.htm
See website: http://www.lookingformarshallmcluhan.com/book/
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.” ( http://tinyurl.com/mnmafxu )
Originally posted on Miss Rosen:
“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…
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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 UOC. Derrick 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 http://tinyurl.com/dxnmwtq .
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.
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.