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A Short Video on Marshall McLuhan & “The Medium Is The Message”

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:49pm
In the age of Trump, McLuhan’s 50-year-old ideas seem prophetic. Here’s a primer. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a Canadian academic whose work on electronic media in the 60s has come to resonate in the digital age. This video is narrated by Alex Chow, one of the leaders of the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella movement whose mass street occupation was mobilized and reported via social media.

An Animated Guide To Marshall McLuhan And “The Medium Is The Message”

By Katharine Schwab   –   March 16, 2017

The work of Canadian philosopher and writer Marshall McLuhan is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s when McLuhan coined the phrase, “the medium is the message.” Now the animator Daniel Savage has created a simple, black-and-white animation for Al Jazeera that illuminates why this axiom resonates in 2017.

In his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan wrote about how media affects daily life. But instead of focusing on the content–today, the tweets, Facebook posts, and news articles that many of us regularly consume–he was interested in how the form of the content, that platform that delivers it to you, can impact your psychology in insidious ways.

As the Hong Kong social activist Alex Chow narrates, Savage’s animation shows a figure reading a book inside of a square, which transforms into a figure listening to a radio inside of a circle, which morphs to a figure watching television inside another square, which, finally, changes into the figure typing into a computer inside of a triangle. The shifting geometric shapes act as a visual metaphor for how each progressive type of media affects the shape of the world in which people dwell, even if they don’t realize it. “The fact that our insane president can have a hissy fit and send it to the world with the tap of a screen really says something,” Savage tells It’s Nice That.

“McLuhan wasn’t saying that content is inconsequential,” Chow says in the animation. “He was saying that when we pay too much attention to it, we ignore the power of form in shaping our experience. So, if you don’t understand the medium, you don’t fully understand the message.”

The animation takes the viewer through a brief history of mass media, which began with the invention of the printing press. Books being available on a scale never before possible changed the collective experience of the world, informing identity and broadening consciousness. Electronic media, from the telegraph and telephone to the television, has had similar effects, extending experience beyond physical boundaries. The next step was the internet, which has altered how we live in even more fundamental ways. The animation shows figures seeing their world through each progressive technology, pointing out how the means by which they see the rest of the world truly impacts what they perceive.

“Another strange effect of this electric environment is the total absence of secrecy,” a recording of McLuhan narrates as pixels of light bombard the human figure in the animation. “With the end of secrecy goes the end of the monopolies of knowledge. Everything happens at once. There’s no continuity, there’s not connection, there’s no follow-through. It’s just all now.” That sure sounds like Twitter on a Wednesday. (Source: https://goo.gl/ckAPgT )

Critique of the Above Article & Video: But “the medium is the message is NOT just about elevating the importance of medium or “form” relative to content. It is about the transformative effect of the entirely new environment that is created by any new medium, the entire service industry that supports a medium, which could not continue to exist without it. The medium is just the figure in a much bigger environmental ground. McLuhan explains this best in a 1974 lecture titled “Living at the Speed of Light”, delivered at the University of South Florida:

“The car has lost its place in the heart of the people. That doesn’t mean it’s going to disappear overnight. Not at all. All it means is the effects of the car are disappearing. And privacy and service environment are part of the effects. When I say the medium is the message, I’m saying that the motor car is not a medium. The medium is the highway, the factories, and the oil companies. That is the medium. In other words, the medium of the car is the effects of the car. When you pull the effects away, the meaning of the car is gone. The car as an engineering object has nothing to do with these effects. The car is a figure in a ground of services. It’s when you change the ground that you change the car. The car does not operate as the medium, but rather as one of the major effects of the medium. So ‘the medium is the message’ is not a simple remark, and I’ve always hesitated to explain it. It really means a hidden environment of services created by an innovation. And the hidden environment of services is the thing that changes people. It is the environment that changes people, not the technology.” – McLuhan, M. (1974). ‘Living at the Speed of Light’, a lecture delivered at the University of South Florida, can be found in David Staines & Stephanie McLuhan (Eds.). Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003). Boston: MIT Press, 241-2.

Another criticism is that the video equates the word “medium” with the word “form” and they are not equivalent. The Google dictionary defines form as “the visible shape or configuration of something” and medium as “an agency or means of doing something”. These are two different things entirely.


Categories: Blog

B.W. Powe’s Homage to Leonard Cohen, February, 2017

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 7:39pm

Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

This posting is obviously not about Marshall McLuhan, but I feel confident that the late great media visionary would approve. B.W. Powe, who was a student of McLuhan at the University of Toronto in the fall of 1978 in his last offering of his English 1000 graduate course, Media & Society, has written extensively about Marshall McLuhan in A Climate Charged: Essays on Canadian Writers (1984) (which also included an essay on Leonard Cohen), The Solitary Outlaw (1996) and in his magnum opus, Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy (2014), based on his doctoral dissertation. And I sense McLuhan’s influence in other published writings, both fiction and poetry, by Bruce as well. Marshall McLuhan would have been aware of Leonard Cohen in the 1960s as a rising poet and fiction writer contributing to a nascent Canadian literature.

Bruce (B.W.) paid tribute to Leonard Cohen shortly before he died, along with Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, in his talk otherwise dedicated to Bob Dylan, the recent Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, at last October’s Toronto School of Communication conference at the University of Toronto. I hope the readers of this blog will appreciate this poetic homage to the late Leonard Cohen, as I do. 

Eternal Granada

…is the world a poem
we’re all composing?

 

Leonard, you said Mystery lives Lorca lives
in New York City
in the way Magic is alive God is alive
in Montreal

But today on el Paseo de los Tristes
sightseers swear they saw uncanny figures,
kindred shades, one chanting
the other playing a flamenco guitar

their lyrics and strings striking light
in the white-stone place
the gypsies call
the area of morning

From B.W. Powe’s Andalusian poems, a work in progress

Source: https://goo.gl/s6kdCW


Categories: Blog

Second Annual Symposium: Faith, Science, Climate Change & Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato si’, St. Michael’s College, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 2:44pm

Saint Michael’s College Science Association, the Interconnectivity Studies Working Group and the University of St. Michael’s College will present a two-hour symposium on climate change and the Pope’s encyclical Laudato si’ (“Praise be to You”).

LOCATION: Alumni Hall 100, 121 St. Joseph Street

DATE: Thursday, April 6, 2017   ***   TIME: 4 PM to 6 PM

The focus of the symposium is a discussion and a dialogue among scientists and theologians of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ with its focus on global warming and climate change. In the encyclical, Pope Francis calls for such a dialogue. In Paragraph 13 and 14 of Laudato si’ he wrote:

Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

Later in Paragraph 62 he wrote: “Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” The purpose of this symposium is to enter into the dialogue between science and religion that Pope Francis has called for.

To that end the following panel with scientists, theologians and scholars has been assembled.

Mary Hess is Professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota. She is currently the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Visiting Chair in Religious Education at USMC Faculty of Theology. She is past president of the Religious Education Association.

David Nostbakken is a McLuhan Fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. His PhD was supervised by Marshall McLuhan. He is a co-founder of a number of initiatives in the field of ecology and religion including Vision TV, the Green Channel, the Ecology Global Network, Power of Peace Network (UNESCO sponsored) and WETV Network (on sustainable development).

Stephen Scharper is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the School of the Environment. With graduate studies in theology and religion, one of the areas of his expertise is religion and ecology. He has also engaged in urban studies and the importance of water as a vital resource essential for life.

Kimberly Strong is a Professor in the Department of Physics and is the Director of the School of the Environment. She is a research scientist whose expertise is in atmospheric remote sounding using ground-based, balloon-borne, and satellite instruments for studies of ozone chemistry, climate, and air quality.

Ron Swail is the Chief Operations Officer, Property Services and Sustainability at the University of Toronto. Ron has initiated sustainability projects across the university and at the same time saved the university millions and millions of dollars.

Prof. Robert K. Logan is a Fellow of St. Michael’s College where teaches the McLuhan Seminar and the What is Information? Seminar. He is the Faculty Coordinator of the SMC Science Association. He is also the Chief Scientist of the sLab at OCAD University.

After the panel presentations and discussions among the panelists the student Interconnectivity Studies researchers from the Book and Media Studies program, Dalya Al-Bassam, Kate Gromova, Kalina Nedercheva and Olivia Penney will be introduced and they will read the abstracts of their research.

There will then follow a Q & A session with the audience.


Categories: Blog

A McLuhan Centre Event: Art + Feminism @ University of Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 7:54pm

By theLet’s help change Wikipedia gender-gap! Join us at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology on Saturday, March 18, 2017 from 11 am to 5 p.m. for a communal updating of Wikipedia entries on subjects related to art and feminism.

Date/Time: Sat, March 18, 2017  –  11:00 am to 5:00 pm EDT

Location: McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, 39A Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

View Map

Description:

Free! Everyone welcome! No previous experience required!

Wikimedia’s gender trouble is well-documented. While the reasons for the gender gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity, however, is not. Content is skewed by the lack of female participation. This represents an alarming absence in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge.

Let’s change that. Join us at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology on Saturday, March 18, 2017 from 11 am to 5 pm for a communal updating of Wikipedia entries on subjects related to art and feminism. Last year, over 1500 participants at more than 75 events around the world participated in the second annual Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, resulting in the creation of nearly 400 new pages and significant improvements to 500 articles on Wikipedia.

We will provide tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian and refreshments. Bring your laptop, power cord and ideas for entries that need updating or creation.

FAQs

What can I bring into the event? Bring your laptop!

How can I contact the organizer with any questions? info@blacklunchtable.com

PLEASE REGISTER HERE: https://goo.gl/TJeD23


Categories: Blog

If McLuhan Were Here Today : A Poem by Hannah Strait, Student

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 8:24pm

 Marshall McLuhan

Teachers are always thrilled when a student of theirs gets a work they’ve written published, and even more so when that work was created in the first place for a school assignment. That was the case for Dr. Roxanne O’Connell, Professor of Communication, Visual and New Media at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Her student Hannah Strait submitted a poem titled If McLuhan Were Here Today for an assignment in her media studies course called McLuhan’s Global Village. It was submitted in a significantly longer version than the extract below, which was the one that was published. I’m sure that Marshall McLuhan, poetry lover himself, would have enjoyed receiving poetry as an assignment submission, rather than just another academic paper. Congratulations, Hannah!

If McLuhan Were Here Today

by Hannah H. Strait

A heightened form of visual outlook,

Awakened to unrecorded conduct.

Conquering experience like a crook,

Rendering experience picked and plucked.

***

Showing people, instead of being us:

Pure perception is gained by life process.

The constant perpetual sharing is a fuss.

We must do for our internal progress.

***

The end of that tale can be quite woeful.

Mass consumed, mass produced, and we abuse.

The mind becomes numb, and life is dull,

No one stops to smell the flowers like ewes.

***

Our ego’s impulse is to stop caring,

What happens around us does not matter.

Now holding in our thoughts is daring,

And private sacred moments shatter.

***

What sort of hypocrisy happens here?

When GoPro petitions we are ‘hero’s’:

War joins the utile tool to drones building fear,

Loathsome, hideous deaths then tools bestow.

***

We must stop prostituting precious life.

Immerse yourself in the nature of things,

End your misery, your destruction, and strife.

Discover, and explore the beauty that brings.

Publication Details

Book Title: Upon Arrival: Commencement Publisher: Eber & Wein Publishing Year of Publication: 2016 Page: 169   Click on the Image for an Expanded View
Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan & The Child of the Future: How He Might Learn (1964): A National Film Board of Canada Film [Video]

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 11:38am

Marshall McLuhan as Educationist

Few media or education scholars or the general public will have viewed this National Film Board of Canada 58-minute film that features Marshall McLuhan and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. It has only recently been converted from its 16 mm film format to digital format and made available on the Internet. Jerome Bruner is cited by McLuhan in his writings in connection with the reform of an outmoded legacy educational system derived from and structured by Gutenberg print technologies and culture. He also cites other educational theorists such as John Dewey, Ivan Illich and Paul Goodman, among others, when writing or speaking about education.

Marshall McLuhan’s importance as an educationist, that is, “a person who is seriously concerned to understand how learning takes place and what part schooling plays in facilitating or obstructing it” (Postman, 1988, p. 83) has been insufficiently recognized. That is because the McLuhan revival has principally been attributable to media and communication teachers, scholars and practitioners and they do not concern themselves much with education. But, John Culkin, SJ wrote that McLuhan can help kids learn” (Culkin, 1967, p. 72) and an education historian insisted that “McLuhan throws down a challenge that no educator should ignore” (Gillett, 1966, p. 291). It increasingly appears that Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on reforming education are gaining greater traction and recognition in the Internet Age, just as his ideas on media have found new life and application today, rather than in the television age during which they were formulated.

Notes on The Child of the Future

… traditional teachers like herself were now being relegated to a formalist past – that a new partnership of discover was being forged between pupils and teachers which would be mediated by technology. To help explain the neo-progressive curriculum and “discipline-based” learning to educators, and to explore the future of education, particularly in regard to media technology, the NFB produced The Child of the Future: How He Might Learn (1964).

Both Marshall McLuhan, author of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1964), and The Medium is the Massage (1967), and Jerome Bruner, author of The Process of Education (1960), appear in this film. After watching two 9-year old boys, playing on a carpet with a road-race set, McLuhan observes, “the worm’s eye view is the most involving.” He suggests that education is “heading into a period of total involvement,” an assessment shared by Bruner who demonstrates a “playground philosophy of physics” with a class of grade 5 students. As the children send weighted cars down a ramp and measure how far they travel, Bruner comments, “The kind of learning they’re getting is a kind they can use.” A parade of educational gadgetry is displayed, all of it operated by eager children, some of whom appear to be no more than five years old. The audio-visual aids include 8 mm film loops and projectors (heavily invested in by the NFB), “automated” typewriters, and a language lab. In one classroom, educational filmstrips are synchronized with radio broadcasts; in another, children produce their own animated films; in yet another, high school students record their screen play of the war of 1812 with 8 mm cameras.

Dr. Jerome Bruner

The film surveys the contemporary use of television in school classrooms all over the world. In one school, a television character, Mrs. “Rhonda Loganbeel”, teaches “algebra over the airwaves”; in another, a Spanish telecast is beamed into a school classroom from an airplane overhead. In a Japanese classroom, students are filmed welcoming television into their school: “The kids made a television room for their new teachers, TV images”. McLuhan is critical of this use of television, but he is not especially clear about other possible uses: “It’s like treating the motor car like the horseless carriage,” he remarks. “You shouldn’t use new technology to replicate the old. A huge wastage of opportunity.” The media guru delivers a final, enigmatic missive in the film: “The child of the future will program consciousness just as we program curriculum.”Excerpt from Low, B.J. (2002). NFB Kids: Portrayals of Children by the National Film Board of Canada, 1939 – 89. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 110 – 111.

About Dr. Jerome Bruner: https://goo.gl/cPgPV4 and https://goo.gl/5ek9O3

Film Details: National Film Board of Canada   –   Montreal   –   1964   –   Director: Theodore Conant   –   58 minutes   –   b&w   –   16 mm   – Executive Producer: Frank Spiller   –   Photography: Jean-Claude Labreque


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