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Artists as Radar or “the Antennae of the Race”

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 8:10pm

Marshall McLuhan wrote in his Introduction to the Second Edition of  Understanding Media:

“The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized. In this century Ezra Pound called the artist ‘the antennae of the race’. Art as radar acts as ‘an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the arts as prophetic, contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. If an art is an ‘early warning system,’ to use the phrase from World War II, when radar was new, art has the utmost relevance not only to media study but to the development of media controls. 

When radar was new it was found necessary to eliminate the balloon system for city protection that had preceded radar. The balloons got in the way of the electric feedback of the new radar information. Such may well prove to be the case with our existing school curriculum, to say nothing of the generality of the arts. We can afford to use only those portions of them that enhance the perception of our technologies, and their psychic and social consequences. Art as a radar environment takes on the function of indispensable perceptual training rather than the role of a privileged diet for the elite”. – Gordon, W.T. (2003). Understanding Media Critical Edition. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, p. 16


By Darren Wershler, Concordia University, Montreal   – Dec. 10, 2010

 “Artists,” wrote Ezra Pound, “are the antennae of the race.”{{1}} In the introduction to the 2nd edition of Understanding Media, so does Marshall McLuhan, who updates and expands the metaphor:

Art as radar acts as an ‘early alarm system,’ as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the arts as prophetic contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. If an art is an ‘early warning system,’ to use the phrase from World War II, when radar was new, art has the utmost relevance not only to media study but to the development of media controls.

When radar was new it was found necessary to eliminate the balloon system for city protection that had preceded radar. The balloons got in the way of the electric feedback of the new radar information.{{2}}

As Friedrich Kittler, one of McLuhan’s most successful contemporary intellectual heirs, puts it, “Information technology is always already strategy or war” {{3}}. War elicits new forms of communications, retrofits old ones for its own purposes, and violently blasts existing media landscapes into drastic new forms, producing unexpected juxtapositions.

World War II, in fact, was the force that put Marshall McLuhan in contact with two of the leaders of the early 20th century avant-gardes: Pound and Wyndham Lewis. McLuhan met Lewis while teaching in St. Louis in 1943, and maintained a close working friendship over the next two years, while both were living in Windsor, Ontario. McLuhan and Hugh Kenner traveled to St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington D.C. in 1948 to meet Pound, where he was incarcerated for putting his “poet-as-antenna” aphorism into practice, producing radio broadcasts in support of Mussolini’s fascist government during WWII. McLuhan had read Pound with enthusiasm while a student, long before the war, and corresponded with him for several years after. By the time McLuhan joined the faculty at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto in 1946, he was in all likelihood the only expert on modernist poetry at the time in all of Ontario {{4}}. McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand notes that in later years, McLuhan always credited the poets of the modernist avant-gardes as “the real inspiration for his media studies” {{5}}.

Contemporary journalism and popular culture, when it thinks about McLuhan at all, tends to see him from the wrong end of the telescope, positioning him as a technologist and a futurist rather than as someone deeply invested in language and literary tradition. In the masthead of its first issue in March 1993, Wired magazine declared McLuhan its “patron saint,” and for many commentators, this marked McLuhan’s return to a position of public legitimacy after the indifference that his works faced for much of the 70s and 80s. The first actual article on McLuhan in Wired (4.01, Jan 1996), Gary Wolf’s “The Wisdom of Saint Marshall, the Holy Fool,” describes him as scholar, teacher, social, political, and economic analyst … but there’s no mention of poets or poetry anywhere”… (Read the rest at )

[[1]]Pound, Ezra. ABC of Reading. New York: New Directions, 1934. 73.[[1]]
[[2]]McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964. xi.[[2]]
[[3]]Kittler, Friedrich A. Discourse Networks 1800/1900. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990. 371.[[3]]
[[4]]Marchand, Philip. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger: A Biography. 1st MIT Press ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998[[4]]
[[5]]Ibid., 41.[[5]]

Darren Wershler (aka Darren Wershler-Henry) is the Concordia University Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature (Tier 2), the co-founder of the Concordia Media History Research Centre (MHRC), and the director of the Residual Media Depot. Darren is the author or co-author of 12 books, and is currently working on THE LAB BOOK: Situated Practice in Media Studies, with Lori Emerson and Jussi Parikka.

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Salon #6: Libraries as Media Spaces: Technology, Debate, Equity

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 03/14/2018 - 5:36pm

We will explore the “massive revolution” over the past 15 years in how libraries operate, including their role as a neutral space to exchange ideas. No longer just book depots with “shushing” librarians, public libraries are in fact lively and interactive spaces that contend with issues of relevance to us all with accessible technology, focusing on diversity and equity in neutral public spaces and platforms for discussion and debate. 

This event aims to present the most modern and cutting-edge view of what libraries do and how they serve their communities in 2018 and is presented in partnership with Prof. Paolo Granata’s Readers and Readerships course and his students in the Book and Media Studies Program at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

This event (2:30 to 4:00 PM) will be held in the Atrium of Toronto Reference Library and no tickets are required. Join us!

Click on the image for an expanded view.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge St, Toronto)

2:30 – 4:00 PM – Panel and discussion

With Toronto’s City Librarian Vickery Bowles; Manager of Cultural and Special Event Programming at the TPL Gregory McCormick; Book and Media Studies program director Paolo Granata; and other guests.

This event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Atrium of Toronto Reference Library and no tickets are required.

* * * * * * * * * *
The McLuhan Salons series is an initiative of the St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, in conjunction with the Estate of Marshall McLuhan and several high-level academic and cultural institutions, and generously supported by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation.

Curators: Paolo Granata, University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto; David Nostbakken, McLuhan Fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology.

Categories: Blog

Canadian News Photographer Robert Lansdale: McLuhan Seminar at the Coach House Series (1973)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 6:51pm

The whole series of these photos was taken on April 15, 1973 at Marshall McLuhan’s Coach House, known as the Centre for Culture & Technology at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto (Click on each image for an expanded view.)

 Eric McLuhan

You can see the entire series of 63 items from which these 7 photos are taken from here

ABOUT ROBERT LANSDALE: As a press photographer during the 1950’s Robert Lansdale MPA HLM of Etobicoke, ONT., was assigned by the Toronto Star to shoot the first Grey Cup game ever played in Vancouver, British Columbia. All the film was processed in a makeshift darkroom under the stadium with pictures wire-photo’d immediately to Toronto for that day’s editions. By the time the game was over and all the dressing room activities had been covered, there was only an hour left before Bob was scheduled to catch a plane back to Toronto. Getting to the plane on time was no problem, but taking all the negatives with him to make original prints for the Monday papers WAS a problem.
“Somehow you remember stories , not by date, but by the new equipment you’ve just started to use. I had just bought my first Hasselblad camera, plus a 240mm telephoto lens, when I was sent to Ottawa to cover the visit of President Eisenhower to Canada. I was in the side balcony of the House of Commons to photograph Mr. Eisenhower as he addressed the House. After the first five minutes there isn’t much different to record so I was searching for anything else of interest. Along the top of the wall is a sculpted frieze that runs around the whole room. At the far end of the Chamber, it changed into a little balcony, decorated with two giant winged cherubs. There, in the arms of the carved innocents, were two CIA bodyguards with high power rifles. I swung round my Hasselblad with the telephoto and snapped off two exposures then returned before the other photographers caught on to my scoop.The Star ran the two pictures across an inside page: Eisenhower speaking at the dais beside the snipers and their guardian angels!” Read the entire bio here

Categories: Blog

Call for Papers: The Future of Reading & Media. A Bilingual Design-Meets-Science-Conference at the Münster School of Design in Germany

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/03/2018 - 5:24pm

Location: MSD – Münster School of Design, Leonardo-Campus 6 – Münster, Germany
MSD – Münster School of Design

Date/Time:  30. November – 01. December/All Day

Keynote Speakers: Derrick de Kerckhove, Lars Elleström, Eric McLuhan and Göran Sonesson

In the era of the so-called digitalization, a variety of multimodal technologies have a great impact on the structural dimension of media and the media use of the recipient. This development has already had an enormous influence on the consumer culture, in which the relation of analog and digital media, as well as their creative, technological and sociocultural interdependence, has not been not sufficiently investigated.

So, it seems to be very important to connect aspects of design, mediality and technology with aspects of media reception to formulate productive hypotheses for academic and creative work areas. The technologization could be described as a trigger mechanism for a variety of media transformations and user dynamics, which means, that analog media are still widely spread (e.g. newspapers, magazines, books etc.) but that production methods and manners of use have changed under the influence of digitalization (e.g. digital design, digital print, digital reading, interactive apps etc.) and finally, that in some cases analog media seem to be totally replaced by digital concepts (e.g. online news portals, social media, immersive media technology, etc.).

Therefore, the different media research projects have to correlate analog and digital forms to determinate limits and possibilities of analog and digital mediality. The different topics for the conference „FURE+ The Future of Reading and Media“ are very open with an interdisciplinary character and they are addressing analog and digital strategies in modern design, recent conditions of media reception in the print sector, the influence of digital reading devices on reading processes, typography in the context of digital and user-centered design, three-dimensional media in the context of virtual reality, digital image and text overlaps of reality with Augmented Reality or finally, perceptual synchronizations of media inputs and haptic, tactile, audio-visual or proprioceptive user experiences (e.g. enhanced e-books, smartphones, interactive apps, Augmented Reality reading apps for tablets etc.).

Recent media developments refer to specialized design processes, technologies and different perceptual dynamics of the user, so that it seems to be important and necessary to focus on different cross-references for an effective understanding of recent and future media. Therefore, the conference will be a forum for an interdisciplinary discussion in the range of creativity, production aesthetics, media science and other academic and scientific sectors, which are related to design, technology and media understanding.

Topics could include or address:

* the current or new role of print in the context of digitalization

* the process of reading in the context of analog and digital media

* the impact of digitalization on typography and scripture

* the relation between text and digital media

* the limits and possibilities of display technologies for images and texts

* the cognitive and bodily processes of reception or perception of media

* the technological impact on media, communication, culture, creativity and design

* the development of methods and concepts for the understanding of analog and digital media

* the history of media understanding in the range of analog and digital media

* the anthropology, phenomenology, or semiotics of analog and digital text and image media

All talks will be 30 minutes in duration plus Q&A time. Please send an abstract with a maximum of 800 words, a title of your submission, a short biography and contact details to Prof. Dr. Lars C. Grabbe via email: The deadline is March 22, 2018. Submissions will be reviewed, applying following criteria: relevance of the topic, theoretical foundation, clarity of data, adequacy of the used method(s), and matching to the overall conference topics. The conference languages are German and English. (Source: )

Münster School of Design

Categories: Blog

Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre to Stage Controversial Play That Depicts Marshall McLuhan During His Final Year

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 1:31pm

The February 22, 2018 issue of the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper reports that a play by Canadian playwright Jason Sherman titled The Message that had originally been scheduled for their 2003 – 04 season is one of the seven Canadian plays to be staged during their upcoming 2018-19 season.

It had originally been shelved because of the opposition, including possible legal action, by Marshall McLuhan’s widow, Corinne.  The play speculatively depicts Marshall’s condition after a massive stroke he suffered in 1979. Biographer Philip Marchand described his condition thus: “Ten days after he entered St. Michael’s Hospital he underwent surgery to help restore circulation of blood to his brain. Two weeks after the operation he walked out of the hospital. He eventually regained almost complete physical mobility – but his ability to write had been annihilated.” He was paralyzed on his right side. “Worst of all, he could no longer speak, except for a few odd phrases. ” (Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 281).

It is understandable that the McLuhan family would be pained by an actor fictionally depicting their husband, father and grandfather in an enacted state of relative helplessness. When I contacted Michael McLuhan to inquire about whether the Estate would oppose this latest plan for staging, he provided the following statement that represents the views of the family: “Marshall’s widow, Corinne McLuhan, was appalled when she became aware of and read the script. In no way does the Estate endorse or sanction this production.” However, the family has chosen not to oppose production on this occasion.

For readers with a Globe & Mail subscription or online access past their paywall, the Globe’s article can be found here  Jason Sherman has written extensively for the stage, radio, and television. His plays include Remnants (A Fable); It’s All TruePatienceReading HebronThe RetreatThe League of NathansAn Acre of Time, and Three in the Back, Two in the Head, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. He served as executive story editor and writer on the TV series ReGenesis, earning Gemini and Canadian Screenwriting Award nominations. For CBC Radio he wrote “National Affairs,” “Irving Invectus,” and “Graf,” for which he received the Canadian Screenwriting Award for radio drama. He is currently working on several television, radio and film projects. He lives in Toronto. [Sherman is Tarragon’s current playwright-in-residence, a position he held to much applause for most of the 1990s.] (Source: ) A More extensive biography is available in the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia:   

Categories: Blog

Ruminations on the Social & Economic Effects of Mobile Phones

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 3:55pm

Mobile Phone Evolution 1992 – 2014

This is a short excerpt from an excellent wide-ranging and philosophical essay about Marshall McLuhan, his main ideas, and mobile phones that deserves to be read in full. It is also well-written. Follow the link at the bottom to do so.

The Mobile Phone

By Peter Benson

… Let us consider some of the effects on our society of the use of the mobile phone. Walk down any street in a busy town, and you’ll see many people with a phone clutched to the side of their head, talking as rapidly as they are walking. It is now possible to engage in verbal communication with other people wherever they are. This major change in human behaviour has come about within a remarkably short time, but its implications need to be considered. Many people have willingly taken this option of continuous communication; and many more have been forced to accept it as a condition of their employment. To be continuously available for work-related discussion expands the condition of being an employee beyond the boundary of office hours, and beyond the office. Non-work time becomes increasingly colonized by one’s job, and the condition of subordinate employee becomes the permanent, all-encompassing condition of one’s existence. Even while making a meal at home, or travelling on the bus, one might be interrupted by a business call.

In the past, people sold a certain number of hours of their day to their employer. This was the social system Karl Marx analysed in Capital. But many analysts are becoming aware that this idea has less and less relevance to the field of modern employment, and that the mobile phone is one of the major factors that has changed the nature of work. For example, the Italian radical thinker Franco Berardi, in his book The Soul at Work (2009), notes that “The cellular phone is left on by the great majority of info-workers even when they are not working.” (p.89). As a consequence: “Cellular phones realize the dream of capital: that of absorbing every possible atom of time at the exact moment the productive cycle needs it. In this way, workers offer their entire day to capital and are paid only for the moments when their time is made cellular… They prepare their nervous systems as an active receiving terminal for as much time as possible.” (p.90)

These changes enabled by the mobile phone are merely social: they do not yet reach to the level of effect upon our psyche with which McLuhan’s theories are concerned. However, to the obligatory use of the phone in employment, we must add the extensive voluntary use of it in daily life. Among the people we pass in the street, many are chattering, not to work colleagues, but to friends, spouses, or lovers. They are willingly enacting a condition of permanent connectedness: a continuous co-habitation with others, following them through the byways of their days. The cellular phone in handbag or pocket unites them umbilically to their network of social contacts. This is a condition unprecedented in human history.

McLuhan was correct in discerning tendencies to try to re-establish aspects of village life in the modern world. Villages are notable for human proximity, nosiness, suspicion, and lack of privacy. This trend reverses the development, in the industrial age, of anonymous, isolated, secretive city dwelling. Separation from the pack has never been so rare for human beings as it is in the mobile/Internet age… Read the rest at

Peter Benson currently works in a public library in London, whose future is under threat. He has a degree in Philosophy, a subject which is under threat in British universities. He cannot be reached by mobile phone.

Two smartphones: a Samsung Galaxy J5 (L) & an iPhone 6S(R)
Categories: Blog

Essential McLuhan Scholars: Donald F. Theall (1928 – 2008)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 8:55pm

Donald Theall, born in Mount Vernon, New York, took his B.A. from Yale University in 1950, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1951 and 1954. He rose through the ranks from Lecturer to Professor at Toronto from 1953 to 1965, being Chairman of the Combined Departments of English there in his final year. In 1962 he edited and annotated selected poems of Pope for the last print edition of Representative Poetry.

After becoming Chairman and Molson Professor, Department of English, McGill University from 1966 to 1973, and then Founding Director and Molson Professor, Graduate Program in Communications, from 1974 to 1980, Theall joined Trent University in Peterborough as President and Vice-Chancellor from 1980 to 1987, University Professor from 1987 to 1994, and University Professor Emeritus from 1994. During this period he served on the Board of Directors, International Communication Association (1979-81), as Founding President, Canadian Communication Association (1978-80), as First Cultural Exchange Professor, Canada to the People’s Republic of China (1974), and as Co-Director, National Film Board of Canada/McGill University Summer School on Media (1967-71).

He has published widely on communication theory, Marshall McLuhan, poetic theory, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Science Fiction, Film Theory, Alexander Pope, satire, Harold Innis, virtual reality (VR), and Cyberspace, including “Beyond the Orality/Literacy Dichotomy: James Joyce and the Pre-history of Cyberspace” in Postmodern Culture (1992). His recent books include The Virtual Marshall McLuhan (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), James Joyce’s Techno-Poetics (University of Toronto Press, 1997), Beyond the Word: Reconstructing Sense in the Joyce Era of Technology, Culture, and Communication (1995). He has also guest-edited a Special McLuhan issue of the Canadian Journal of Communications in 1975 with G. J. Robinson and has published The Medium is the Rear View Mirror: Understanding McLuhan (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971).

A pioneer in computing in the humanities, Donald Theall has made an extraordinary contribution to literature on-line with his Web version of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Ulysses. (Source:


As a tribute to his contributions to education over the years, Dr. Theall was presented with a Doctor of Sacred Letters, honoris causa from the University of St. Michael’s College in 2006. Dr. Theall joined Trent University as president and vice-chancellor from 1980 to 1987. He stayed on at Trent as a professor until his retirement in 1994, when he was granted the title of professor emeritus. Following a brief illness, Dr. Theall died at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre on Wednesday, May 14, 2008.

Donald Theall (L) & Marshall McLuhan at St. Michael’s College, 1955

Categories: Blog

Three Books That Explain Marshall McLuhan’s Ideas for Beginners

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 3:52pm

For beginners studying Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, I usually recommend that they read the famous Playboy interview (1969) in which he is resolutely cogent and unambiguous for a non-academic reading audience, proving that he could be that when he wanted to be. You can download a PDF of it here  Second, I recommend that they read his The Medium is the Massage (1967) in which he explains many of his ideas in a simplified and illustrated manner. But, if you want to read from secondary sources, here are three that I can recommend which happen to all be by the same author.


McLuhan for Beginners 

By W. Terrance Gordon

Marshall McLuhan pioneered the study of the media and is now making a comeback, despite the fact that he died in 1980. McLuhan was a professor of English who loved James Joyce, hated television, played himself in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, and fired off ideas like a machine gun. If he were alive today, he would want to continue infuriating a world moving into the 21st century with 19th-century perceptions. This book is described as a “documentary comic book” that explains his ideas but doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Source:

Everyman’s McLuhan

By W. Terrance Gordon Anyone who has ever considered media and its relation to humanity has most likely heard the name Marshall McLuhan. Famous for his adages, he was a careful student of 20th-century media, and a prolific lecturer and author. Unquestionably, McLuhan’s writings are important, but all too often impenetrable. As technology speeds ahead and forces us to reconsider our relationship with it, McLuhan’s career merits a creative and accessible examination. W. Terrence Gordons Everyman’s McLuhan does just that. As McLuhan’s official biographer, Gordon is the perfect man to decipher the more confusing and problematic aspects of the McLuhan legacy. By applying McLuhan’s ideas and theories to the realities of 21st-century technology and media, like phones that play films and computer chip implants, Everyman’s McLuhan fosters a dialogue that was important when McLuhan was alive, but is even more relevant today as the line blurs between humans and the technologies we use regularly. (Source: Presented in the visual and print manner of The Medium is the Massage, this book is extensively illustrated throughout.

McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed

By W. Terrance Gordon

Marshall McLuhan was dubbed a media guru when he came to prominence in the 1960s. The Woodstock generation found him cool; their parents found him perplexing. By 1963, McLuhan was Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto and would be a public intellectual on the international stage for more than a decade, then linked forever to his two best-known coinages: the global village and the medium is the message.
Taken as a whole, McLuhan’s writings reveal a profound coherence and illuminate his unifying vision for the study of language, literature, and culture, grounded in the broad understanding of any medium or technology as an extension of the human body. McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed is a close reading of all of his work with a focus on tracing the systematic development of his thought. The overriding objective is to clarify all of McLuhan’s thinking, to consolidate it in a fashion which prevents misreading, and to open the way to advancing his own program: ensuring that the world does not sleepwalk into the twenty-first century with nineteenth-century perceptions. (Source: The format of this book is all text with no illustrations or visual elements.

W. Terrence Gordon is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Part-time lecturer in Linguistics at St. Mary’s University, Halifax. He is the author of the three titles on McLuhan and the editor of the critical editions of his Understanding Media (2003), McLuhanUnbound(2005), and The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of his Time (2006). His McLuhan for Beginners brought him the invitation from the McLuhan family to write his biography: Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding, critically acclaimed in The New York Times and many other sources. Professor Gordon is also the librettist of a multimedia opera about McLuhan.

Categories: Blog

The Role of the Artist in Society

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 9:16pm

for Youth Arts, Manifesto, Toronto 2012. Photo by Leah Snyder

2013 THE YEAR OF THE ARTIST: McLuhan’s Musings on the Role of the Artist in Society

Art as Survival Thrival in the Electric Digital Age

“The job of the artist is to upset all the senses and thus provide new vision and new powers of adjusting to and relating to new situations.”

These are the words of Marshall McLuhan given in a lecture at Columbia University way back in 1973 on the theme of “Art as Survival in the Electric Age.”

McLuhan understood the tremendous societal influence that the artist can have when they put action behind their vision.

As we inhabit a world that has truly become the McLuhanian Global Village the isolation that can often accompany strength of vision is being eroded away by technology that allows the artist to connect with their muse, locate their tribe and readily receive affirmation from a participatory audience.

When you mix globalization, democratization of technology and creative minds who see colour where others see gray there is incredible potential for radical shifts.

And more than any other time in history there is a breed of creators who travel past both conceptual and cultural boundaries. A new world is being designed in the minds of artists and assembled by the hands of everyone working together with a shared vision for a different kind of world.

MIXED BAG MAG proclaims 2013 to be the year of the artist. It is the year where the cultural trickster, the music maker, and the one who dances to the beat of a different drum will be the agent of change. [Looking back on 2013, I have to ask -was it? Informed opinions and comments welcomed.]     Source:

media painting by Chiko Chazunguza –  Photo by Leah Snyder

“If men were able to be convinced that art is a precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists? Or would they begin a translation of new art forms into social navigation charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information oh how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties.”

For more quotes on art and artists see

Categories: Blog

The McLuhan Seminar in Creativity & Technology: A New Course at the University of Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 9:37pm

St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto introduces the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology Offered for the first time in 2018-2019, The McLuhan Seminar is an exploration of the relationship between creativity and technology.Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), one of the most charismatic and wide-ranging thinkers of the 20th century, taught at St. Michael’s College from 1946 until his death in 1980. The Seminar is inspired by McLuhan’s innovative thinking. First-year students in the Faculty of Arts & Sciencc at the University of Toronto will explore how the humanities relate to other fields of thought in addressing the individual, social, and cultural experiences and effects of technological innovation.

University of Toronto / St. Michael’s College Professor Paolo Granata, an expert on McLuhan’s work, will teach the course, which also includes a one-week international learning experience in Silicon Valley. While visiting some of the legendary global symbols of world-changing innovation and the creative giants of the world’s tech economy, this course will take an experimental approach to the following research question: “How can we make innovation and creativity play a role in the development of humanities research for a critical interpretation of the role of technology in today’s world and in the future?” The McLuhan Seminar introduces to university-level studies on a small scale, with first-year students who share interest in creativity, technology, and international experience. Students from different disciplines will experiment with interdisciplinary and critical thinking, access path-breaking new research, and engage with some of the most popular, profitable, and recognized sources and sites of human connectivity today. Ultimately, the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology will provide students with a toolbox for creative learning and future research connections. Professor Paolo Granata

Scholarships will be awarded to successful applicants.

What is the course?

SMC155H1, the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology, is a half-course worth 0.5 credits. It will be offered in Winter 2019. The course consists of lectures, seminar discussions, guest speakers, and a one-week international learning experience in Silicon Valley. Students will explore how creativity makes innovation possible and influences our individual and social responses to technological change.

Possible Course Reading List

Some of the material you’ll be reading could include selections from:

  • Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media: The New Science and Take Today: The Executive as Dropout
  • Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, a book about recognizing good ideas, facing doubt, and choosing how and when to act
  • Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography Steve Jobs
  • Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, a biography that explores the role of inventors and entrepreneurs in the global market
  • Timothy Ferriss’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
  • Silicon Valley (HBO TV series)

Planned Silicon Valley Visit

The course includes a one-week international learning experience in Silicon Valley over Reading Week 2019, February 18 to 22. Students will visit some of the legendary global symbols of world-changing innovation and the creative giants of the world’s tech economy.

Good news. All students admitted to the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology receive room and board at no cost. Students are responsible for their own airfare and incidentals.

In advance of the trip, enrolled students will receive more detailed information and also safety training and other preparation. Additional information at

About Professor Paolo Granata

Marshall McLuhan(James Joyce to his right), from the William McElcheran sculpture located outside the Kelly Library at St. Michael’s College.

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Salon #5: Governance & Representation: Communities in the City

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 01/24/2018 - 9:43pm

(Click on the image for an expanded view)

As a part of the McLuhan Salons series, this panel discussion will explore the role of public organizations such as universities, civic institutions, and local communities in supporting the urban sustainable development.

Featured speakers:

Siri Agrell, Director of Strategic Initiatives City of Toronto
Jean-Paul Addie, Urban Studies Institute Georgia State University
Kofi Hope, Executive Director CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals

Opening remarks: Paolo Granata, University of Toronto
Moderator: Shauna Brail, University of Toronto

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (Doors open at 6:15 PM)

Location: Innis Town Hall, Innis College, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Avenue (near corner of St. George Street & Sussex Avenue)

The event is free and open to the public. Please register online at:

Siri Agrell is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Mayor John Tory, where she oversees files including the Waterfront and Quayside, the King Street Pilot project, government modernization and innovation. She previously served as Deputy Director of Communications for Premier Kathleen Wynne and worked as a journalist for more than a decade, most recently as the Globe and Mail’s Urban Affairs Reporter. She founded Real City Matters, a debate series on Toronto issues during the 2014 municipal election and co-founded TypeFace, a literary portrait project benefitting the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

Jean-Paul Addie is an Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University. He was previously a Marie Curie Fellow and Lecturer at University College London, and holds a PhD in Geography from York University. Jean-Paul’s current research examines how universities are adapting their institutional structures, pedagogies, and spatial strategies in response to the demands of contemporary urban society. His work on rethinking the urban university has been published in international academic journals including Regional Studies, CITY, and Urban Affairs Review, and in policy reports for UN Habitat and The British Council. You can follow him on Twitter @JP_Addie

Kofi Hope is a Rhodes Scholar, Doctor of Philosophy in Politics, community activist and youth advocate. He has over 15 years of experience in managing community based programs. Kofi was the 2017 winner of the Jane Jacobs Prize, for his work improving the City of Toronto. In 2005 he founded the Black Youth Coalition Against Violence, a group which advocated for real solutions to the issue of gun violence. This advocacy work included a presentation for then Prime Minister Paul Martin and led to him being named one of the Top Ten People to Watch in Toronto in 2006 by the Toronto Star. Currently he is the Executive Director of the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals (CEE) a non-profit which creates economic opportunities for Black youth in Toronto. He has delivered over 100 speaking engagements in Canada and the UK, was co-chair of Olivia Chow’s election advisory committee in 2014 and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Atkinson Foundation and Toronto Environmental Alliance. Kofi has been featured widely in the Canadian media including: Metro Morning, Canada AM, TVO’s The Agenda, Ontario Today, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post and CP24. A global traveler he has visited 22 countries around the world and calls Toronto Ontario home.

* * * * *

The McLuhan Salons series is an initiative of the St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, in conjunction with the Estate of Marshall McLuhan and several high-level academic and cultural institutions, and generously supported by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation.

The McLuhan Salons aims to position the city as instructive in rethinking the larger interconnected global village, looking for metaphoric meanings of our urban homes and communities in a “classroom without walls”.
Each McLuhan Salon will be open to the public, will commence with moderated probative discussion within a panel of top leaders and thinkers, and will engage the audience.

Categories: Blog

Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan on BBC Radio 4, January 20, 2018

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:07pm

The Medium Is the Message

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, January 20, 2018, 8PM (3 PM EST North America)

Generation X author Douglas Coupland explores the ideas, sound, and vision of media seer Marshall McLuhan who in the 1960s coined the phrases “the medium is the message” and “the global village”.

Marshall McLuhan was the first great prophet of what would become digital mass media and indeed the global media village – a thinker and writer of near supernatural foresight.

Trained as a literary scholar, throughout his career McLuhan not only examined the relationship between form and content in the media itself, offering dazzling arguments for the importance of medium over content, but anticipated the very idea of online networks, virtual reality, multiple interfaces, social media and most importantly of all, how new technologies rewire us by stealth, endlessly transforming our identities and our communities. “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us,” he said [Correction: The phrase was coined by John Culkin, SJ but represented an idea originated by McLuhan.]

Drawing on cutting-edge thinking about networks and cybernetics, McLuhan foresaw a fully wired, connected world, which would bring to an end the isolated consumption of print. New cross-border (effectively online) communities would form, breaking old political barriers, creating genuinely new kinds of electronic identity. But with this McLuhan offered a warning: older ideas of privacy and the self would evaporate under new media he said, leading to the rise of what he called ‘discarnate’ man – the lost, disembodied user extended across an unrelenting, unforgiving electronic global nervous system.

McLuhan’s ideas seem more prescient than ever. As Douglas Coupland puts it: ‘The future has never happened so quickly, to so many people, in such an extreme way – just as Marshall predicted, an uncanny prophet of our own digital age.’

Contributors include novelist Tom McCarthy, DJ Spooky, Andrew McLuhan, biographer Philip Marchand, the media theorists Shannon Mattern and Bernard Dionysus Geoghegan, Zak Kyes the graphic designer, philosopher James Garvey, filmmaker Jonathan Meades and former network engineer Tung-Hui Hu, who has written on McLuhan and 1970s guerrilla television.

Presenter: Douglas Coupland
Producer: Simon Hollis                                                                                                                     Brook Lapping production for BBC Radio 4.



Douglas Coupland

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan on the Cool Medium of Comics

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 8:44am

Superman, Supergirl & Krypto (Art by Curt Swan, 1962)

McLuhan’s Cool Comics

by Guy Leshinski   –   Sept. 28, 2005

In his first book, 1951’s The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan reproached the Man of Steel, calling Superman’s crime-fighting tactics “the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the immature and barbaric mind.” He was more favourable a few years later when surveying the medium as a whole. He devoted an entire chapter of his seminal book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man to unpacking the intangible ways comics ape and infect our culture. (Marymount Manhattan College professor Kent Worcester and Toronto writer Jeet Heer include this chapter in their erudite anthology
Arguing Comics.)

 Superman Cover, Oct. 1967

McLuhan saw comics as extensions of the woodcut and photographic media, “a world of inclusive gesture and dramatic posture.”

“[T]he modern comics strip and comic book,” he wrote, “provide very little data about any particular moment in time, or aspect in space, of an object. The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines.” These are qualities of what McLuhan termed “cool” media, lo-fi creations that force us to fill in the blanks. They contrast with “hot” media like film, which make the viewer “a passive consumer of actions.” Comics, in his words, are cool.

He scrutinized Mad magazine, which, at the time Understanding Media was published in 1964, was hitting its stride as an agent of screwball subversion. To McLuhan, Mad was “a ludicrous and cool replay of the forms of the hot media of photo, radio and film.”

Mad is a kind of newspaper mosaic of the ad as entertainment, and entertainment as a form of madness.” It exploited the fact that ads, according to McLuhan (who considered Hollywood movies ads for popular culture), were “not meant for conscious consumption,” so that “any ad consciously attended to is comical.”

“The comic strip and the ad, then, both belong to the world of games, to the world of models and extensions of situations elsewhere.”

McLuhan clearly had a soft spot for funnybooks. He contrasted the genteel fine-art world with popular art like comics, “the clown reminding us of all the life and faculty that we have omitted from our daily routines.” He saw in Al Capp’s classic strip Li’l Abner and its “predicament of helpless ineptitude” a “paradigm of the human situation, in general.” And he cautioned that the rise of television, an even more inclusive medium, devalued comics as purveyors of far-flung drama.

All this came decades before the growth of the graphic novel and the Western embrace of comics stories and techniques from France, Japan and elsewhere. McLuhan studied the nascent comic form, its melding of words and pictures, divorced from its content — which he argued was a medium of its own.

In this way, comics haven’t changed in the time since McLuhan published his definitive works. His theories are as provocative to the comics fan as they are to the technophile, even if, like the medium itself all these years, his writing on comics is mostly ignored. (Source:


The best book by far for understanding comics is Scott McLeod’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993), which was, as acknowledged by its title, influenced by Marshall McLuhan.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a comic (a graphic novel technically) on everything about comic. First published in 1993, it is one of the most famous works of Scott McCloud, American comic artist and author. In this book, McCloud digs deep into almost all comic aspects: the history, vocabulary, the underlying principles, the various elements and how they work. It presents detailed graphical explanation on comics as a form of art and communication medium.

Since its publication, Understanding Comics has gained huge success commercially and critically. Well-known comic and graphic novel authors and artists such as Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Garry Trudeau, and Art Spiegelman expressed their praises for this seminal work of McCloud’s.

Providing abundant knowledge into the world of comic (and graphic novel), from the definitions, history, technicalities, theories, methods, concepts, styles, elements, and many others, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art has become one of the most important and influential works in the modern comic industry.    ( )

Here’s a sample of the book’s approach as read aloud by a Mr. Koch:

Part I of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.”

Categories: Blog

A Posthumously Published Book by Walter J. Ong, SJ – Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word & Digitization

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 8:28pm

The following is from an essay by a former student of Ong, Dr. Thomas J. Farrell, as an introduction to Ong’s thought and body of scholarship by way of prefacing this last book of his former teacher. Follow this link read Dr. Farrell’s whole essay

Ong’s incomplete sixth book-length study has now been posthumously published as the book Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word and Digitization, edited by Thomas D. Zlatic and Sara van den Berg (Cornell University Press, 2017). Just to be clear, hermeneutic means interpretation. Ong left the incomplete manuscript in the Ong archives at SLU [Saint Louis University]. Professors Zlatic and van den Berg retrieved the incomplete manuscript from the Ong archives and edited it for publication, with an editorial apparatus to assist readers. This book is a primer in Ong’s thought. As a primer, it could be titled Ong for Dummies. As a primer in his thought, it could serve as a gateway for new readers to enter into the rich world of Ong’s thought in his 400 or so publications.

Professor Zlatic received his Ph.D. in English from SLU in the 1970s. Over the years, he has published numerous essays in which he draws on Ong’s thought, including “Faith in Pretext: An Ongian Context for [Melville’s] The Confidence-Man” in the book Of Ong and Media Ecology (Hampton Press, 2012, pages 241-280). In Ong’s posthumously published book, Zlatic supplied the three essays “Language as Hermeneutic: The Evolution of the Idea and the Text” (pages 123-146), “Language as Hermeneutic: An Unresolved Chord” (pages 147-180), and “Picturing Ong’s Oral Hermeneutic” (pages 195-201).

Professor van den Berg is currently a professor of English at SLU. She is the senior editor with Thomas M. Walsh of SLU of the book Language, Culture, and Identity: The Legacy of Walter J. Ong, S.J. (Hampton Press, 2011). She supplied the introduction to Ong’s posthumously published book (pages 1-8).

Perhaps I should explain that for years Fr. Ong suffered from Parkinson’s disease. At about the same time, Pope John-Paul II also suffered from it. I imagine that Ong’s decision to stop working on the drafts that Professors Zlatic and van den Berg have collated and edited for publication was based on the impact of Parkinson’s on him. In general, Ong loved to revise whatever he was writing. For him, revision was a labor of love. But the devastating impact of Parkinson’s undoubtedly made this labor of love unsustainable.

Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word and Digitization

By Walter J. Ong, SJ

Edited & with Commentaries by Thomas D. Zlatic & Sara van den Berg

Cornell University Press

Language in all its modes—oral, written, print, electronic—claims the central role in Walter J. Ong’s acclaimed speculations on human culture. After his death, his archives were found to contain unpublished drafts of a final book manuscript that Ong envisioned as a distillation of his life’s work. This first publication of Language as Hermeneutic, reconstructed from Ong’s various drafts by Thomas D. Zlatic and Sara van den Berg, is more than a summation of his thinking. It develops new arguments around issues of cognition, interpretation, and language. Digitization, he writes, is inherent in all forms of “writing,” from its early beginnings in clay tablets. As digitization increases in print and now electronic culture, there is a corresponding need to counter the fractioning of digitization with the unitive attempts of hermeneutics, particularly hermeneutics that are modeled on oral rather than written paradigms.

In addition to the edited text of Language as Hermeneutic, this volume includes essays on the reconstruction of Ong’s work and its significance within Ong’s intellectual project, as well as a previously unpublished article by Ong, “Time, Digitization, and Dalí’s Memory,” which further explores language’s role in preserving and enhancing our humanity in the digital age.

For a Table of Contents, Reviews &Detailed Information see the Cornell University Press page at

Walter J. Ong (1912–2003) taught at Saint Louis University for thirty years. His many books include Orality and Literacy, Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology; Interfaces of the Word; and Fighting for Life, the latter three from Cornell University Press.

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He is the proud author of the book Walter Ong’s Contributions to Cultural Studies: The Phenomenology of the Word & I – Thou Communication (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2000; 2nd ed. 2009, forthcoming).

Categories: Blog

A Catholic Media Trinity: Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong & Andy Warhol

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 12/29/2017 - 8:28pm

Marshall McLuhan & Walter Ong seated to his left

By Nick Ripatrazone   –   Dec. 27. 2017

“I make probes,” wrote Marshall McLuhan. “I don’t explain—I explore.” In 1967 he published The Medium Is the Massage, an eccentric journey into how our senses experience electric media. That same year, Walter Ong, S.J.—whose graduate thesis adviser happened to be McLuhan—released The Presence of the Word, a dense but visionary take on our evolution from oral to electronic communication. Also in 1967 Andy Warhol created a silkscreen portfolio of Marilyn Monroe. “The more you look at the same exact thing,” Warhol said, “the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.”

McLuhan, Ong and Warhol offered a profound vision of media, a Catholic vision. Their Catholicism was not incidental to their theories and their art; it was their structure, their spirit and their sustenance. Fifty years later, their simultaneous creations feel somehow both particular to their moment and prescient. We might even call them transcendent.

All oracles must divine from somewhere, and McLuhan’s source was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Teilhard had conceived of the “noösphere,” an evolutionary phase in which a “thinking skin” covers the world. This “stupendous thinking machine” of a collective consciousness sounds much like a biological internet. Now imagine how Teilhard’s wild theory sounded to an academic like McLuhan, a literary scholar seeking patterns and connections in the history of media and communication…

Unlike McLuhan, Ong is primarily concerned with the mode of sound: “The electronic processes typical of today’s communications world are themselves of their very nature infravisible—not even truly imaginable in terms of sight.” Although the electronic age awakened us to the profound differences between the “old oral culture and the culture initiated with writing and matured with alphabetic type,” he channels McLuhan to say that “simultaneity is a mark of both early oral culture and of electronic culture Primitive life is simultaneous in that it has no records, so that its conscious contact with its past is governed by what people talk about.”

Our digital world is simultaneous, absolute, overwhelming in possibility. What does that mean for communion with others? “The fragmentation of consciousness initiated by the alphabet has in turn been countered by the electronic media which have made man present to himself across the globe, creating an intensity of self-possession on the part of the human race which is a new, and at times an upsetting, experience. Further transmutations lie ahead.”

McLuhan &Warhol

Warhol surrounded himself with Catholic artists, photographers, poets and managers: Fred Hughes, Gerald Malanga, Paul Morrissey, Bob Colacello, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Christopher Makos, Robert Mapplethorpe and Vincent Fremont. The same year he created the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” spectacles, Warhol created a silkscreen series of Marilyn Monroe. The portfolio’s varying shades and colors take an endlessly recycled face and imbue transformative life. There is something vaguely liturgical in Warhol’s recursive method.

This is not to say that such pop work was devotional; Warhol saved that for his Last Supper sequence. Alexandre Iolas commissioned Warhol to create a series based on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work. For an artist who had made the mundane mystical—think soup cans and soda bottles—this was a different context. It was a print masterpiece resurrected, an artistic word made flesh: draped in camouflage, silkscreened, infused with layers of pop and piety. Warhol created over 100 takes on Leonardo’s creation, his repetition suffused with the rhythm of prayer. McLuhan did not live to see it, but he would have appreciated it”…

These are 3 segments from a longer article which you should read in full at:

See also the following on this blog:-

Teilhard de Chardin’s Concept of Noosphere & His Influence on Marshall McLuhan  –

McLuhan & Ong on the Cultural Shift From Orality to Literacy –

Andy Warhol & Marshall McLuhan: The Artist & the Visionary

Categories: Blog

Season’s Greetings & Happy New Year to Subscribers & Readers of the McLuhan Galaxy

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 7:15pm

Marshall McLuhan, his mother Elsie and younger brother Maurice (“Red”)

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

– Marcellus to Horatio and Bernardo, after seeing the Ghost: (Hamlet, I, i)

Gutenberg Man at leisure – Books, the Toronto Star & a Canadian beer in its stubby bottle
Categories: Blog

Include Me Out: The Reversal of the Overheated Image by Marshall McLuhan, December, 1968, Playboy

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:15pm

The December 1968 Edition of Playboy Magazine that contains Marshall McLuhan’s essay, Include Me Out: The Reversal of the Overheated Image  

Most people who have an interest in Marshall McLuhan are aware of the 1969 Interview of McLuhan published by Playboy Magazine, but they might not know about the December 1968 essay Include Me Out: The Reversal of the Overheated Image. Here is the full text of that essay and, if you wish, you can download that entire Playboy issue from

Include Me Out: The Reversal Of The Overheated Image

by Marshall McLuhan
Playboy, December 1968

Mind your media, men, or you’ll find yourselves catching
a cold environment—and suffering from overexposure.
“The bark is still there, but the molars are gone.”
The Avis ad reads: “We try harder.”
The Electric Circus ad reads: “We try softer.”

The big reversal of our time is the flip from a service environment of “hardware” to a service environment of “software.” By 1820, well before the telegraph became commercial, England had achieved hardware service environments on a considerable scale. Not just the press and cheap books (“The true university of these days is a collection of books”—Carlyle) but a national postal service based on hard-surface post roads. The application of steam power to printing and manufacture, to boat and train, was well under way. All of these environmental services were tied into metropolitan concentrations and marketing based on uniform pricing and currency. (The LSD of those days meant an outer trip—pounds, shillings and pence: hard money.

The acceleration of hardware technologies assured centralization of power and management, just as the much greater electronic speed-up today ensures the reverse pattern in business and politics, in culture and education, in war and peace. Mechanical, industrial or hardware service environments—print, post, rail or plane, for example—are “hot” because they are tightly tied together as bureaucratic organizations. On the other hand, software environments of information are pervasive, unobtrusive and as decentralized as telephone or radio. Hardware is specialized, requiring much fragmentation of skills. Software is generalized, requiring an interrelated awareness of whole environments. The new word is “ecology.” The organization chart is gone. Today, the higher a man climbs in an organization, the less he has to do with its operation. By the time he reaches the top, he’s a dropout, like L. B.J. Had Robert Kennedy survived the assassin’s bullets and been a Presidential candidate in November, he would automatically have become President. As a cripple, he would have been much “cooler.” F. D. R., as a cripple, was not a mere leader. He was an emperor. Seated in his wheelchair, he acquired the imperial status of Buddha or Raymond Burr’s Ironside. A man standing on his two feet can be a leader. That’s a hot image. But he must shout, trying to find an audience. An emperor, seated in state, doesn’t need to find an audience. He gives audience. He wears his audience, the whole nation, as his mask of power.

Of course, even this posture, pushed to an extreme, defeats itself by reversal. Milton understood this very well in presenting his image of Satan in the opening of book two of Paradise Lost: “High on a throne of royal state, which far/Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,/Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand/Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,/Satan exalted sat, by merit rais’d/To that bad eminence…”As Antony Jay put it in Management and Machiavelli: “The emperor is the stage beyond the creative leader, the position that a few creative leaders graduate to, and this ability to . . . harness the most powerful and influential people to the common cause is the distinguishing feature.” The emperor, that is to say, creates new environments. These are the emperor’s new clothes. They are invisible, because people are able to see only something their own size. Environments surround them and numb them, eluding the perception of all except little Peter Pans.Today, private business can become an invisible environment so large as to be the equivalent of a national state. As makers of service
environments, businesses shape and educate our perceptions invincibly and invisibly. The Greek word for environment is perivallo —”to hit from all sides at once.”

In this age of information environments of electric software, it is the service environments that have become the teaching machines. Education and culture
have become the major part of the business enterprise itself, flipping the entire image of business. One sees ads such as: “ADOPT A COLLEGE.” Business can now take over public education, even though Government is not allowed to assist private education. The laws preventing public subsidies to private educational institutions belong to the old hardware service environment of the pre-electric age. Now that the environment itself has become a major teaching machine, the image of learning has been reversed. The learner becomes hunter, explorer, not consumer. In the electric age, education can no longer be goal-oriented, not in the world of total field information and systems engineering.

Peter Drucker, who has had several diverse careers, says: “Here I am, fifty-eight, and I still don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up.” He recommends, for all career men, an abrupt change into a totally different career at the age of 40. Language professors would switch to engineering or medicine, and vice versa.

The children in Watts were heard to say: “Why should we go back to school and interrupt our education?” Our 19th Century school and college systems, based on fragmented subjects and classified data, which derive from the old hardware environment, cannot relate to the new integral electric environments of information.

Sir Francis Drake put a girdle around the world in the 16th Century, but Sputnik enclosed the world in a man-made environment of information, turning it into an old nose cone, a piece of Camp, an archaeological museum. Joyce called it the “Willingdone museyroom.” The allusion to Wellington draws attention to the fact that war and weaponry have been the major drives in creating this planetary museum of artifacts. The willing aspect of the phrase expresses Joyce’s concern with the “burning would” that “is come to dance inane.” Men seem to be impelled by an inner drive that jitters them into
the most self-destructive situations. Macbeth’s fear was his “burning would” that drove him to Dunsinane. Radio in the 1920s created a totally new kind of world environment, substituting the ear for the eye, as it were. This was one of the great reversals of imagery in all human history. Literacy had extended the power of the eye, giving it dominance over the other senses. Phonetic literacy created visual, “rational” space. Never had any culture experienced this kind of space until Fifth Century Athens.

Eric Havelock’s Preface to Plato comments at length on the revolution by which the new literati, led by Plato, attacked the educational establishment of the bards. Homer and Hesiod had long been the educators of the Greek youth, teaching them “history as she is harped.” Plato simply denounced this program in the interest of “abc-ed-mindedness.” Joyce’s quip here draws attention to the inevitable price paid for visual dominance over the senses: “an eye for an ear.” W. H. Auden said, “A professor is a man who talks in
other people’s sleep.” The absent-minded professor is simply a sensory specialist with a fixed point of view, in space and in time. In a literate culture, even semiliterate scientists ape this form of literacy, taking great “precautions of a public kind” in order to appear as precise and correct as any grammarian.

The new world environment of radio evoked a unique creative re-sponse from the American Negro. Jazz is not only close to speech, song and dance but it is syncopated. The world of the ear offers none of the continuity and connectedness known only to the eye. The discontinuities of the electric “space-time” had received much advance billing in the arts before Einstein. Lewis Carroll’s Alice flipped out of the hardware world of visual space, of visual uniformity and connectedness, when she went Through the Looking-Glass.

But the telegraph press itself had, even earlier, reversed the pattern of the old book and editorial image. At electric speeds, a point of view is meaningless, even in a newspaper. News items are necessarily unconnected except by a date line. The newspaper mosaic has no story line. Like syncopated jazz or poetic symbolism, it is discontinuous. Negro jazz was quickly accepted in the capitals of the world. Paradoxically, the Negro integrated the world before anybody ever thought of integrating him. In the TV age, the Beatles seem to have made the most effective response to this “cool” medium. They have
gone Oriental, even as the East goes West. The Negro brought in evangelical folk music, but the bottom-wagging Twenties did not seek any inner trip. The Twenties accepted the dominance of the ear, of song and dance, over literacy and civilization. Even the highbrow arts of the Twenties were “Jung and easily Freudened,” and moved enthusiastically toward retribalization of society. The famous family of Stein (Gent and Ep and Ein) presents a good cross section of the new tribalism created by the radio environment.

When radio married the movies, when the movies started to talk, the reversal of imagery from the new heating-up process fed the drive toward the reverse TV image. The extreme coolness and tactility of TV has received its most impressive testimonial in a new painting by Salvador Dali. It appears on the cover of TV Guide for June 8, 1968. Two TV screens appear on two thumbnails. The thumbs are widely separated, looking like cracked sculpture (tactile space is the space of the interval, the icon, the contour). With the advent of TV, the old hardware world began to crumble. Radio and movies had at first seemed to provide the old mechanized world with a hotted-up image even more glamorous than before. It was the moment of reversal. Even sex has flipped. Hollywood photography hotted-up glamor and kisses and long-stemmed American beauties. Skirts were at the knee: “She rolls her stocking at the knee/And when she sits down, you can see/ There ain’t no flies on Auntie.” The greatly improved photography of the Sixties has pushed the sex image all the way into nonsex. The gatefold cuties in PLAYBOY are
sculptural and cool, as nudes must be. As photography goes hi-fi, visual qualities yield to texture and tactility. The hot becomes cool. The detached image, full of visual fantasy and desire (“dreams that money can buy”) becomes an aesthetic object of multi-sensuous involvement. Real cool. The miniskirt is not hot or sexy. It is a tribal costume, long worn by boys, men and women alike. It is not a fashion.

No more disconcerting reversal of image could be imagined. The worlds of reversals created by speeded-up information movement affect every sphere of life. Each could do with a book. There already is a book on The De-Romanization of the Roman Church. When it took months for bishops to travel to Rome and back, the consensus of the faithful, which is called “papal infallibility,” was totally different from the same image in the jet age. In the  old hardware world, “all roads led to Rome.” In the jet age, there are no roads. Rome is in our sitting room as much as Vietnam. The new participation of the faithful in the decision-making process exceeds even the fragmentation of Protestant literacy. Rome seems to be set to perform a judo flip, by which all the schismatic churches fling themselves back into her arms. It is well known that leaders no longer come up from inside an operation, commercial or political. The old bureaucratic structures of big business and civil service are too fragmented to produce leaders. The leader has to be a “dark horse” from outside the old type of structure. Today, the only person who can run a big business is one who has had much involvement in a small business. It is the same with the big city. Big cities were created by the old hardware of steamship and railway. They were highly centralized structures, like the huge armies of World War One. The motorcar tore the big cities apart—into suburbs. The jet planes simply bypassed the cities, leaving them to become ghettos. It is said that three times the
population of Chicago leaves O’Hare Airport each year.

The decentralization of war came with radio in World War Two. Churchill and Roosevelt were big tribal chieftains who used the fireside as the firing line. World War Two decentralized via radio into guerrilla tactics. As for World War Three, a student of mine wrote: “The Vietnam war is the first world war ever fought on American soil.” Thanks to TV, parents have seen their sons killed on the seven-o’clock news. In a word, a hot war cannot be endured on a cool me-dium. This also applies to politics. In all countries, the
party system has folded like the organization chart. Policies and issues are useless for election purposes, since they are too specialized and too hot. The shap-ing of the candidate’s integral image has taken the place of discussing conflicting points of view. The world of education presents the same kind of reversal. Institutions established to prepare students for goals by specialist courses and credits are being rejected and even defied by their clients. The TV generation wants participation in the educational process. It does not want packages. The students want problems, not answers. They want probes,
not exams. They want making, not matching. They want struggle, not goals.They want new images of identity, not careers. They want insights, not classified data.

At IBM, a favorite slogan is “Information overload = pattern recognition,” or sudden structural awareness. A recent report about a dilemma in the Pentagon concerned the excessive influx of data collected by agents of the CIA and others. So great is the unread backlog that even the Pueblo can get lost in the IN basket. There is imminent danger of pattern recognition even in the Pentagon, the biggest filing cabinet in the world. The new Reading Dynamics or “high-speed reading” tends to build on the principle of overload as pattern recognition. The faster one reads, as every exam crammer has discovered, the more one perceives and the more one retains. (But, of course, there is the
exception: “I’ll never forget what’s-his-name.”)

The information theorists are fond of pointing out that a telephone book contains no information. There are too many data and no patterns. In the electric environment of fast-changing, total-field information, a fixed point of view is as useless as a specialty. Today, the training of an engineer or a doctor is obsolete upon graduation. The result is that the artist replaces the bureaucrat. The ivory tower supplants the control tower. Electronic man becomes a hunter, a prober once more. He begins to live by “feedforward,” not “feedback.” (The Eskimo hunter proved by far the best jet-engine
mechanic at Gander in World War Two.)

As Antony Jay points out, when you are on an economy drive, remember: “Economy does not need an actuary, it needs a visionary.” In any operation where excellence and integrity are at stake, budgets are irrelevant. The bureaucrat will insist upon cheaper pencils and carbon paper, sending out messages such as that received by the deep-sea diver: “Surface at once. The ship is sinking.” The principle of reversal of image and structure that accompanies every amplification of power applies everywhere, from trivial
matters such as dance bands, reduced from 40 instruments to five by electric amplifiers, to the very pattern of human identity, reduced by data banks and computer memories to insignificance. The more that is publicly recorded about the actual existence of any person, the more he is diminished in his private existence. Like any public entertainer, he becomes his admirers or his recorders. By a commodius vicus of recirculation, this flips us back to the Circus, in which music is no longer for listening to but for merging

                 The first page of the essay in Playboy, illustrating the layout & graphics. (Click on image for an expanded view.)

Categories: Blog

Imaginations 8-3: Special Issue on Marshall McLuhan & the Arts

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 1:14pm

“The artist tends now to move from the ivory tower to the control tower of society”. —Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)

Editors | Adam Lauder and Jaqueline McLeod Rogers

This special issue exploring “Marshall McLuhan and the arts” encourages new approaches to the study of McLuhan’s influential theses on perception, design, and the built environment as well as the artist’s changing role in postindustrial society. Submissions try to excavate previously unknown, or lesser-known, narratives and linkages, and/or engage contemporary resonances and possibilities for intersection with current critical theories and debates.

Recent years have been witness to McLuhan’s re-emergence as a major interdisciplinary thinker whose writings bridge the study of communication, culture, and technology. The computational, materialist and sensorial foci of his thought offer suggestive alternatives to approaches and assumptions embedded in the linguistic turn. Our volume includes papers that explore his work on design, perception, and visualization as well as how his insights continue to inform or otherwise connect up with current art and design production as well as theories about their place and meaning in contemporary culture…

Marshall McLuhan and the Arts after the Speculative Turn | Adam Lauder and Jaqueline McLeod Rogers

Printing a Film to Make it Resonate: Sorel Etrog and Marshall McLuhan’s Spiral | Elena Lamberti

Mansaram and Marshall McLuhan: Collaboration in Collage Art | Alexander Kuskis

Critique, texte et art contemporain. Repenser l’héritage de Marshall McLuhan aujourd’hui | Adina Balint

Songlines, not Stupor: Cheryl L’Hirondelle’s nikamon ohci aski: songs because of the land as Technological Citizenship on the Lands Currently Called “Canada” | Jessica Jacobson-Konefall, May Chew, and Daina Warren

McLuhan’s Photographic Gestalt (and the project of the object world) | Tom McGlynn

L(a)ying with Marshall McLuhan: Media Theory as Hoax Art | Henry Adam Svec

Marshall McLuhan’s Counterenvironment within the Stream of Defamiliarization | Kenneth Allan

Our World: McLuhan’s Idea of Globalized Presence as the Prehistory of Computational Temporality | Mohammad Salemy

Assembling the (Non)Human: The Animal as Medium | Jody Berland

The Designscapes of Harley Parker: Print and Built Environments | Gary Genosko

This issue is located at


Guest Editors: Jaqueline McLeod Rogers and Adam Lauder
Editor-in-Chief: Sheena Wilson
Managing Editors: Brent Ryan Bellamy
English Substantive and Copy Editor: Shama Rangwala
French Translator: Ève Robidoux-Descary
French Editor: Dominique Laurent
Web Editor: Brent Ryan Bellamy
PDF Layout and Design: John Montague
Featured Image: Tom McGlynn, Painted-Over Crosswalk, Jersey City, 2016

8-3 Full Issue PDF Coming Soon |

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Salon #4: Journalism under attack: The phenomenon of fake news & challenges of accountability in the new media

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:48pm

Date & Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Location: Rogers Communications Centre (The Venn RCC 103), 80 Gould Street, Ryerson University, Toronto

Description: Join the McLuhan Salons series, and Philippine correspondent for Reuters and McLuhan Award for Investigative Journalism, Manny Mogato. Mogato will present the topic: “Journalism under attack: The phenomenon of fake news and challenges of accountability in the new media” in which he discusses the spread of fake news in the Philippines and how this undermines the news media’s role. His presentation would also like to discuss the question: “In a time when human rights and other fundamental freedoms in the Philippines are under the spotlight, what should journalists do to respond to the threats of fake news and the lack of accountability by purveyors of false information?”

Welcome remarks:
Janice Neil, Ryerson University
Paolo Granata, University of Toronto

Special Guests:
Michael McLuhan, Executor Marshall McLuhan Estate
Carlo Figueroa, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy of Canada

This event is presented by the University of St. Michael’s College, Book & Media Studies Program at the University of Toronto, in conjunction with the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines and Ryerson School of Journalism. We are grateful for the support of the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson Rogers Communication Centre, as our venue partner.

The McLuhan Salon series is generously supported by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation.

The event is free and open to the public. You are encouraged to register online at:

This year’s McLuhan Fellow is Manny Mogato, correspondent for Reuters. A journalist for more than thirty years, Mr. Mogato is the first Filipino correspondent for an international news agency to receive the McLuhan Fellowship. Perhaps one of the most veteran Filipino journalists writing for the foreign press, he started his career in during the last few years of the Marcos dictatorship. During the turbulent democratic transition under the administration of Corazon Aquino, he covered the defense and military beats and became part of the presidential press corps during the Ramos presidency in 1992. In 1997, he was assistant news editor of the Manila Times until it was closed down due to political pressure from then President Joseph Estrada. He later joined Reuters.
Mr. Mogato has been an active member of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) which elected him as its president three times and a member of the board for more than 12 years. As a journalist, he has covered conflicts and insurgencies, health concerns, human rights, international affairs, politics, and general news assignments. He has also been teaching as a professorial lecturer at the University of the City of Manila.
Last May, he and the Reuters team in Manila received the Special Merit Award – English Multimedia Category in the Human Rights Press Awards for their multimedia series, “Duterte’s War,” detailing the current Philippine president’s campaign against illegal drugs. The event was co-organized by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association with Amnesty International Hong Kong. Mr. Mogato won the McLuhan Fellowship for his excellent reportage of issues surrounding human rights and international diplomacy.

The Marshall McLuhan Fellowship is the Embassy of Canada’s flagship public diplomacy initiative in the Philippines. Launched in 1997, this is an advocacy to encourage responsible journalism in the Philippines with the belief that a strong media is essential to a strong democratic society.
Every year, the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility(CMFR) assists the Embassy in choosing a Filipino journalist whose work has contributed to positive changes in the social arena or at least has raised the level of public discourse in a relevant issue usually concerning governance and human rights.

The program provides the winner with a two-week study tour to Canada including at least three major cities. This will be an opportunity for the winner to interact with his media counterparts, and to discuss significant current issues on governance with Canadian government officials, academic interlocutors and members of civil society. The winner will also have the chance to visit as a fellow at the McLuhan Institute in Toronto. Upon the return of the awardee to the Philippines, a series of forums is organized by the Embassy to be held in five key cities around the country to enable the journalist to share his experiences in Canada with students of communication and members of the local and community media.

Aside from contributing to good governance by raising transparency in the public arena, the McLuhan Fellowship also aims to create in the long-term a critical group of influential media personalities with good knowledge and interest in Canadian issues or at least the values Canada stands for: democracy, good governance, and human rights.

Rogers Communication Centre

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