1964 -The Pivotal Year for Marshall McLuhan and the 1960s Decade

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 7:51pm

Beatles, 'Life' magazine, August 1964.
Beatles, ‘Life’ magazine, August 1964.

1964 was the year that Marshall McLuhan’s most important book – Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man – was published. After that, his best work lay behind him and he was increasingly met with growing criticism, misunderstanding and hostility. It might be useful to recall what else was happening in the world in 1964 to provide the context or ground out of which Understanding Media emerged. Marshall McLuhan and Understanding Media are very much part of the warp and woof of that revolutionary decade of social and political change.

A May 27, 2014 article in The Atlantic recalls that year in America 50 years ago:-

1964 was an eventful year — a half-century ago, humans were making strides toward space travel beyond the Earth’s orbit, and Tokyo hosted the 18th Summer Olympics. The Beatles took America by storm, as Race Riots gripped big cities — and the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. Boxer Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and the heavyweight champion of the world. Cyprus devolved into civil war between Turks and Greeks, and President Lyndon Johnson escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. (Source: )

One is tempted to say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. This article by Stephen Hume comments on Canada in 1964:-

It was 1964 and Boomers began coming of age

I was among them, part of a generation that changed the world — but at the time we rode the wave without really noticing the depth of the changes

‘When I was 17, it was a very good year,” sang those harmonious, well-groomed, early-’60s coffee house folkies, The Kingston Trio, their lyrics’ fame later amplified by a Frank Sinatra cover. I turned 17 in 1964, one of the teenage multitudes at the leading edge of that Baby Boom we hear so much griping about; the one that my war-weary parents had passionately helped launch in 1946. There were more than 8.5 million Baby Boomers born in Canada. The simple demographics of those pent-up Second World War desires transformed society. The so-called pig moved through the population python, creating demand by demand for bigger houses, bigger suburbs, bigger cars, more schools, more shopping malls, more fast food outlets, and so on.

But 1964 was also the year in which Boomers began to separate from the careful, conformist, Silent Generation that had created its gigantic successor.

That’s what adolescents approaching adulthood do — and have always done. They challenge assumptions and expectations, rebel against social norms, define themselves in the world by emphasizing not their inherited similarities but their invented differences from exasperated parents.

So 1964 marked the beginning of an era of tumultuous change that would transform political, social and cultural institutions for the province, the country and the continent.

Canada would get a new flag, the red maple leaf on a white bar, shedding its colonial ensign and beginning a discussion about patriating the constitution from Britain. In Vancouver, the Indian Centre Society would open on West Broadway to serve its youth, the first in Canada to have an all-First Nations board of directors.

In 1964, the Boomer vanguard was about to leave the family and make its own way in universities and the workforce. For the United States, it meant a whole generation arriving at the age that made it eligible for military conscription into an emerging war that much of that generation rejected.

We were also entering adulthood in a society scarred by social injustices: racial segregation, religious bigotry, class and gender discrimination — and we reacted with the civil rights movement, Black Power, Red Power, Gay Power, Flower Power, Women’s Lib, the development of a counter-culture.

It was the year that Clint Eastwood became a star with the wry, genre-spoofing spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars but it was also the year of Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, offered a bitter satirical antidote to Goldfinger, the latest in the James Bond franchise.

In Ontario, the legislature abolished a 114-year-old law permitting segregated schools. In the U.S., the Ku Klux Klan — including a local sheriff and his deputy — greeted President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Bill by murdering three young men registering black voters. A few months later, the first schools in Mississippi were integrated but there were riots in Harlem, a harbinger of the 1965 riot in Los Angeles that would leave 34 dead and $40 million in damage.

Yet, really, what teenager actually thinks deeply about political portents?

I was playing for a very good small town high school basketball team and writing sports stories not just for the school paper but for the small town weekly, selling the occasional squib for 25-cents-an-inch to a big city daily and so, as the song says, for me, when I was 17, “it was a very good year for small town girls,” too.

Who’d have thought then that the Kingston Trio were among the musical tremors that preceded a pop culture upheaval. Few of us actually noticed in the moment but those tremors would banish pop chart sensations of a few years before to the easy listening lounge. Move over, Old Blue Eyes, here come The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary.

It’s like that with a lot of these immense social trends. We ride the wave but we never really notice until much later how Bobby Vinton, the gold record heartthrob of those girls on the school bus a few years earlier, was suddenly clinging by his fingernails to Billboard’s Top 100 list for 1964 while British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five dominated the top 20.

The communications visionary Marshall McLuhan saw what was coming in his book Understanding Media: the extension of man, advising us that “the medium is the message” but it didn’t make my reading list until university.

In 1964, as with many teenage boys, what commanded my attention were sports, cars and girls — and by a kind of self-interested default, the music that interested girls — not necessarily in that order.

Read the rest of this article at .


Categories: Blog

Paul Hoffert: Lighthouse co-founder and Renaissance man

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:05pm

Duke Ellington with Skip and Paul Hoffert at Rock Pile May 14, 1969 By: Music, Published on Fri Aug 01 2014

Exactly 45 years ago this weekend [August 2], Paul Hoffert and the Canadian rock band Lighthouse were playing at the Atlantic City Pop Festival.

They shared the bill with Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, B.B.King, Tim Buckley, Byrds, Hugh Masekela and American Dream.

Keyboardist Hoffert and drummer Skip Prokop, of Paupers fame, had just formed the rock band with horns and strings, playing their first gig at the Rock Pile in Toronto, May 14, 1969 and Carnegie Hall 11 days later.

This weekend, Hoffert is flying home from Los Angeles where he is on the advisory board of a music company. Sunday will be a family day spent with his wife of 50 years, Brenda, before participating in a conference on intellectual property in Kingston.

And then it’s off to class. The University of Toronto has just cross-appointed him to three different faculties: music, information and law. (He received an honorary degree from U of T two years ago.)

“He’s the ideal guy to plunk into that mix,” says Don McLean, dean of music. “We will use him as a mentor, a catalyst for research discussions, to teach in some cases.”

 While Lighthouse has been part of Hoffert’s life off and on for years, the physicist has wandered many paths, dipping his toe in scientific research, law, music composition and filmmaking.

He is an expert on intellectual property who taught at Harvard’s law school.

He helped invent the algorithm that makes music files smaller, when he was director of Digital Home Jukebox.

The Juno winner got media guru Marshall McLuhan to write the liner notes for his award-winning classical album, Hoffert Violin Concerto .

Hoffert, who composed the music in the Canadian film Outrageous , founded the Screen Composers Guild of Canada and numerous other Canadian arts organizations.

He received the Order of Canada in 2004 for achievement in and service to the arts.

An American who moved here at age 14, he was struck by the lack of agencies promoting culture and worked at getting them set up.

“I attribute my strong Canadian nationalism to my lifelong travels abroad and my immigrant background. It’s hard not to be proud of Canada,” he says.

At the age of 19, Hoffert was already an accomplished musician, stepping in for ill vibraphonist Peter Appleyard at one show. That’s also when he married Brenda, who was 18, at Toronto City Hall, a baby on the way.

They moved in with his father while Hoffert continued his music and studies in physics and chemistry at U of T during the day.

“When you are young, the possibilities are exciting,” says Brenda, a visual artist and lyricist who also manages Lighthouse. “We embrace whatever is out there, good and bad. That’s the situation, let’s figure it out.”

“We were childhood sweethearts,” says Hoffert, sitting beside his spouse on the couch.

He practically dresses in a uniform: black clothing, some colour on the sneakers and a pigtail under his fedora. He explains the pigtail as “all I have left” adding, “After I left the rock scene I became tired of being hassled by customs officials at the borders.

“I kept the tail as symbol of rebellion that officials only see after I’ve passed through customs.”

Gradually he stopped touring with Lighthouse to spend more time with the family and the band disbanded only to reform again.

He earned his daily bread in the science world. Hoffert founded CulTech, an innovative research program at York University, and worked on projects like delivering information via videophone and video-conferencing (this was back in 1995).

Science and music have intersected constantly throughout his career.

“I really didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in technology,” says Hoffert, interviewed in his art-bedecked Lawrence Manor home.

The first thing you see is a giant painting of fellow musician and good friend Don Francks by Michael Crayden.

The three Juno Awards won by Lighthouse (Album of the Year, 1971 to ’73) and his personal award for Classical Album of the Year (1978) are lined up on a shelf. The walls are covered with Brenda’s colourful photographs and their entranceway has been turned into an enchanted forest by a scene painter (who would only paint plants indigenous to Canada when Hoffert wanted more exotic flora).

Read the rest of this article at .

Paul Hoffert
Categories: Blog

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s Groundbreaking Book, Understanding Media (1964)

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 6:00pm

The Baylor Libraries Symposium highlights research and scholarship at Baylor by recognizing the major anniversary of a significant publication. Each year a particular work is chosen based on its cross-disciplinary appeal in the humanities, arts and/or sciences.2014 Baylor Libraries Symposium
September 25-26, 2014 The 2014 Baylor Libraries Symposium marks the 50th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In his influential and controversial book, McLuhan asserts that every medium is an extension of our human systems and can have a profound effect on our bodies, senses, perceptions, and understanding. McLuhan’s challenging work has influenced such diverse fields as the creative arts, technology, philosophy, business, communications, and politics.

Dr. Paul Levinson of Fordham University will deliver the symposium’s keynote presentation on Thursday, September 25, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. in Packard Auditorium of the Marrs-McLean Science Building. Dr. Levinson is a professor of communication and new media, prominent media commentator, and author. His award-winning book, Digital McLuhan, explores the implications of McLuhan’s insights for the Internet and the next horizon of digital media.

Abstract for Paul Levinson’s Keynote Address:

The Medium of the Book: Fifty Years after Understanding Media

A half century after the publication of McLuhan’s Understanding Media seems like a good time to examine the recent evolution of the book itself as a medium.  In Understanding Media, McLuhan quotes the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine’s circa 1830 observation that “the book arrives too late”.  Today, in a revolution as important as the introduction of Gutenberg’s press, books can arrive instantly anywhere in the world, via Kindles and other ebooks. But the most significant part of this development may pertain not to readers but authors, who can now publish books without a publisher and within an hour or less after the book has been written.  The advantages and disadvantages of this bypassing of the traditional gatekeeper for authors and the world at large will be explored — they are mostly advantages — as well as the decline of gatekeeping in other media. Current conflicts, such as the dispute between Amazon and the traditional publisher Hachette will be examined. Connections between the evolution of the book and other facets of writing on the Web will be traced, including the capacity of readers to communicate directly and easily with authors, in modes akin to the “intelligent writing” that Socrates yearned for in the Phaedrus.

Categories: Blog

Call for Papers: The Sixteenth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, 2015

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 12:19pm

220. Auroria Campus

 Metropolitan State University of Denver, Auraria Campus, Denver, Colorado

Kaleidoscope of Media and Community

Call for Papers

Thursday, June 11 – Sunday, June 14, 2015

Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, Colorado

The KEYNOTE SPEAKER is Nicholas Carr influential author and thinker on culture and technology.  His writing includes The Shallows (NY Times bestseller), The Big Switch, Does IT matter, and The Glass Cage.  Finalist for the Pulitzer  Prize.


See Nicholas Carr’s website at .

Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) is proud to host the 16th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association.  MSU Denver is Colorado’s land grant university and educates the most diverse student body of any institution in the state.  The University is an epicenter for urban impact, transforming lives, communities and higher education.  It is with this perspective of dynamic diversity, transformation, and community engagement that we aim to explore the concept of “Kaleidoscope of Media and Community” as the convention theme.

The term “kaleidoscope” means the observation of beautiful forms. When we look through a kaleidoscope, we see a multitude of shapes, colors, and textures combine to create beautiful patterns.  With every turn of the kaleidoscope, the patterns shift and change, yet still combine to create a whole image.  As abolitionist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher said, Our days are a kaleidoscope.  Every instant a change takes place in the contents.  New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort.  The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.  The most tranquil house, with the most serene inhabitants, living upon the utmost regularity of system, is yet exemplifying infinite diversities.”  This conference looks at the recursive relationships of media and community as a pattern of continuously shifting, adapting parts combining in an infinite array of possibilities within mediated environments.

The field of Media Ecology is multi-disciplinary in nature, bringing together a broad collection of specialties, perspectives and expertise.  This year’s theme of community offers the possibility to think about communities as part of media’s ecology and its technologies.   Community opens our discourse to human interaction that is face-to-face, urban, rural, central, remote, online, hybrid, historical, fictional, human, animal, functional, dysfunctional, young, old, diverse, educated, oral, literate, digital and linked to the technology and media in its environment.

The 16th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association invites papers, panels, workshop sessions, short film and video works, and creative projects that explore the convention theme.  Submissions on any topic of interest to Media Ecology are also encouraged.  Authors who want their papers considered for the Top Paper or Top Student Paper award must indicate this on their submissions.  All submissions will be acknowledged.

The convention site at MSU Denver is located in the heart of downtown Denver on the Auraria Campus.  There is a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options within easy walking or biking distance from campus.

Rental bicycles are readily available through the city’s program. Discounted rooms will be available at our state of the art on-campus, student-run hotel, as well as the SpringHill Suites at Marriott.   An excursion to the mountains is planned for Friday evening. Additional information about lodging, logistics, and events will be forthcoming.

Guidelines for Submission

For Manuscripts (for MEA award submissions):

  1. Manuscripts should be 4,000-6,000 words (approximately 15 to 25 double-spaced pages).
  1. Include a cover page (or e-submission page) with your academic or professional affiliation and other contact information.
  1. Include a 150 word abstract, with the title. Use APA, MLA, or Chicago style.

For Paper and Panel Proposals:

  1. Include title, abstract, and contact information with your proposal.
  2. Outline, as relevant, how your paper or panel will fit with the convention
  3. Submission Deadline:  December 15, 2014

Inquiries:  Convention Coordinators – Dr. Karen Lollar, MSU Denver,, (303) 556-8583 or Jacqueline Kirby, MSU Denver,, (303) 352-7116 For more information on the Media Ecology Association and updated convention details, visit


Categories: Blog

Five Canadians Who Helped Create the Digital Revolution

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 7:34pm

 Marshall McLuhan

Smart men who helped usher in the digital age

Ken McGoogan, author of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, offers his picks for individuals who played an important role in advancing the digital age.

1. Marshall McLuhan: Recognized internationally as the “prophet of the electronic age,” McLuhan was an obscure English professor when, in the 1960s, he published two visionary books: The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media. He anticipated a “global village” of instantaneous communications that today we know as the World Wide Web.

2. Douglas Cardinal: Best known for creating the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History), Cardinal pioneered the use of digital technology in architectural design. Drawing on his Aboriginal heritage, he created curvilinear buildings that drove him to develop computer-aided design and drafting (CADD).

3. James Cameron: After creating the blockbuster movie Titanic (1997), Cameron began developing the digital 3D Fusion Camera System he would use in Avatar (2009). That movie, which relies heavily on computer-generated animation, revolutionized the film industry, replacing traditional 35-mm celluloid with digital 3D technology.

4. Mike Lazaridis: In 1999, after creating a series of increasingly sophisticated mobile devices, this electrical engineer invented the BlackBerry, the world’s first smartphone. Today, more than 1.2 billion people use smartphones to access the web, though BlackBerry’s dominance is a thing of the past.

5. Don Tapscott: The author of 14 books, among them the blockbustersWikinomics and Macrowikinomics, available in two dozen languages, the visionary Tapscott finds hope for the future in the collaborative innovations made possible by the Internet. He argues that the Millenials, born between 1977 and 1997, are “digital natives” who are changing the way the world does business.


Don Tapscott BW.jpg Don Tapscott

Categories: Blog

The Association for Media Literacy presents: Understanding Media Now, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 12:04pm

Understanding Media Now: Navigating Surveillance, Social Media & Marketing

Never has media literacy been a more essential life skill.

Toronto, ON: Understanding Media Now will focus on privacy, learning opportunities, online
environments, rights and responsibilities and agency in a technology-driven digital landscape. Participants will attend workshops and panels on subjects ranging from effective teaching and parenting to digital citizenship, rights and responsibilities, privacy and using media ethically and effectively. The conference will assemble a diverse group of teachers, parents, researchers, industry reps and other stakeholders to explore the impact of the current media landscape and digital information technologies on parenting, teaching and learning.

Diebert, Kidder

Speakers include Ron Deibert (Munk School & author of Black Code), Annie Kidder (People for Education), national and international scholars and industry experts.

Who: The Association for Media Literacy (AML)
Where: Toronto’s Ted Rogers School of Management
When: October 18, 2014.

The AML was the first comprehensive organization for media educators in Canada and has become a world leader in media literacy education. The AML is a registered charity.

For registration information, please visit

Early-bird fee (before Sept. 1): $50.00.
Regular fee (after Sept. 1): $75.00
For additional inquiries or interviews, please contact: Michelle Solomon, Communications Executive, AML

Categories: Blog

A Review of B. W. Powe’s Marshall McLuhan & Northrup Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy by Robert Logan

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 10:29am

There have been other reviews of Bruce Powe’s latest book published on this blog, but this unpublished review is written by Robert Logan, arguably the dean of Marshall McLuhan scholars today.

A Review of B. W. Powe’s Marshall McLuhan & Northrup Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy

by Robert K. Logan (

B.W. Powe’s book Marshall McLuhan and Northrup Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy is a masterpiece of literary criticism of two of Canada’s (nay the world’s) greatest literary critics, Marshall McLuhan and Northrup Frye. The content of Powe’s book is a detailed and astute analysis and comparison of these two seminal poetic thinkers and the medium is Powe’s poetic prose that is a delight to read. Powe’s goal “is to initiate a discussion of the convergence, of the conflicts, of the methods and harmonies, and of the ‘ideal Marriage’ of communications and literature (‘Mercury and Philology’) which their lives and thought bravely embody (54, these numbers refer to pages in Powe’s text).” Elsewhere (21) he writes, “the premise of my book [is] that the intellectual energies of McLuhan and Frye continue to be ‘magnetic fields’; they attract and resist each other in the apocalyptic mode.” Powe’s book is not just an academic exercise but a process that he is heavily invested in both emotionally and intellectually for both McLuhan and Frye were his teachers and the inspiration for his life’s work as an academic writer, a novelist, an essayist, a critic and a poet.

The subtitle of Powe’s book: Apocalypse and Alchemy holds the key to understanding his project. Powe sees both McLuhan and Frye as apocalyptic thinkers. He quotes Frye from The Educated Imagination, “Literature is a human apocalypse, man’s revelation to man, and criticism is not a body of adjudication, but the awareness of that revelation, the last judgment of mankind (20-21).” Powe’s (16) evidence for McLuhan’s apocalyptic spirit comes from The Medium and the Light where McLuhan writes, “I am an apocalyptic… We are on the verge of apocalypse.”  Powe interprets this passage to mean, “Apocalypse is heightened awareness, the moment of epiphany, where an individual sees into, or acutely apprehends, his or her time and place (16).” Although Powe sees both McLuhan and Frye as apocalyptic thinkers their notion of apocalypse is quite different. “To McLuhan, apocalypse is found in the forms and effects of media,… to Frye, apocalypse can be found in literature and through the honed awareness that comes in critical comprehension (23).”

The alchemy for Powe and one of the missions of his book is his desire to reconcile and amalgamate the thinking of his two mentors. He writes, “Is there a possibility of a McLuhan-Frye alchemy, a mixing of their chemical traces and energies? What happens if we let the two together become the catalysts for a new agency of thought, a code of thought and inspiration (11)? ”

 Apocalypse and Alchemy

The structure of the book revolves around this theme of apocalypse and alchemy. After a short prologue that deals with the first encounter of McLuhan and Frye in 1946 at the University of Toronto, Chapter 1 reveals the authors intentions and provides an overview of his notion of apocalypse and alchemy. Chapter 2 describes the work of McLuhan and Frye from their own respective perspectives. Chapter 3 deals with the conflict between McLuhan and Frye’s differing apocalyptic views and approaches. Chapter 4 examines the parallels or harmonies in their thinking leading to Chapter 5 where Powe attempts an alchemic reconciliation of the approaches of McLuhan and Fry. A short Chapter 6 sums up the book and deals with the impact that McLuhan and Fry have had on the thinking and work of their mutual student and prodigy, the author of the book.

There are studies of McLuhan and there are studies of Frye but Powe’s book is unique in that he takes on both these scholars at the same time, compares them and examines their interactions with each other. Rarely do we find an analysis of two thinkers compared side by side and in those odd cases where it has been done not by a student and admirer of the two thinkers in question. One of the interesting features of Powe’s study is that he is the student of both, engaged in a struggle with them to embrace them and as their former student to also turn away from them. Powe invokes the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel to describe his own struggle. The difference here is that Jacob only wrestled one angel whereas Powe takes on two angels as he relates in his text, “Still I know when I rise to struggle with these angels of instruction and inspiration what comes is a reinvention of the two through a recombination (27).” This book is as much an autobiography of Powe’s intellectual heritage as it is an analysis of McLuhan and Frye, two thinkers that are at the core of Powe’s scholarship and his literary artistic expression. In this book we are treated to a view of the figure of McLuhan in the ground of Frye, a view of the figure of Frye in the ground of McLuhan, and a view of the figure of McLuhan and Frye in the ground of Powe, a rich tapestry indeed!

But there is still another ground and that is the ground of Canada as Powe, himself a Canadian, describes the influence of being Canadian on Frye and McLuhan who chose to work and remain in Canada despite the possibilities of lucrative offers from south of the border (35). Powe suggests that they are neither part of the European nor the American tradition but they are “subtly, insistently part of the new that is Canadian and yet (paradoxically) universal (12).” So in a certain sense this book is about Canada as well as about McLuhan, Frye and Powe.

I learned a lot from Powe about Frye whose work was not as familiar to me as that of McLuhan’s. But what really knocked me out were the new insights into McLuhan that Powe provided despite the fact that I had collaborated with McLuhan from 1974 to his passing in 1980 and have written about him ever since. I believe it is Powe’s poetic sensibilities that allowed him to draw fresh insights for me into McLuhan’s work.

Powe introduces us to how McLuhan and Frye worked for many years at St. Michael’s and Victoria respectively where the street running through St.Mike’s was renamed the McLuhan Way and a classroom building renamed Northrup Frye Hall. Powe writes, “The naming of a street and building can guide us and move us. It helps us to remember twin geniuses and their invaluable creation of a legacy of insight and vision (10).” How appropriate, I thought, how these naming honours reflect the character of the honourees. McLuhan is a way, a thoroughfare, a place of movement and Frye is a building, static and solid and built conforming to a code, the Toronto building code.

Powe first describes the work of McLuhan and Frye in terms of each one’s own objectives before contrasting their respective perspectives and interests which for McLuhan was a focus on form, media and the impact of technology and media and for Frye was a focus on content and the impact on our imagination (39). There was also a difference in their style as McLuhan despite being a prolific author worked primarily in acoustic space within the framework of the oral tradition and without a theory whereas Fry worked totally in visual space within the literary tradition guided by his theory of the Great Code (51, 149, 167). McLuhan “craved collaborators” (85) and Fry worked alone in the library or his study with his books (50).

Despite these contrasts in style, temperament and methodology, Powe still sees many parallels in McLuhan and Frye. These became the ingredients for his alchemic reconciliation of his two teachers and mentors. Both were voracious readers, both were interested in patterns, laws and codes (41, 202), both were fascinated with the number four as well as Pentecostal and apocalyptic thinking (29-34). Both had strong religious convictions, although different they were deeply felt (46). Education was a major concern for both (48). Each was rebellious in his own way (181) and each was fascinated with Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (183), as was Powe, who treated us to his own analysis of the Wake (204-08) in addition to those of McLuhan and Frye.

Despite these parallels and the ‘harmonies’ in the two seers, Powe deals with what he calls “the critical conflict between McLuhan and Frye” devoting an entire chapter to this topic (110-168). Their critiques of each other and conflict between them, Powe suggests, rose to the level of mutual polemics. McLuhan’s problem with Frye was that he felt Frye was operating with a left-brain, visual bias of categorization by classifying figures without taking into account the ground in which they operated. He also critiqued Frye for not taking into account the effects of the print medium (122), and went as far as to suggest that Frye’s “classification” was “without insight (117),” which seems a bit harsh. Frye, for his part, suggested that McLuhan was “a cult figure” who “allowed his name and ideas to be associated with business people and media celebrities, politicians and advertisers (127).” Powe also cites a 1971 essay in which Frye accuses McLuhan of being a determinist and even a Marxist. This seems a bit unfair to McLuhan given his ecological approach and his criticism of Marxists as providing a 19th century perspective on 20th century problems.

After his careful analysis of McLuhan and Frye’s differences, parallels, critical conflicts and even their mutual polemics, Powe turns to alchemy in his attempt to identify a “visionary prophetic tradition in the joining of ‘the medium is the message’ with the Great Code story (237).” He suggests that, “we meld McLuhan’s percepts with Frye’s concepts (229).” McLuhan and Frye are described in yin and yang terms by Powe when he writes, “in McLuhan’s poetic aphorisms there is criticism and in Frye’s criticism poetry (269).” Of the two McLuhan is the yang with his assertive, in your face, sociality and Frye is the yin with his withdrawn, solitary, bookish scholarship. McLuhan enters the lists with business folks, entertainers, politicians, artists and the common folk of his society whereas Frye is withdrawn quietly contemplating his books in the quiet sanctuary of his ivory tower. McLuhan’s classes are adlibbed while Frye’s lectures are carefully prepared ahead of time. McLuhan is incessantly talking and Frye, incessantly writing either for his public or in his private notebooks.

Powe found intellectual and spiritual succour and nourishment from both of his mentors and teachers, who he knew intimately in their lifetime, studied assiduously in his academic career and defended in his book against their harshest critics such as A. C. Hamilton, U. Eco and J. Baudrillard (260). In summing up the impact McLuhan and Frye on him Powe writes, “their primary gift was their attempt to provide ways to let us soar (276),” but still he learned to “abandon them to move on, living deeply” yet to come back to them on occasion so that “other new and vital lessons [could] begin (285).” If you read Powe’s book, an important addition to McLuhan and Frye scholarship, you too will experience new and vital lessons.

The book is published by the University of Toronto Press: (see ) and is available from Amazon, Chapters and other bookstores.

About Robert K. Logan: Bob Logan has a variety of experiences as an academic involved in research in complexity theory, information theory, biology, environmental science, linguistics, industrial design and media studies. He published with and collaborated with Marshall McLuhan. He was also active in the business world operating a computer training company 1982-2000 and a Web development company from 1994 to 2000 through which he did extensive consulting in knowledge management. He was active in politics from 1974 to date. Among his many activities he served as an advisor to PM Pierre Eliot Trudeau, policy chair of the Ontario wing of the federal Liberal Party and an advisor to various federal cabinet ministers. He is also an author or editor of 11 books and many articles in refereed journals.

Robert K. Logan

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan and the Idea of Retribalization

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 10:55am

Posted by Ericka Goerling  in the Media Psychology blog (Republished by permission)

Marshall McLuhan, the visionary educator of communications, media, technology and humanity provided a powerful framework in which to analyze media. He wrote on media’s influence in constructing a “global village” and of the powerful process of “retribalization.” This post briefly defines McLuhan’s retribalization, while posing additional questions of the concept’s application.

Throughout history, indigenous peoples have adapted and adjusted to the disruption of their native ways by outside settlers and innovation in a process referred to as “detribalization.” McLuhan asserted that modern man suffered this fate, as well, in particular with the advent of the printing press. No longer relying on the communities for conveying news and cultural lore, the printed word allowed for solitary consumption of information (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967; McLuhan, 2012).

As electronic media filled the airwaves and dominated our living rooms, the relationships between man, information and each other have become intertwined. McLuhan stated, “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). It was through this global village that McLuhan identified the retribalization process, the reconnection of man in, “a new state of multitudinous tribal existences” (McLuhan, 1969, 2004).

Remarkably, McLuhan’s contention is nearly prophetic. Indeed, current technological advances, the World Wide Web specifically, have enhanced global communications in profound ways for individuals and communities. We now have the ability to be in touch with people from all over the world, instantly and constantly, if we choose.  This interpersonal process of global, ‘real time’ communication speaks to an instinctive and pervasive need for connection.

So what was happening for indigenous people during the dawning of the media age? According to McLuhan, detribalization was occurring (Norden, 1969, 2004). McLuhan asserted, in one interview, the following:

“…thnativeamhistorye Indian seem to always get a bad deal; they suffered first because they were tribal men in a mechanical world, and now as they try to detribalize and structure themselves within the values of the mechanical culture, they find the gulf between them and a suddenly retribalizing society widening rather than narrowing” (Norden, 1969, 2004).

It is an interesting paradox that as the majority culture seeks to retribalize through connective media, that tribal communities, once marked by their powerful connections, are relegated to oppressive detribalization. Or are they?

retribeimagesAmerican Indians were forced into detribalization, which is a critical point in understanding modern dynamics facing indigenous people. A pressing question raised, in part, by McLuhan’s writing, is whether retribalization of people through media will help or hinder the retribalization of displaced American Indians. What role does media – and the global village- have in American Indian communities?

Many American Indians continue to be displaced from their native lands, receive substandard housing, education and employment and face other, challenging social costs of being an oppressed group. Where does media fit? Certainly, there’s the representation of American Indians in film and television. Regrettably, however, the Hollywood depictions of American Indians are often inaccurate, insulting and do nothing more than reinforce negative stereotypes (Diamond, 2009).

What about the World Wide Web? What form of retribalization is occurring or can occur through the Internet? Unfortunately, this information is currently limited, yet open for consideration. Since there are many reservations that have little to no Internet connectivity, it is difficult to assess the full influence of the Internet. Recent changes made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prove hopeful for tribal communities, with regard to Internet connectivity. On Friday, November 18, 2011, the FCC released its “Connect America Fund” Order to foster Broadband deployment in underserved areas (Dunstan, 2011).

Other technological advances certainly emerge in Native communities. Chris Mercier (2011), an elder with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde recently wrote about his experience at the National Congress of American Indians,

“What was the most pervasive symbol I saw at NCAI? Feathers? Dreamcatchers? Turtles? Try none of the aforementioned. The symbol that haunts my mind the most has little to do with Native American culture, the Apple apple. Everywhere I looked there were iPhones and iPads. Owners were using them frequently as well, which is how I know because the logo is very distinct.”TribalFlags

What would McLuhan make of this? How do the media advances and current technology affect our native communities, as well as the global village?

“The tribe, you see, is not conformist just because it’s inclusive; after all, there is far morglobalvillagee diversity and less conformity within a family group than there is within an urban conglomerate housing thousands of families. Uniformity and tranquility are not hallmarks of the global village; far more likely are conflict and discord as well as love and harmony — the customary life mode of any tribal people” (Norden, 1969, 2004).

As a media psychologist, “conflict and discord as well as love and harmony” are necessary provisions for continued observation, integration and understanding of technology. Through this process, one can seek McLuhan’s vision as well as synthesize the constantly evolving state of media effects on individuals, tribes and the global village.


At the feet of the master. (2011). Retrieved from

Dunstan, J. (2011). FCC releases connect America fund order: A potential huge step forward for tribal deployment of broadband [Web log post]. Retrieved from

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the massage: An inventory of effects. Berkeley, CA: Gingko Press.

Marshall McLuhan speaks. (2012). Retrieved from

Mercier, C. (2011). NCAI in the Rose City [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Morrison, J.C. (2006). Marshall McLuhan: No prophet without honor. In Saleem Ali & Robert F. Barsky (Eds.), Quests Beyond the Ivory Tower: Public Intellectuals, Academia and the Media, 3(2), 20 p. Retrieved from

Norden, E. (1969, 2004). The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan. Playboy Magazine. Retrieved from The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications.

Wolfe, T. (1968). The pump house gang. New York: Bantam Books.

See the full original article at 

Categories: Blog

The Electronic Image versus the Written Word

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:33am

The graphic below illustrates a standard opinion about pictorial versus textual information as it’s represented on the Internet, an idea that has influenced information representation in other mediums as well: books, newspapers, signs, posters, advertising messages.

visual ly picture sails through sea words 600x307 Images versus Text   The Data on Visuals Winning

(Source: )

This question was recently taken up in separate commentaries by film critic Dana Stevens and author Rivka Galchen in a New York Times Sunday Book Review article (June 17, 2014) titled:-

Has the Electronic Image Supplanted the Written Word?

Unfortunately Dana Stevens entirely avoided the question, attempting instead to one up Marshall McLuhan (unsuccessfully) by illustrating the inadequacies of his thinking in his most important book Understanding Media (1964), the 50th anniversary of the publication of which is being celebrated this year. Here is her conclusion:-

 “If “Understanding Media” has any lessons for users of, and thinkers about, the Internet, they may have less to do with  the book’s content (as “the medium is the message” slogan makes clear, content is hardly the point) than with  McLuhan’s method — his idiosyncratic form, his fits and starts of visionary brilliance, his bursts of utopian rhetoric  suddenly weighed down by intimations of cultural doom. Contemporary digital scholars have devoted considerable ink  to deconstructing or rehabilitating McLuhan’s thought for the 21st century. But to feel the effect his gospel of  discontinuity, fragmentation and renewal had on the intellectual landscape of his time, we would need our own kooky,  charismatic prophet in the wilderness, a McLuhan 2.0″.

Dana Stevens is the film critic at Slate and a co-host of the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast. She has also written for The Atlantic and Bookforum, among other publications.


Fortunately, author Rivka Galchen does grapple with the question and her answer makes for interesting reading:-

“The written word has been dying for so long!!! Exclamation points have finally revealed themselves as the sleeper cells of Image?! Image, which is so much better at getting us to buy something? You’ve read this argument before….

That said, I am pretty sad that the written word is dying. Because it is dying. Even if it never entirely expires, other mediums of expression are consuming the limited oxygen. And I prefer (just personally) the written word to all the other mediums out there, so no amount of compensatory greatness in some other medium mitigates (again, just for me) the melancholy of the written word’s decline. Babies may be adorable, but they don’t make the obituary page any less moving.

Still, the stag at eve, to happily borrow Sir Walter Scott’s phrase, has a singular magnificence, and the forest we are entering is fabulous and dark. As a form fades, we often get a late strange renaissance”.

Rivka Galchen is a recipient of a William J. Saroyan International Prize for Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a Berlin Prize, among other distinctions. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications, including Harper’s and The New Yorker, which selected her for their list of “20 Under 40” American fiction writers in 2010. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed “Atmospheric Disturbances,” was published in 2008. Her second book, a story collection titled “American Innovations,” was published in May.

  Read the full article at .

Two quotes by Neil Postman underline the conflict between media images and texts:-

“A new technology usually makes war against an old technology. It competes with it for time, attention, money, prestige and a “‘world view’”.

” Technological change is not additive; it is ecological.  A new technology does not merely add something; it changes everything”. – Postman, N. (1995). The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School.  New York: Knopf, pp. 192 – 193.

Categories: Blog

New Media Have Always Been Criticized, Especially by the Old Media That Feel Threatened by Them

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 6:04pm

Dear readers,

I have been offline for about a week in the process of moving, which is still not entirely complete (try moving a library of 10,000 or so books; e-texts have their advantages). But life is getting back to normal and I will try to re-establish regular postings to this blog. This recent article in The Atlantic, which cites Marshall McLuhan, makes an important point – that new technologies have always been criticized, especially by the old media that feel threatened by them. Such critiques are usually premature and inhibit understanding, which is why McLuhan avoided making them, at least after The Mechanical Bride (1951), telling the 1969 Playboy interviewer that “I neither approve nor disapprove. I merely try to understand”………Alex

In 1858, People Said the Telegraph Was ‘Too Fast for the Truth’ Sound familiar?   –    JUL 28, 2014

Illustration of the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable ( Library of Congress )

Perusing The New York Times archives a few days ago, I stumbled upon a delightful news nugget from 1858 about the “benefits and evils” of the transatlantic telegraph—delightful, because it reads like it could have been written today by a print nostalgist about the benefits and evils of the Internet.

Just try replacing “telegraphic intelligence” with “Twitter” or “online news,” and you’ll see what I mean:

“Superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth, must be all telegraphic intelligence. Does it not render the popular mind too fast for the truth? Ten days bring us the mails from Europe. What need is there for the scraps of news in ten minutes? How trivial and paltry is the telegraphic column?”


“Has the Internet been overhyped?” the Times asked in 1994. Twenty years later, though we’re still debating its benefits and its evils, the answer is clearly no. 

Looking back, it seems that anxiety about technological advances is often wrapped up in how a new technology disrupts our expectations about time—it’s too fast!—and control. Marvels in modern technology have repeatedly connected us in ways that once seemed impossible. And it is that connectivity—the sense of something bigger than the individual, the networks that upend perspectives of time and scale—that makes so many people uneasy. Here’s how media scholar Marshall McLuhan put it in a 1979 lecture

What is desperately needed is a kind of understanding of the media which would permit us to program the whole environment. If you understand the nature of these forms, you can neutralize some of their adverse effects and foster some of their beneficent effects.

Or maybe it’s just that people like what they know. And that humans, for as inventive and adaptable as we are, don’t always like change. McLuhan explained that it was, back in 1979, as it is now: “Nostalgia is the name of the game in every part of our world today.” Read the full article at .

Categories: Blog

New Book: The Medium Is The Muse [Channeling Marshall McLuhan] is Now Available

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:41am

Now in print and available from Amazon, B&N, and other online booksellers, an anthology of poetry, poetics, creative writing, and cartoons inspired by  Marshall McLuhan:

 The Medium Is The Muse [Channeling Marshall McLuhan]

Edited by Lance Strate & Adeena Karasick

The cover shows the young college age Marshall McLuhan. It’s from a photograph not previously seen publicly, and is used by permission of the McLuhan Estate, with all rights reserved.

Oracle of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan  believed artists could wake us and offer new windows into the world.  This diverse collection brings together twenty-nine poets, writers, and  artists  who channel McLuhan as both medium and muse. Like McLuhan’s work, this volume will  delight,  divert, provoke, incite and inspire readers to channel McLuhan in their own imagination and creative endeavors.

Featuring work from: Lillian Allen, Michelle Rae Anderson, Mary Ann Allison, Marleen Barr, David Bateman, Arthur Asa Berger, bill bissett, Tony Burgess, Jerry Harp, Adeena Karasick, William Marshe, John G. McDaid, Jill McGinn, Elizabeth McLuhan, Peter C. Montgomery, Dean Motter, Alexandra Oliver, John Oughton, Si Philbrook, B.W. Powe, Robert Priest, Stephen Roxborough, Lance Strate, Steve Szewczok, Andrea Thompson, Toshio Ushiroguchi-Pigott, John Watts, Dale Winslow, Tom Wolfe.

Table of Contents Introduction The medium is   –   Lance Strate brush up on yr mcluhan / start dewing it now th medium   –   bill bissett Ping-Pong   –   Tom Wolfe Man Made Whole Again   –   Tom Wolfe All the Information in the Sun   –   Robert Priest Short Sound Play   –   Robert Priest Micro-Poems   –   Robert Priest It Came One Day   –    Elizabeth McLuhan Self Reflection   –   Elizabeth McLuhan To Sit   –   Elizabeth McLuhan Chop Gently   –   Elizabeth McLuhan The Purple Rose of Brooklyn Or, Meeting Marshall McLuhan (With a Little Help From Mayan Apocalypse Planet X/Nibiru)   –   Marleen Barr McLuhan Kaleidoscope   –   Mary Ann Allison Flash in the Pan   –   John McDaid Start   –   Tony Burgess dear marshall i know you   –   Stephen Roxborough Marshalling McLuhan   –   Lillian Allen Life   –   Peter Montgomery Messy Necessity   –   Adeena Karasick In My Blogal Village, Print is Hot   –   Adeena Karasick Your Leaky Day   –   Adeena Karasick Reader   –   BW Powe Technogenie   –   BW Powe (lang-gwij)?   –   William Marshe Constitution of Silence   –   Steve Szewczok we, the real mad poets   –   Jill McGinn Late Summer Twilight   –   Jerry Harp Pegged to Invisible Consequences   –   John Oughton McLuhan’s Bride   –   David Bateman The Mechanical Bride’s Consolation   –   Michelle Anderson Curriculum Vitae   –   Alexandra Oliver M.F.M.: Media Friend Marshall   –   Toshio Ushiroguchi-Pigott I Wouldn’t Have Seen It If I Hadn’t Believed It: A Probe Poem   –   Andrea Thompson Dear Mr. Mössbauer, are you online?   –   Dale Winslow Silent Resonance   –   Dale Winslow It Was Never a Flower to Begin With   –   Dale Winslow facebook   –   Si Philbrook mY parts   –   John Watts Prose   –   Lance Strate Centenary   –   Lance Strate Biographies Acknowledgments The volume also includes a series of illustrations by acclaimed comics creator Dean Motter, and a couple by popular culture maven Arthur Asa Berger.

Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9855577-5-1  –  144 pages  –  List price $16.95 (reseller prices are less and vary)  –  5.5”x8.5” perfect bound, paper

Hardcover: ISBN 978-0-9892018-5-8  –  144 pages  –  List price $24.95 (reseller prices are less and vary)  – 5.5”x8.5” hardcover

Categories: Blog

Happy 103rd Birthday, Marshall McLuhan!

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:14am

MMby_BarbaraWilde2Two photos of the casually-attired Marshall McLuhan by Barbara Wilde, taken around 1976


 Douglas Coupland’s “biography” of Marshall McLuhan is a curious mixture of speculation and hyperbole, interspersed with the essential facts of the man’s life in broad strokes. Although it gets some things wrong, there are nevertheless some useful insights worthy of Coupland’s artistic perception, as well as that of his subject. Here is a quote:-

Marshall was also encountering a response that would tail him the rest of his life: the incorrect belief that he liked the new world he was describing. In fact, he didn’t ascribe any moral or value dimensions to it at all — he simply kept on pointing out the effects of new media on the individual. And what makes him fresh and relevant now is the fact that (unlike so much other new thinking of the time) he always did focus on the individual in society, rather than on the mass of society as an entity unto itself. It was Marshall’s embrace of the individual — a poetic and artistic, highly humane embrace–that has allowed the reader (then and now) to enter his universe. There are, perhaps, no practical political, religious, or financial applications to Marshall’s work. It could even be argued that it should be seen as a rarefied artifact unto itself, an intricate and fantastically ornate artwork that creates its own language and then writes poetry with it. And what would be wrong with that? Art is art. And an artist, according to Marshall, is someone on the frontiers of perception, who looks at information overload with the goal of pattern recognition, to see things before anyone else”. – Douglas Coupland (2009). Marshall McLuhan, Toronto: Penguin Canada, pp. 142-143.



L. Canadian edition  –  R. American edition

Categories: Blog

B.W. Powe Explores Apocalypse & Alchemy of Two of Canada’s Greatest Thinkers

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:24pm

Bruce 123.jpg B.W. Powe. September 2010

Like the two-headed Roman god Janus, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye toiled together yet separately, within the same institution, forging new ways to think about emerging technologies, media, culture and literature. They often disagreed. But to York University English Professor B.W. Powe, a student of them both, they represent two sides of the coin of brilliance and he can’t help wonder if they saw that in each other.

Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye book coverFew authors have placed the men side by side as Powe has done in his new book, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (University of Toronto Press). It is here that Powe explores not only their eruptions of conflict – intellectual, academic and personal – but also their similarities, harmonies and lasting influence. He examines the parallels, interweaving and disparateness of their work and personal lives.

“McLuhan and Frye were two teachers who were also visionaries, guides to media awareness and to the deep structure of literature; they were prophetic figures who worked side by side from 1946 until 1980 in the Department of English at the University of Toronto . . . where they made us see reality in different ways and changed our perceptions,” says Powe. “They initiated a highly original Canadian visionary stream, one which highlights media ecology and the identity DNA at the heart of literature.”

McLuhan taught how to engage in the hyper-shifting environments of evolving technologies. “We remake the world through our technologies, and these in turn remake and extend us, in ever spiraling lattices of complexity. McLuhan uncannily foresaw the future, where electronic technology would shape and expand cultures and societies into a global membrane of communications,” says Powe.

Frye, on the other hand, taught how to “look inside the sprawl of seemingly unrelated literary works and see the structures, the codes, that are at play, unifying our vision into one which transforms the consciousness of the reader.” It is through literature that the eternal quest to know “who am I” is explored.

And that sparks the question Powe asks in the book: “What happens if we combine ‘the medium is the message’ with the Great Code?”

Read the rest of this review here .

Note: The book will be launched on Thursday, Sept. 18, at Founders College, York University Keele campus.

The same review also mentions Bruce’s contributions to another forthcoming publication:-

Before leaving it all behind, however, Powe is performing a literary encore as one of the contributors to the forthcoming book The Medium is the Muse (Channeling Marshall McLuhan (NeoPoiesis Press), edited by Lance Strate and Adeena Karasick, both professors of communication and media studies at Fordham University. Powe’s contribution is a “hallucinatory poem on Steve Jobs called ‘Technogenie.’ ”

The book is a diverse collection that brings together 29 poets, writers and artists who channel McLuhan as both medium and muse. Like McLuhan’s work, this volume promises to delight, divert, provoke, incite and inspire readers to channel McLuhan in their own imagination and creative endeavors. Oracle of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan believed artists could wake us and offer new windows into the world.

The Medium is the Muse book cover

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan 103rd Birthday Luncheon, July 21st, St. Michael’s College, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:26pm

(Poster by Jana Jankovic, Emilie Charlebois, Julia Lefebvre & student helpers)

Dear Friends,

Monday, July 21 will be the 103rd anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. To mark the occasion, we are organizing an informal luncheon at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. 

This is an opportunity to reconnect with members of the McLuhan Legacy Network, which was started for the centenary celebrations of  2011; even if you weren’t a part of that group, but share an interest in the work and legacy of Marshall McLuhan, you are invited to attend. The luncheon will just be cafeteria food, in the Canada Room, which is the student cafeteria, and will cost you less than $10. The food is reasonable, essentially the same meals as are provided in St Mike’s faculty lunch room. The room might be a bit noisy, as the kids from St. Mike’s summer camp eat there as well. All other rooms were booked, but the catering facility has promised to place room dividers to dampen the sound. The kids will be gone by 1:30.

We will gather between 12: 30 and 12:45 to go through the cafeteria line and bring our trays to the very east end of the room, where there will be nine tables accommodating four persons each. We will eat in small groups of four and at 1:30 after the camp kids depart, we can have a group conversation. It is possible we might be able to visit the Coach House where McLuhan worked afterward. Dominique Scheffel-Dunand is trying to facilitate this with the iSchool.

As there are only 36 places, we can only guarantee a spot for lunch to the first 36 folks that RSVP to Bob Logan at Even if you can’t make it for lunch, feel free to join us after 1:30 for the conversation.

Follow this link to view a map showing the location of the Canada Room in Brennan Hall, which is immediately west of St. Basil’s Church (which is near the corner of Bay and St. Joseph Streets). The entrance to the Canada Room is at the southwest corner of Brennan Hall:,-79.3896374,18z .

   Brennan Hall

canadaroom   Canada Room

Categories: Blog

Quentin Fiore & The Medium is the Massage (1967)

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 07/13/2014 - 12:30pm


The hardcover edition (left image) followed the paperback, which was published by Bantam Books: A McLuhanesque turn of the screw.

By:  | October 18, 2012

Quentin Fiore designed and, with Marshall McLuhan, co-authored The Medium Is the Massage, an icon of the 1960s and required reading for everyone involved in what McLuhan dubbed the “electric age.” McLuhan was a philosopher and seer whose books—The Mechanical BrideThe Gutenberg GalaxyThe Making of Typographic Man, and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man,—explored the evolution of technology and its effects on conscious and subconscious behavior. Revered by some, McLuhan was called a fake, a charlatan, and worse by critics who argued that his ideas were either simplistic, obtuse, silly, or contradictory. McLuhan argued that contradiction was an essential part of the contemporary condition and, moreover, that contradiction was a metaphor for television, a medium which allowed a person to ponder two or more ideas at one time.

To briefly state his theory, and thereby lay a foundation for Fiore’s graphic design, McLuhan believed that the invention of print and printing shattered community by allowing the oral tradition to become obsolete. He argued that writing and reading were solitary acts that adversely effected tribal unity, memory, and imagination. Electronic media, and television specifically, was destined to return us to a Global Village, allowing individuals to once again take an active role in the communications process. His mantra was “the medium is the message.” Media, he argued, are extensions of human activity (just as the wheel is an extension of the foot). Television, he said, allowed for greater individual participation. McLuhan, who believed that humor was paramount to conveying his message and was a passionate punster, said that electronics made “all the world a sage.” Marvin Kitman, who acerbically reviewed The Medium Is the Massage (the title is a double entendre on “mass age” and McLuhan’s notion that media are so pervasive that they work us over like a masseuse) referred to it as The Tedium Is the Message. At least at first, the criticisms of the book’s contents and visual presentation overwhelmed the praise.

But this should not eclipse the historic nature of Fiore’s work. The Medium Is the Massage was called the first book for the television age. The New York Times critic Eliot Freemont Smith said that the large format of the hardcover takes on “the aspect of a T.V. screen.” Fiore designed it as a kinetically flowing collection of word bites, iconic images, and clear and crisp typography. He underscored and highlighted McLuhan’s ideas with what amounts to a series of literary billboards, or what McLuhan impishly described as “collide-oscopic interfaced situations.” Read the full essay at .

Adapted from an essay in Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design (Allworth Press, 1997).

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the “Visuals” Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

Categories: Blog

2014 Medium & Light Award Goes to Father John Pungente SJ, Media Educator

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:01pm

Fr. John Pungente, S.J., with the Medium and Light Award presented to him by the Marshall McLuhan Initiative

Father John Pungente, S.J., with the Medium & Light Award presented to him by the Marshall McLuhan Initiative   (Photo courtesy of the Marshall McLuhan Initiative)

By Alex Kuskis, PhD

Father John Pungente, SJ was awarded the 2014 Medium and Light Award, which recognizes the religious dimensions of the life and work of Marshall McLuhan, for his work in religious communication and “longstanding dedication to media literacy. The award was announced at the recent MEA Convention at Ryerson University by Howard R. Engel, Director of the Marshall McLuhan Initiative at St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba. Mr. Engel commented: “His work for media literacy in the context of his own Ignatian spirituality bears eloquent testimony to finding God in all things, including the media.”

The inaugural award, in 2011, was presented to the late Father Pierre Babin, OMI (1925-2012), in Lyons, France, the 2012 award went to Dr. Thomas W. Cooper, Professor of Communication at Emerson College, Boston and Dr. Eric McLuhan was the recipient in 2013.

In a recent interview with the Catholic Register, Pungente called Marshall McLuhan a media genius and recalled learning from him when he was studying theology in Toronto. “His work was most influential in the development in the key concepts of media literacy, which I helped devise and which I used around the world in one form or another,” said Pungente. “I feel honoured in winning the award and being placed in the company of past winners like Pierre Babin and Eric McLuhan, Marshall’s son”. See interview at .

John J. Pungente, SJ, has worked in media education for over 50 years. He has co-authored Media Literacy: A Resource Guide (1989), Meet the Media (1990), More than Meets the Eye: Watching TV Watching Us (1999) and Finding God in the Dark: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Go To The Movies (2004). He has contributed to international journals and books on media education. He has degrees in English, Film, and Theology as well as two honorary doctorates for his work in media education.

Pungente is creator and host of the award-winning Bravo! television show – SCANNING THE MOVIES - which premiered in 1997. He is producer of the award winning video A HEART TO UNDERSTAND, and the 1996 award winning teaching kit, SCANNING TELEVISION. SCANNING TELEVISION 2 (2003) has also received a number of awards.

Since 1985 he has given over 300 presentations across Canada and Australia, in Europe, Great Britain, the USA and Japan. He serves as a consultant to media professionals including CHUM Television and Warner Bros. Canada. Pungente is president of the Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO) and Director of the Jesuit Communication Project in Toronto where he continues to promote media education. (Source:

The Jesuit Communication Project:

Eight Key Concepts for Media Literacy by John Pungente: 

Medium&Light_AwardMedium & Light Award

Categories: Blog

The Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room, Rogers Communication Centre, Ryerson University, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:06pm

Ryerson University used the occasion of the recent Media Ecology Association Convention (June 19-22) to publically commemorate their recently created Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room in their Rogers Communication Centre (RCC 202).  The room was named in honour of Marshall McLuhan’s association with Ryerson, which was known as Ryerson Institute of Technology when McLuhan knew it in the 1960s and ’70s. It was renamed Ryerson University in 2001. The ribbon cutting was done by Eric McLuhan, after welcoming comments by Academic Vice Provost Chris Evans, Dean Gerd Hauck and Emeritus Professor Donald Gillies (a onetime student of McLuhan). There will be more on Marshall McLuhan’s association with Ryerson in a later posting on this blog……….Alex

Here are some photographs of the Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room. Thanks to Sal Greco of Ryerson for providing them.

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room, Ryerson University

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room, Ryerson University

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room

The Ryerson Experiment, written by Marshall McLuhan, June 30, 1960. Find in The Critical Edition of "Understanding Media" (2003), Ed. by W. Terrence Gordon, published by Gingko Press (pp. 483-513).

The Ryerson Experiment, written by Marshall McLuhan, June 30, 1960. Find in The Critical Edition of “Understanding Media” (2003), Ed. by W. Terrence Gordon, published by Gingko Press (pp. 483-513).

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room, Display case

Marshall McLuhan Seminar Room, Display case

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