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McLuhan Centre Fall Program: Monday Night Seminar on Data Ethics, December 12

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 11:52am

New Coach Hose

Monday Night Seminar: Data Ethics

LOCATION: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, 39A Queens Park Crescent                       East off 121 St. Joseph St., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3   View Map

Monday Night Seminar, Monday, December 14th, 6:00 PM

 With Ann Cavoukian, Three-term Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; Executive Director of the Privacy & Big Data Institute at Ryerson University;

and Milton Friesen, program director Social Cities at Cardus and Steering Committee of the Thriving Cities Project at the University of Virginia.

Moderator: Paolo Granata


Ann Cavoukian. Appointed as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada in 1997, Dr. Ann Cavoukian served for an unprecedented three terms as Commissioner. In that time, she elevated the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner from a novice regulatory body to a first-class agency, known around the world for its cutting edge innovation and leadership. Dr. Cavoukian is best known for her creation of Privacy by Design – unanimously adopted as an international framework for privacy and data protection in 2010; now translated into 38 languages. As of July 1, 2014, she began a new position at Ryerson University as the Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute – Where Big Data meets Big Privacy.

Milton Friesen is a member of the think tank Cardus and is considered one of Canada’s leading thinkers in the area of social capital and its impact on neighbourhood development. Some of his project work has included creative team leadership, undergraduate teaching, marketing communications, editing, writing, interviewing, political campaign development, web strategies and content development.



Categories: Blog

The Medium is the Massage Audio Version (LP 1968)

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 6:28pm


When Marshall McLuhan proposed his idea to create an audio companion piece to his landmark 1967 book The Medium is the Massage, no one quite knew what to expect. The book itself brilliantly captured McLuhan’s theories on media and technology, arguing that the medium by which information is transferred to people was more important than the actual content being relayed. McLuhan hoped that an audio recording would help give greater depth to his theories, and in the late 1960s he and producer John Simon went to work on a record of the same name. Using audio clips of McLuhan speaking, often interrupted by discordant sounds and other voices interjecting, they created a thought-provoking, sometimes whimsical patchwork of sounds and ideas that illustrated the complex relationship between people, media, and technology. Over 40 years since its release, The Medium is the Massage continues to challenge listeners to think about media and communications in new ways. (Source: )

The Medium is the Massage

1. Side A

2. Side B

Tracks 1-2 From the LP “The Medium is the Massage”
(Columbia Records, late 1960s)

The Medium is the Massage; with Marshall McLuhan.
Long-Playing Record 1968.
Produced by John Simon.
Conceived and co-ordinated by Jerome Agel.
Written by Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel.
Columbia CS 9501, CL2701.

The Medium is the Massage From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects is a book co-created by media analyst Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore, and coordinated by Jerome Agel. It was published by Bantam books in 1967 and became a bestseller and a cult classic.

The book itself is 160 pages in length and composed in an experimental, collage style with text superimposed on visual elements and vice versa. Some pages are printed backwards and are meant to be read in a mirror (see mirror writing). Some are intentionally left blank. Most contain photographs and images both modern and historic, juxtaposed in startling ways.

The book was intended to make McLuhan’s philosophy of media, considered by some incomprehensible and esoteric, more accessible to a wider readership through the use of visual metaphor and sparse text. In its artistic approach it is considered cutting edge, even by today’s standards.

The book’s title is actually a mistake according to McLuhans’ son, Eric. The actual title was “The Medium is the Message” but it came back from the printer with the first “e” in message misprinted as an “a”. McLuhan is said to have thought the mistake to be supportive of the point he was trying to make in the book and decided to leave it be. Later readings have interpreted the word in the title as a pun meaning alternately “massage, “message,” and “mass age“. Its message, broadly speaking, is that historical changes in communications and craft media change human consciousness, and that modern electronics are bringing humanity full circle to an industrial analogue of tribal mentality, what he termed “the global village”. By erasing borders and dissolving information boundaries, electronic telecommunications are fated to render traditional social structures like the Nation state and the University irrelevant. Prejudice and oppression are also doomed by the unstoppable pressure of instant, global communication.

While today it looks like a black and white copy of Wired magazine, and its prose reads more or less like boilerplate for any of the heady techno-utopian pronouncements of the 1990s, it should be noted that it presaged the development of the original ARPANET by two years, and preceded the widespread civilian use of the Internet by almost twenty. For this and other reasons McLuhan is often given the moniker “prophet.”

There is also an LP based on this book, put out by Columbia Records in the late 60s and produced by John Simon, but otherwise keeping the same credits as the book.

You don’t have to buy the LP or CD version because it is freely available online on YouTube and at

Addendum: Quotes from the Audio Version of The Medium is the Massage:

Categories: Blog

A Presentation by the Marshall McLuhan Award Winner for Investigative Journalism (2016) on December 1

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 11:43pm


Join us Thursday DEC 1st, 2016, 6:00 PM (at the McLuhan Centre)

The Marshall McLuhan Award for Investigative Journalism

With Gigi Grande, news editor and presenter of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (recipient 2016).
Moderator: Bob Logan

A journalist for almost twenty years now, Ms. Grande is currently a correspondent for ABS-CBN’s Investigative Research group, responsible for producing in-depth news reports for the network’s various news platforms. She is also the anchor of The World Tonight Saturday and News Now on the ABS-CBN News Channel. 

She won the McLuhan Fellowship for her excellent reportage of the issues surrounding the Philippine national elections early this year. As an editor, she is also tasked to mentor and edit stories of reporters who contribute investigative reports. She had also managed a team of reporters covering the various political and Cabinet beats. She graduated with a degree in Tourism from the University of the Philippines.

For her presentation, she has chosen the topic: “Journalism in Challenging Times: Media as guardians of democracy and watchdog of society.” For decades, the Philippine media has been called the freest in Asia, carving its place as the guardians of democracy and the watchdog of society. But are times changing? Gigi Grande talks about journalism under the new political leadership.

Register Now The event is free and open to the public. Please be reminded that space is limited and your registration is a commitment to attend the event.

Read more about Gigi Grande of ABS-CBN is the 2016 Marshall McLuhan Fellow, Philippines

Categories: Blog

When Tools Shape You

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 10:53pm
November 23, 2016 –  By

The weaponized form of McLuhan’s famous phrase the medium is the message is the phrase, first we shape our tools, then our tools shape us (due to to McLuhan’s friend John Culkin). I have come to prefer this form of the idea, and my favorite motif for it is Doc Ock, the Marvel super-villain.


Doc Ock’s artificially intelligent arms fuse to his brain stem in a reactor accident. In the movie version, the intelligence in the arms alters his behavior by making lower-level brain functions, such as emotional self-regulation, more powerful and volatile. The character backstory suggests a personality — a blue-collar nerd bullied as a schoolkid — that was already primed for destabilization by the usual sort of super-villain narcissistic wound. The accident alters the balance of power between his higher-level brain functions, and the hardware-extended lower-level brain functions. In the Doc Ock story, first we shape our tools, then our tools shape us captures the adversarial coupling between medium and message-sender.

The weaker form of McLuhan’s idea suggests that media select messages rather than the other way around: paper selects for formal communication, email selects for informal communication, 4chan selects for trolling. The stronger form suggests that when there is a conflict between medium and message, the medium wins. A formal communication intent naturally acquires informal overtones if it ends up as an email, memetic overtones if it ends up as a 4chan message.

Culkin’s form is the strongest. It suggests that the medium reshapes the principal crafting the message. The Doc Ock motif suggests why. There is no such thing as a dumb agent. All media have at least weak, latent, distributed intelligence. Intelligence that can accumulate power, exhibit agency, and contend for control.

The most familiar example of this effect is in organizational behavior, captured in an extension to Alfred Chandler’s famous observation that structure follows strategy. That becomes first structure follows strategy, then strategy follows structure. The explicit form is Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: in a mature organization, agent goals trump principal goals.

A subtler, less familiar example is the philosophical idea that in any master-slave relationship, the slave can self-actualize through labor. In practice, this happens only when the slave has some freedom above absolute wretchedness, with sufficient cognitive surplus to turn learning from labor into political leverage.

In all such examples, the mechanism is the same. A seemingly powerless and dumb agent, by virtue of having privileged access to information and organizational operations, can become the principal by converting growing tacit knowledge of reality into consciously exercised political leverage.

The idea sheds light on why we are instinctively concerned about the Trump administration-in-waiting. While it is plausible, indeed probable, that Trump’s own ideological postures are merely expedient responses to the needs of the moment, the same cannot be said of many of his agents-in-waiting, whether acknowledged or not. They are tools at the moment, being shaped to the will of a victor. Unfortunately, they can easily go from being shaped to doing the shaping.


See also on this blog “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” at


Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936) – “First we shape our tools, then our tools shape us.”

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Salon #2: The Medium & the Light: Spirituality in the Global Theatre, December 8

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 11:08pm


The Medium and the Light: Spirituality in the Global Theatre

In collaboration with St. Paul’s Bloor Street

With Randy Boyagoda, University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto; Charles Falzon, Ryerson University; Anna-Liza Kozma, CBC.

Writer, critic and scholar Randy Boyagoda is the Principal and Vice-President of the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and Professor in the English Department. He also teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Christianity and Culture program, and holds the inaugural Basilian Chair in Christianity, Arts, and Letters at the University of St. Michael’s College. The author of four books – two novels, a biography, and a scholarly monograph – he regularly contributes essays, reviews and opinions to publications including The New York Times, Guardian, and Financial Times (UK), in addition to appearing frequently on CBC Radio. He also serves as the President of PEN Canada, the writers’ organization that celebrates literature, defends freedom of expression, and aids writers in peril.

Charles Falzon. An international media and entertainment executive, educator and cultural strategy leader, Charles is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) at Ryerson University, home to nine of the country’s leading schools in media and creative industries. In this role, he is a central figure in Ryerson’s curricular innovation, entrepreneurship education and city-building mission, with a focus on maximizing the impact of the creative industries as a catalyst for collaboration, innovation and civic engagement. Charles’ vision for a stronger cultural sector is informed by 30 years at the helm of public and private companies in media production, media distribution, book publishing, theme parks and live entertainment.

Anna-Liza Kozma trained at the BBC and has worked at CBC Radio as a staff producer for more than twenty years. She has been a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune and columnist for Her work on religion, current affairs and women`s issues has been published in books, journals and newspapers in Canada, the US and England. She holds a BA Honours in Media Studies from the Polytechnic of Central London (University of Westminster) and an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto. She now lurks as producer of CBC Radio’s national current affairs phone-in,Cross Country Checkup and is a Visiting Fellow at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.

DATE AND TIME: Thursdday, 8 December, 2016   –   7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST  Add to Calendar

LOCATION: St. Paul’s Bloor Street, 227 Bloor Street East, South side of Bloor Street East, equidistant between Yonge/Bloor and Sherbourne stations. Toronto, ON M4W 1C8.  View Map



St. Paul’s, Bloor Street, Toronto


Categories: Blog

Artists as Distant Early Warning Systems

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 11/21/2016 - 2:09pm

picassochagall Picasso & Chagall

The Artist as Distant Early Warning System (2005)

When multimedia artist Laurie Anderson performed recently in Vancouver, she mused how life is often like bad art. Characters come and go and never return. The plot changes randomly. Entire themes are abandoned halfway through. Unlike art, life’s point of view is always first person singular, in the present tense. (And usually a tense present.)

So one big purpose of art, for both the creator and the audience, is to give life the form it often lacks. Any artist worth his or her salt hopes to make a mark, to rise above mere trends, even if that expectation is something of a tall order in a culture with the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth.

Being ahead of your time has its down-side, evidenced by the struggling artist’s steady diet of Kraft dinner and humble pie. Prophets are rarely welcome in their own age – partly because of their habit of figuring out something stinks before the rest of us have even had a whiff. The creative contributor to culture has been compared to a “canary in a coal mine,” a reference to miners bringing the birds down coal shafts because of their sensitivity to toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide. Any signs of distress from the canaries was a clear sign that conditions were unsafe and the miners should evacuate.

Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan offered a different metaphor with a similar point. “I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it,” he wrote in the sixties. McLuhan was as much an oracle as a scholar, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that his more cryptic utterances began to make sense. A highly creative writer who refused to observe the protocols of academic writing, the University of Toronto prof was on the DEW line himself.

Sometimes it seems as if artists aren’t just registering seismic trends with their sensitive equipment, they are remote-viewing the future – or even conjuring it into being. “It is well known that art will often – for example, in pictures – precede the perceptible reality by years,” wrote the philosopher Walter Benjamin in the 1930s. “It was possible to see streets or rooms (in paintings) that show all sorts of fiery colors long before technology, by means of illuminated signs and other arrangements, actually set them under such a light. Whoever understands how to read these semaphores in advance not only knows about currents in the arts but also about legal codes, wars and revolutions.”

The stuff of today’s headlines is the content of yesterday’s canvases, films, novels, and music. Fear over mutated viruses? Check out either Michael Crichton’s novel or film The Andromeda Strain from three decades earlier. Frankenstein scenarios from genetically modified organisms? That’s a whole subgenre of bio-horror, ranging from to Jules Verne’s The Island of Doctor Moreau to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Computer age dystopias, with humans going cyber? The flesh-made-weird paintings of Hans Giger have combined machinery with biology for years, decorating rock album jackets and inspiring director Ridley Scott’s Aliens film series. Domestic surveillance and virtual worlds run amok? Pick up any of Philip K. Dick’s novels from decades back for a possible preview of a reality we’re building with our technical necromancy. Or go see the relatively recent films that were based on his books, once the world caught up with him: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report. All of these productions still seem like postcards from the future.

It’s no surprise that some artists seem to have a crystal ball, if you consider they’re sometimes responsible for entirely new idioms. These are often jarringly dissonant to the “cultured” eyes and ears of their time. Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral composition The Rite of Spring provoked riots when it was first performed in prewar Europe. The music of the Beatles was considered decadent and destructive by the balding guardians of British high culture. Today the most shocking piece of art is the contemporary protest song – shocking only in the sense that it is now so rarely heard on corporate rock radio. The music industry prefers to direct its promotional efforts on the smoothed down, processed Pablum of mega-selling boy bands and teen Stepford sirens. Programming behemoths like Clear Channel, which owns 1,200 stations in the US, prefers to not rock the boat, the vote, or anything else. But artists like Michael Franti and Green Day still get manage to get around the media matrix, which is still not completely monolithic – good stuff still trickles through.

Like the lion in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, who sang the world into existence, the best artists seem to embody the spirit of creation itself. Even comedy has its ahead-of-their-time visionaries, like Lenny Bruce, Australian Barry Humphries and the late Bill Hicks. The skill of the standup prophet is to say the unsayable, and put it such a way that repressed energy is released in laughter.

Geoff Olson      (Source: )

See also on this blog “Artists as ‘the Antennae of the Race'”:

“Distant Early Warning Line Card Deck” (1969):

dew-line3DEW Line Radar Stations



Categories: Blog

The Proverbs of St. McLuhan, Presented by Kevin Kelly

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 11/18/2016 - 8:11pm

Marshall McLuhan famously dictated much of his “writings” — his literacy began in orality — an irony that was part of his message about the new media. He would lie on a couch in his office and channel some oracle from the future while his students scribbled down his announcements. For this reason, no one really needs to read McLuhan [Disagreed. Reading him is the only way to really understand him, although watching videos of his lectures and interviews is almost equally insightful.]. Much better to hear his quotes second hand or just scan his blurbs and proverbs.


McLuhan was very religious, his variety being Catholic. He was almost priestly in an old way, like the prophesying priests of Delphi. It was in reference to his cosmic faith that at the launch of Wired magazine, I anointed him Wired’s Patron Saint in the masthead. In that same spirit I present these highlights from a few of his lesser known books as proverbs from St. McLuhan. [Obviously, Kevin Kelly has read them all, thereby undermining the facetious claim that nobody needs to read McLuhan.]

Highlights from Understanding Media

  • Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer. In this role, electronic man is no less a nomad than his paleolithic ancestors.
  • Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.
  • It is a principal aspect of the electric age that it establishes a global network that has much of the character of our central nervous system.
  • Electric speed mingles the cultures of prehistory with the dregs of industrial marketeers, the nonliterate with the semiliterate and the postliterate. Mental breakdown of varying degrees is the very common result.
  • The American stake in literacy as a technology or uniformity applied to every level of education, government, industry, and social life is totally threatened by the electric technology.
  • Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot.
  • In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.
  • By putting our physical bodies inside our extended nervous systems, by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies — including cities — will be translated into information systems.
  • Under electric technology the entire business of man becomes learning and knowing…and all forms of wealth result from the movement of information.
  • Each new technology turns its predecessor into an art form.
  • Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world…enabling it to evolve ever new forms.
  • Except for light, all other media come in pairs, with one acting as the “content” of the other, obscuring the operation of both.
  • Electromagnetic technology requires utter human docility and quiescence of meditation such as befits an organism that now wears its brain outside its skull and its nerves outside its hide.
  • The problem of discovering occupations or employment may prove as difficult as wealth is easy.
  • Might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?
  • The new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves constitute a huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete disregard for antiseptics.
  • What would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties?
  • Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left.
  • The implosion of electric energy in our century cannot be met by explosion or expansion, but it can be met by decentralism and the flexibility of multiple small centers.
  • Computers hold out the promise…to bypass languages in favor of general cosmic consciousness.
  • Electric speeds create centers everywhere…This is the new world of the global village.
  • Today the acceleration tends to be total, and thus ends space as the main factor in social arrangements.
  • War is never anything less than accelerated technological change.
  • Now that man has extended his central nervous system by electric technology, the field of battle has shifted to mental image making and breaking, both in war and in business.
  • Print gave to men the concept of indefinite repetition so necessary to the mathematical concept of infinity. The same Gutenberg fact of uniform, continuous, and indefinitely repeatable bits inspired also the related concept of the infinitesimal calculus.
  • “Money talks” because money is a metaphor.
  • The clock dragged man out of the world of seasonal rhythms and recurrence, as effectively as the alphabet had released him from the magical resonance of the spoken word and the tribal trap.
  • Primitive man lived in a much more tyrannical cosmic machine than Western literate man has ever invented.
  • The world of the ear is more embracing and inclusive than that of the eye can ever be.
  • The book was the first teaching machine and also the first mass-produced commodity.
  • Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary for newspapers and television to have a lot of bad news.
  • The social practices of one generation tend to get codified into the “game” of the next.
  • There is a desperate need for games in a highly specialized industrial culture, since they are the only forms of art accessible to many minds.
  • Electricity is only incidentally visual and auditory; it is primarily tactile.
  • The “human interest” dimension is simply that of immediacy of participation in the experience of others that occurs with instant information.
  • The telephone is a participant form that demands a partner. Any literate man resents such a heavy demand for his total attention, because he has long been accustomed to fragmentary attention.
  • The telephone: speech without walls. The phonograph: music hall without walls. The photograph: museum without walls. The electric light: space without walls. The movie, radio, and TV: classroom without walls.
  • Just as we now try to control atom-bomb fallout, so we will one day try to control media fallout. Education will become recognized as civil defense against media fallout.
  • With TV the viewer is the screen.
  • Electric persuasion by photo and movie and TV works by dunking entire populations in new imagery.
  • With instant electric technology, the globe itself can never again be more than a village.
  • The future of work consists of learning a living.

Highlights from Culture is Our Business

  • Privacy invasion is now one of our biggest knowledge industries.
  • The great corporations are new tribal families.

From Gutenberg Galaxy

  • Instead of tending toward a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain.
  • As our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside.
  • Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time.

Source: The Technium


Kevin Kelly in March 2016.


Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor for its first seven years. His new book for Viking/Penguin is called The Inevitable, with a publication date of June 6, 2016. He is also founding editor and co-publisher of the popular Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily since 2003. From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technical news. He co-founded the ongoing Hackers’ Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. His books include the best-selling New Rules for the New Economythe classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control, a graphic novel about robots and angels, The Silver Cord, an oversize catalog of the best of Cool Tools, and his summary theory of technology in What Technology Wants (2010).

A longer Bio is available here

Categories: Blog

A Review of Harold Innis’s History of Communications: Paper & Printing- Antiquity to Early Modernity (2015)

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 11/15/2016 - 3:27pm


By Phil A. Rose, McMaster University

HAROLD INNIS’S HISTORY OF COMMUNICATIONS: PAPER & PRINTING — ANTIQUITY TO EARLY MODERNITY. Edited by William J. Buxton, Michael R. Cheney, & Paul Heyer. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. 185 pp. ISBN: 9781442243385.

With their recently published version of Harold Innis’s History of Communications: Paper and Printing — Antiquity to Early Modernity, editors William Buxton, Michael Cheney, and Paul Heyer provide an excellent reminder of the tragedy of the premature demise of Harold Innis. Originally subtitled An Incomplete and Unrevised Manuscript, the History of Communications is a project that Innis assembled during the last dozen or so years of his life. As John Durham Peters notes, contributing a foreword to the volume, the manuscript has attained a near legendary status among Innis scholars. Consequently, its being published, in any format at all for the first time, has brought into broader light some of what we might have expected from Innis had he lived beyond the meager 58 years he was allotted. Apparently totalling about 1,400 pages in length and going back approximately to 1500 BC with ancient India and China, the editors, in their introduction, draw our attention to the momentous scholarly significance of Innis’s formerly unpublished work: namely, that it very likely constitutes the first true inroads ever made into the history of communications as a field and topic of study.

Noting the overlapping territory with Innis’s monumental Empire and Communications (1950), Buxton, Cheney, and Heyer point out that History doubtless provided that text with some of its source material, contrary to what has become the established view within Innis scholarship that it had followed as outtakes of that classic work. Rather than being framed around civilizations, however, the incomplete and unpublished “History” manuscript was organizing its investigation around types of media, and, accordingly, included much greater textured detail in that regard.

Recounting that the first three chapters were meant to move from the Near East to Europe and to focus on the materials on which texts were written (specifically clay, papyrus, and parchment), our editorial trio delineates how Innis’s overall intention was to trace the history of writing materials up to and including the twentieth century. With the remainder of the volume outlining how paper migrated from China to Europe, they emphasize Innis’s analysis of how this process thus “set the stage for the epic battle between parchment and paper, culminating in the triumph of paper culture, as linked to printing and publishing, as well as a host of institutions and practices they underpinned” (p. 4). Paper was a revolutionary medium, and Buxton, Cheney, and Heyer keenly elucidate how Innis’s fascinating project reflects a continuation of his earlier emphasis on staples, typically things like the fur trade and the cod fisheries, and, here, rooted in his focus on the pulp and paper industry.

Shortly after Innis’s death, an edited version of this project was submitted to the University of Toronto Press but was rejected as a result of the poor reviews it garnered, claiming that it amounted basically to reading notes that would constitute plagiarism should they be published. Alexander John Watson (2007) upholds this interpretation, but this is an account that excludes any reference to previous versions of the manuscript identified in the Innis Archives at the University of Toronto. Buxton, Cheney, and Heyer have likewise edited and significantly “cleaned up” the text, and Innis originally intended the three chapters included in this volume to be Chapters Four, Five, and Six of a much larger work. Consecutively titled “The Coming of Paper,” “Printing in the 15th Century,” and “Printing in the 16th Century,” these chapters address topics that are not significantly dealt with elsewhere, including the effects on Elizabethan book markets of the uncertainty of patronage, and questions about power, class, and labour struggles within the early French paper industry, issues that tend to be left unaddressed in Innis’s political-economic analyses.

As Innis traces the spread of the making of paper and the paper industry from China through Turkestan, Baghdad, Tihama, Damascus, Sicily, and Fez, to what is now modern Spain, France, Italy, and Germany, he also explores topics such as the use of ink, movable type, and the distribution of both paper and books. The editors summarize the mammoth media ecological dimensions of the project, and the way that Innis clarifies how paper and printing were linked to a range of phenomena, “including language, religion, printed currency, public opinion, literature, and education” (p. 7). Summarizing the developments that paper helped to spawn, and that Innis here explores, they include “credit, monopolized lending, a growing interest in antiquity, the revival of Roman law, constitutionalism, the accessing of scriptures, the preserving of Latin, the subverting of feudal law, the reforming of the Church, the Protestant revolt, the strengthening of vulgate languages, and the beginning of the Renaissance” (p. 8).

In this regard, the editors point out how History now takes its place as the first among a number of important texts concerned with the role of print in early modernity that emerged in the wake of Innis’s death, including Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin’s The Coming of the Book (1958), Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962), and the late Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (1978). Some of the interesting historical details that Innis notes in his work include the introduction of cursive handwriting at the end of the 11th century, along with the recognition of how writing’s development on a large scale assumed the existence of a cheaper material than parchment, which until the late 13th century was very expensive. Though paper was introduced generally in the fourteenth century, Innis notes that it was not a serious rival to parchment until the fifteenth century, when the paper industry had also reached Germany. And there, in 1534, Martin Luther published the first German edition of the entire Scriptures within one volume.

Looking ahead to the soon-to-be-released follow-up to this volume, Buxton, Cheney, and Heyer have said that they are publishing Innis’s hitherto unpublished and now missing MA thesis The Returned Soldier (1918), along with his incomplete memoir (which goes only up to 1922) and some of his central correspondence, including letters sent home from Toronto to Otterville that describe his agony and culture shock, when he first set off to McMaster University, back in the days before McMaster moved its operations from Toronto to Hamilton.

Fittingly, the editors refer to the chapters they have included here as Innis’s analysis of “the paper and printing complex.” And they suggest that what Innis accomplishes in this work is to probe its impacts in Asia and Europe “upon politics, culture, and economics” (p. 8). As it so happens, not least of these impacts were those in France, where, as Innis informs us, new regulations apparently exempted booksellers from military services; as an alternative, however, they were “compelled to light the public lanterns each evening to 1640” (p. 90). Though Innis never sounds off on the complexion of this arrangement, we could predict—given his own traumatic experience of the First World War—that he may have viewed this as a reasonable compromise.

Reference: Watson, Alexander John. (2007). Marginal man: The dark vision of Harold Innis. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Published in: ROSE, Phil A. Harold Innis’s History of Communications: Paper and Printing – Antiquity to Early Modernity. Canadian Journal of Communication, [S.l.], v. 41, n. 4, nov. 2016. ISSN 1499-6642. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 15 Nov. 2016.

Source (from which a PDF of this review can be downloaded):

For publication details see the original announcement of this book on this blog at

innis3 Harold Adams Innis (1894 – 1952)

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Centre Fall Program: Monday Night Seminars, November 14 & 21; December 12, 2016

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 11/09/2016 - 8:50pm

New Coach Hose

2016-17 Theme: The New Shape of Things: Big Data, Big Stories

Our theme last year was “City as Classroom” where we sought insight and experience that the city has to offer to inform and stimulate. This year we go beyond the city in exploring the extent to which McLuhan’s adage that “the medium is the message” applies to the underlying influences of our data surround and in particular “big data” that shape and influence how we see, act and grow. We seek explore data both literally and metaphorically from a variety of perspectives of science, the arts, business, industry and academe.

LOCATION: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, 39A Queens Park CrescentEast off 121 St. Joseph St., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3   View Map

Monday Night Seminar, Monday, November 14th, 6:00 PM


With Josh Akers, Geography and Urban & Regional Studies;
Christopher Lee, University of Buffalo, Department of Art
Mita Williams, University of Windsor Information Services
Janine Marchessault, York University, Cinema and Media Studies




Monday Night Seminar, Monday, November 21st, 6:00 PM

With Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and writer;
Ramona Pringle, Ryerson University;
Seamus Ross, University of Toronto and Visiting Professor Athens University of Economics and Business (2016)




Monday Night Seminar, Monday, December 12th, 6:00 PM



Categories: Blog

New Book Announcement: Written by an Original Member of the Toronto School: David R. Olson

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 11:15am


The Mind on Paper: Reading, Consciousness and Rationality

David R. Olson, Professor Emeritus, OISE, University of Toronto

Author Information:

Planned Publication: November 2016   –   Not yet published   –   Hardback   –   ISBN: 9781107162891

Although the importance of literacy is widely acknowledged in society and remains at the top of the political agenda, writing has been slow to establish a place in the cognitive sciences. Olson argues that to understand the cognitive implications of literacy, it is necessary to see reading and writing as providing access to and consciousness of aspects of language, such as phonemes, words and sentences, that are implicit and unconscious in speech. Reading and writing create a system of metarepresentational concepts that bring those features of language into consciousness as a subject of discourse. This consciousness of language is essential not only to acquiring literacy but also to the formation of systematic thought and rationality. The Mind on Paper is a compelling exploration of what literacy does for our speech and hence for our thought, and will be of interest to readers in developmental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, and education.

  • Presents a general theory of how reading and writing invite a new and distinctive consciousness of language
  • Finds a significant place for writing in the cognitive and educational sciences
  • Shows that the ‘reading wars’ can be resolved by a better understanding of the role of metarepresentational knowledge in reading and learning to read

Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction: Reading, Writing and the Mind
1. Awakening: reading and consciousness
Part II. Theories of the Relation between Writing and Mind:
2. Inventing writing: the history of writing and the ontogeny of writing
3. Dewey and the New Pragmatists: reading, writing and mind
4. Vygotsky and the Vygotskians
5. The cognitive science of metarepresentation
Part III. Reading and the Invention of Language about Language:
6. Phonemes and the alphabet
7. The discovery of words and thinking about words
8. Sentences and logic
9. Prose and rational argument
10. The testing of rationality and the rationality of testing
Part IV. The Implications and Uses of Metarepresentational Language:
11. The psychology and pedagogy of reading
12. The psychology and pedagogy of rationality
Part V. Conclusions:
13. Reading, consciousness and rationality
Author index
Subject index.

Look Inside (PDF): Front Matter (86 KB)

Follow the link below to retrieve PDFs of: Index (80 KB)  –  Marketing Excerpt (85 KB)  –  Table of Contents (38 KB)  –  Copyright Information Page (36 KB)   Source: 

See for author background information and previous books: 

“Conceptually, I am a child at at least a step-child of Jerome Bruner, Jack Goody, Marshall McLuhan and Eric Havelock.” – Preface to The World on Paper (1994)


Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan’s Legacy Enhanced at the University of Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 11/04/2016 - 10:26pm

An exhibition on Marshall McLuhan is running at Toronto’s St. Michael’s College until Dec. 20.

Marshall McLuhan’s legendary status confirmed with exhibition

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register, October 23, 2016

When Marshall McLuhan died New Year’s Eve 1980, the University of Toronto lost a man they found slightly embarrassing.

In the view of university administrators, McLuhan’s Monday night seminars on culture, technology and media had become more cult than curriculum. His exalted status as one of the great minds of the era had reached no higher than a cameo appearance in the Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall.

He wasn’t merely an academic observing the media. He had become a media star. That was unforgivable in university circles.

And then there was all that Catholic stuff — his musings on the effect of microphones on the liturgy, etc.

On his death at age 69, the university immediately closed McLuhan’s office and classroom in the coach house, which had become a centre of interdisciplinary studies in media. The administration mocked students who protested the move.

McLuhan’s son, Michael, recalls that his father endured more than his share of “academic jealousy.” There was, after McLuhan’s death, almost a campaign “trying to keep him from being taken seriously,” said Michael McLuhan.

At an event Oct. 13, the University of St. Michael’s College emphatically reclaimed McLuhan and recognized his status as a towering figure in the 164-year history of the Catholic college, where McLuhan had been a faculty member since 1946.

Who wouldn’t want to be associated with the man who predicted the Internet 30 years before it happened?

The final rehabilitation of McLuhan at the school involves an exhibition on his life and work at the John M. Kelly Library of St. Michael’s College, on display until Dec. 20. St. Michael’s kicked the exhibition off by elevating René Cera’s interpretation of McLuhan’s thought in the painting Pied Pipers All — the canvas had once served as backdrop to McLuhan’s Monday night seminars at the coach house — to a central location on campus in the Canada Room of Brennan Hall.

Georgetown University’s Paul Elie delivered a lecture on “The Makings of a Spirituality of Technology: Glenn Gould, Marshall McLuhan and ‘Electronic Participation’” after Cera’s painting was unveiled.

That there is a spirituality to McLuhan’s work should surprise no one.

“His faith was absolutely inextricable from who he was and what he did,” said Michael.



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