strict warning: Declaration of date_handler_field_multiple::pre_render() should be compatible with content_handler_field_multiple::pre_render($values) in /home/mcluhan/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/includes/ on line 76.

Piazza McLuhan at Digifest, April 28 – 30, 2016, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:58am

Piazza McLuhan Digifest 2016

April 28 – 30, 2016 at Corus Quay, Toronto

Explore the legacy of Canada’s very own Marshall McLuhan at Digifest!

Digifest and the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology present the Piazza McLuhan. The Piazza is a gathering place for Digifest attendees to experience and explore the changing and confounding world around us built on the legacy of Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan was one of the most charismatic, controversial and original thinkers of our time whose remarkable perception propelled him onto the international stage. Marshall McLuhan is universally regarded as the father of communications and media studies and prophet of the information age

Students in the Interaction Design and Development as well as the Interactive Media Management programs will feature the “Interactive Bar” in the Piazza. The “Interactive Bar” will have interactive demos that feature technology in a way that will honour its past, celebrate the present and envision the future.

The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology is an initiative of the Coach House Institute, Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, in partnership with the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto, Mississauga.


Digifest is Toronto’s international festival celebrating digital creativity.

Digifest is an immersive three-day event that showcases groundbreaking creations and trending content in digital media, art, design and technology. International speakers, interactive installations and collaborative workshops all take place April 28 – 30th at the innovative Corus Quay building on Toronto’s waterfront.

The festival fosters connections by bringing together industry, academics and the public, to inspire us to think about how digital tools and technology will shape our lives and our future. From architects to app designers, creators and entrepreneurs take centre stage to share their stories and showcase the digital and technological discoveries that will re-shape some of today’s pressing challenges.

Ticket information and sales here:

See short Digifest promo video below:

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Centre Spring Program Week 2: Monday Night Seminar, April 11; Workshop, April 12; Book Salon, April 13

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 04/07/2016 - 4:17pm

Winter/Spring 2016 program of events

BEYOND THE BUZZ – What holds the community together?

MONDAY, 11 APRIL, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

With Don Morrison, Douglas Rushkoff, Christina Zeidler

DON MORRISON was Chief Operating Officer of Research in Motion (now known as
BlackBerry), a position he held from 2000 until his retirement in the fall of 2011. Don is currently the Chairman and Founder of New Seeds: The Thomas Merton Centre for Interreligious Dialogue here in Toronto, and the Chair of the Board of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a member of the Board of the MasterCard Foundation focused on education and financial   inclusion projects in Africa. Don was the recipient of the 2011 Human Relations Award from the Canadian Centre for Diversity.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF is the author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture, including Program or Be ProgrammedMedia Virus, Life Inc, the novel Ecstasy Club, and Coercion, winner of the Marshall Mcluhan Award for best media book. Winner of the Media Ecology Association’s first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, he is Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens. He wrote the graphic novels Testament and A.D.D., and made the television documentaries Generation LikeMerchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and Digital Nation. @rushkoff

CHRISTINA ZEIDLER is a film and video artist with over thirty short film and video titles in distribution, which have shown internationally at festivals and appeared on television and the web. Christina was named one of Toronto’s 10 best Filmmakers by Cameron Bailey and won the Best Canadian Media Award at the 2004 Images Film Festival. Her first feature film
“Portrait of a Serial Monogamist” (a lesbian romantic comedy about coming of middle age) will have its North American theatrical release in early 2016. As a curator and entrepreneur she is interested in building trust with cultural communities and communities of artists by creating space for people to engage in creative risk taking.This approach has informed her work as the “chief alchemist” of The Gladstone Hotel. @GladstoneHotel




Jessika Tremblay Awarded Faculty of Arts and Science Germany/Europe Fund Award for Ethnography Lab Project

TUESDAY, 12 APRIL, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

With Joshua Barker, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto
City as Subject, City as Sandbox:
How U of T’s Ethnography Lab is Embracing Toronto

The Ethnography Lab promotes ethnographic research methods and practice in the university and outside academia. Arranged in interest groups, the Lab explores the craft and impact of ethnography in the contemporary world. In this workshop, we will introduce and discuss the Ethnography Lab’s experiences developing the Kensington Market Research Project, a long-term effort by students, faculty, and community members to produce a body of rich and detailed knowledge about transformations underway in Toronto’s most celebrated multicultural heritage district.



WEDNESDAY, 13 APRIL, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

On the Nature of Media: Essays, 1952-1978
Gingko Press, 2016

With Philip Marchand, Eric McLuhan

Media studies has been catching up with McLuhan over the last 50 years. These essays are drawn from the most productive quartercentury of his career (1952-1978), and demonstrate his abiding interest in the materiality of mediation, from comic books to fashion, from technology to
biology. Anchoring these essays are four meditations on the work of his great predecessor, Harold Adams Innis, who first proposed the centrality of mediation to every facet of our daily lives. McLuhan took this task literally; rejecting the specialist approach of academic study, he published in mainstream magazines such as Look and Harper’s Bazaar on topics such as
sexuality and the fashion industry. The essays offer a rare glimpse into a great mind as it works out the implications of the effects of media not only on what we know but on how we are coming to understand our being.


Categories: Blog

The Coach House Institute Appoints a New Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology, University of Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 5:59pm

Prof Sarah Sharma of the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology (University of Toronto – Mississauga) with a graduate appointment at the Faculty of Information (St. George Campus) has been appointed Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology.  Professor Sharma’s research on technology and culture extends the Toronto School into new conceptual and empirical terrain wherein bodies, labour, and social differences are made central to the scope of the medium. She is thrilled to be back in Toronto and have the opportunity to work in the space that has inspired so much of her research and teaching.

Professor Sarah Sharma
Associate Professor
Director of the McLuhan Program of Culture and Technology at the Coach House Institute (St. George Campus)
Hours: Tuesday 1130-1330
Degrees & Institutions:  

PhD Communication and Culture
York University
Toronto, Ontario

1999- 2000 
MA International Relations and Political Theory University of Westminster, Center for the Study of Democracy, London, England

1995- 1999  
BA Political Science University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Recent Courses:

CCIT 200 Intercultural Communication
CCIT 490 Gender, Sex, Machines: Readings in Feminist Media and Technology Studies

Selected Publications:


In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics, Duke University Press, 2014.
*Winner of the 2014 Critical Cultural Division National Communication Book of the Year Award

Journal Articles/Book Chapters

“Seizing Time and Ceasing Fire: Race and Mobility on the LA Gang Tour” co-authored with Armond Towns, Transfers Journal of Mobility Studies, (In press, forthcoming 2016).

“Temporality” in Laurie Ouellette and Jonathan Gray’s Keywords in Media Studies (under contract with New York University Press)

“The Speed Trap: Of Taxis, Truck Stops and TaskRabbits” in Societies of Speed edited by Judy Wajcman and Nigel Dodd (in press Oxford University Press, forthcoming Fall 2016)

“Checked Baggage: An Afterword for Time and Globalization” in Time and Globalization edited by O’Brien, Susie and Tony Porter et al (Routledge: New York, in press)

“Because the Night Belongs to Lovers: Occupy and the Time of Precarity” Communication and Critical Cultural Studies Vol. 11, Nos. 1, 2014.

“Critical Time”, Communication and Critical Cultural Studies, Vol. 10, Nos. 2-3, June-September 2013.

“It Changes Space and Time: Introducing Power-Chronography” in Jeremy Packer and Steve Wiley (eds) Communication Matters: Materialities, Infrastructure, and Flows Routledge, 2012.

“The Biopolitical Economy of Time” Special Issue on Autonomism and Communication: Ten Years after Empire in Journal of Communication Inquiry, Oct 2011.

“Taxicab Publics and the Production of Brown Space after 9/11”, Cultural Studies Vol. 24, No. 2 March 2010.

“PostFeminism Galore:  The Bond Girl as Weapon of Mass Consumption” (with Jeremy Packer) in Jeremy Packer’s Secret Agents: Popular Icons beyond James Bond (ed) Peter Lang: 2009.

“The Great American Staycation and the Risk of Stillness” M/C Journal of Media and Culture 12 (1) March 2009.

“Baring Life and Lifestyle in the Non-Place” Cultural Studies, Volume 23 Issue 1, Jan 2009.

“Taxis as Media:  A Temporal Materialist Reading of the Taxicab” Social Identities:  Journal of Race, Nation, and Culture 14.4 July 2008.

“Jean Baudrillard at the Edge of the Technological Dynamo” Communication and Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2008. (Invited)


Research Interests:

My research focuses on the relationship between technology and culture with a particular focus on social inequalities. One key strand of my research has focused on time as a site of social difference in a culture that is imagined to be technologically speeding up. I am currently at work on a new project that engages medium theory and feminist approaches to technology on such sites as algorithmic culture, the “sharing” economy, and the changing structures of care labour.

Research Areas:

  • Technology and Culture
  • Toronto School
  • Feminist Media Studies
  • Political Theory (Autonomist Marxism, Post-Structuralism, Biopolitics)
  • Labour Studies
  • Globalization and Identity
  • Temporality and Social Space
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Road ( View Map )
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
Tel: (905) 569-4455                [ Source: ]
Categories: Blog

For Whom the Medium Matters – A McLuhan Centre Symposium, April 16, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 04/03/2016 - 12:58pm

For Whom The Medium Matters brings together local scholars and field defining media theorists who build on the Toronto School tradition. These are scholars “for whom” the medium is central to their work and address “for whom” the medium comes to matter in different ways.


University of Southern California

York University

New York University

PECHA KUCHA (Definition: )

Michael Darroch  WINDSOR+DETROIT
Judith Nicholson SMART GUNS, DUMB USERS?

Curated by Sarah Sharma
Director of McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology

Saturday, 16 April 2016 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (EDT) – Add to Calendar
McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology Coach House Institute – 39A Queens Park Crescent E Off 121 St. Joseph st., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3, Canada – View Map

Free Attendance, limited seating  –  Registration required:

McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology
Categories: Blog

McLuhan Centre Spring Program Week 1: Monday Night Seminar, April 4; Workshop, April 5; New Explorations Group, April 6

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/31/2016 - 12:28pm

Winter/Spring 2016 program of events

CASTING A VISION – Is the future of the future the present?

Inaugural Spring Season Seminar

MONDAY, 4 APRIL, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

With Marc Glassman, Roberto Dante Martella, David Rokeby

MARC GLASSMAN is an arts journalist, film programmer, teacher, bookseller and cultural impresario. The recipient of the Toronto Arts Award in literature in 2000 and the Tom Berner Prize for his support of independent filmmaking in 2003, he is an Adjunct Professor at Ryerson University’s Masters of Fine Arts in Documentary Media programme and the Artistic Director of the festival Pages UnBound as well as its fall and spring series (formerly This Is Not A Reading Series) a multidisciplinary project that explores the creative process in literature. @GlassmanMarc

ROBERTO DANTE MARTELLA is the owner of grano in Toronto. Over the years grano has been proclaimed by Toronto Life, as celebrating all things Italian from the language to the linguine, this latter the title of the Italian language classes which grano has offered for the past 25 years. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto with fluency in English, French and Italian and a working knowledge of Spanish. He has studied Japanese. Cultural initiatives at grano include the grano series, the grano sessions, Language and Linguine Italian Language Lessons, Ben McNally Authors’ Evening and numerous socio-cultural events. Cavaliere della Repubblica Italiana and a Jane Jacobs Prize recipient. @grano1986

DAVID ROKEBY is an artist who works with a variety of digital media to explore the impacts these media are having on contemporary human lives. Rokeby’s early work Very Nervous System (1982-1991) was a pioneering work of interactive art, translating physical gestures into interactive sound environments. He has exhibited and lectured extensively internationally and has received numerous international awards including a Governor General’s Award and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art. @Drokeby

  • Interior view of <em>Through the Vanishing Point</em>

Canadian artists Lewis Kaye and David Rokeby were commissioned to create site-specific works at the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. As the framework of the installation they drew from Marshall McLuhan’s book Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (coauthored by Harley Parker), 1968, which explores the way electronic media fragments the homogenous experience of space. Click on link to view the installation:




TUESDAY, 5 APRIL, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

Interactive Media Lab Logo

With Mark Chignell and Andrea Wilkinson, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto

Living with Dementia. Re-engaging through Ambient Augmenting Activities  The Interactive Media Lab carries out innovative design informed by applied cognitive psychology and human factors engineering. How can redesign of environments and activities improve the quality of life for people living with dementia? In this workshop, we will explore the challenges of engaging people with dementia, managing their behaviours, and creating meaningful activities that they can participate in without continuous support. We will introduce some of the ambient activities developed with an industry partner (Ambient Activity), and discuss issues around designing for dementia. Our goal is to encourage an exchange of ideas and expertise between humanists, scientists, designers, and stakeholders.

This workshops is open to all within and outside academia. REGISTER NOW at 



WEDNESDAY, 6 APRIL, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

How do we account for the contemporary western interest in the “body” and in various techniques of bodily and emotional equilibrium, which have come to supplement the new era of technological innovation with a “new age” of ancient consciousness? In this session, we enter a global YouTube community, which, through whispers, crinkle noises, and roleplaying,
seeks to engender the peculiar cognitive euphoria known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan, Moses Znaimer & Canadian TV in the 1970s & ’80s

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 03/29/2016 - 11:59am

The public has yet to see TV as TV. Broadcasters have no awareness of its potential. The movie people are just beginning to get a grasp on film. - Marshall McLuhan

The above was quoted in “Marshall McLuhan, Author, Dies; Declared ‘Medium Is the Message'” by Alden Whitman, The New York Times, January 1, 1981

In an article titled “Canadian TV is a place of squalor and neglect”, Toronto Globe & Mail TV critic John Doyle laments the current sad state of Canadian television thus:-

“I’m surprised it took him [CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais] so long to recognize that Canadian TV execs are extremely rich and don’t care much about fulfilling their mandated obligations to the Canadian culture. It’s a lucrative racket. If we see television as a landscape filled with a variety of buildings and edifices, then Canadian commercial TV execs are slum landlords, getting rich by bilking pitiful tenants. What they own and manage, in terms of Canadian content, is a place of squalor and neglect. A slum”. )


The situation was not always that bad and a recent Toronto Star article by Ed Conroy recalls “six great examples of trail-blazing Toronto TV shows which augured the internet age,” that “not only foretold much of what would come to pass, but also trained us how to best prepare for this new media revolution”. They were:  Media Circus, TVOntario (which hosted intellectuals such as McLuhan and Northrop Frye); Free For All, Citytv (co-founded by Moses Znaimer, who was its CEO); Bits & Bytes, TVOntarioSpeaker’s Corner, Citytv (a Moses Znaimer innovation); Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntariostreetNOISE, YTV (see )


As the examples just listed suggest, Moses Znaimer was responsible for more than a little of the creative Canadian TV of the 1970s and ’80s and he was very much influenced and inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s commentaries on TV, which though not uncritical of the medium, nevertheless took it seriously as a medium worth studying and writing about, as comments like these suggest:-

  • “The TV camera has no shutter. It does not deal with aspects or facets of objects in high resolution. It is a means of direct pick-up by the electrical groping over surfaces”. – Arts in society,Volume 3, 1964, p. 242
  • “The inner trip is not the sole prerogative of the LSD traveler; it’s the universal experience of TV watchers”. – Playboy interview, 1969
  • “The discarnate TV user lives in a world between fantasy and dream, and is in a typically hypnotic state, which is the ultimate form and level of participation”. – “A Last Look at the Tube.” New York Magazine, 17 March 1978, p. 45-48
  • “TV is not good at covering single events. It needs a ritual, a rhythm, and a pattern…[TV] tends to foster patterns rather than events”. – The Education of Mike McManus, TVOntario, December 28 1977
  • “The mosaic form of the TV image demands participation and involvement in depth, of the whole being, as does the sense of touch”. (p. 334, Understanding Media, 1964)

Far from becoming an obsolesced medium like radio, TV has evolved and still holds enormous influence, its reach having been extended by the Internet and streaming technologies. Some of McLuhan’s probes about TV are still useful.

Moses Znaimer as Television Innovator 

 ZLC 2013 Moses Moses Znaimer

There is no question that Moses Znaimer has been an innovative TV producer, entrepreneur and executive, though not much on the creative side as a TV actor, presenter or director, as this short, but incomplete bio, which does not cover his post-CITY career with Zoomer Media, tells us:

After graduation [McGill and Harvard] he accepted a job at the CBC, directing, producing, and hosting several shows from 1965 to 1969. Znaimer quit the CBC in 1969, and launched into private broadcasting. At that time all the VHF licenses in Toronto had been taken, so he founded the city’s first UHF channel, CITY, Channel 79 (later 57), in 1972. The unique programming of CITY has been Znaimer’s primary contribution to the world of broadcasting, and its influence has now been felt worldwide.

The success of CITY prompted Toronto media conglomerate CHUM to purchase the station in 1981. With a much larger budget, Znaimer went on to found several other television stations starting with MuchMusic in 1984, Canada’s first 24-hour music station. The idea was copied with a French-language station, MusiquePlus, based in Montréal, in 1986. Since the 1980s Znaimer has been instrumental in shaping the face of Canadian television, launching or helping to direct well over two dozen television stations in Canada and many other parts of the world. His unique style of broadcasting, the “Participatory, Interactive, Storefront, Studioless, Television Operating System”, sets all CHUM-CITY stations apart from more traditional media sources. It has always been Znaimer’s goal to create television that reflects those who watch it, and every station goes to great lengths to be able to include as many of the different cultural, ethnic, and diverse programs and personalities found in Toronto and all over Canada as possible. (Source: )

There is also no question that he was influenced by Marshall McLuhan, as he has told the world many times. Where Znaimer has run into controversy and criticism is in his theorizing about TV in general, and especially with his comparisons of TV with print in his 3-hour epic manifesto “TVTV: The Television Revolution” (1995), which has been contested and mostly dismissed. This was a 3-part televised series by ChumCity Production in association with the CBC televised on CBC 1995. In it Znaimer summarized his theories of TV production thus:

  1. TV is the triumph of the image over the printed word.
  2. The true nature of television is flow, not show; process, not conclusion.
  3. As global television expands, the demand for local programming increases.
  4. The best TV tells me what happened to me, today.
  5. TV is as much about the people bringing you the story as the story itself.
  6. In the past, TV’s chief operating skill was political. In the future, it will have to be mastery of the craft itself.
  7. Print created illiteracy. TV is democratic. Everybody gets it.
  8. TV creates immediate consensus, subject to immediate change.
  9. There never was a mass audience, except by compulsion.
  10. Television is not a problem to be managed, but an instrument to be played. (Source: )

Marshall Soules on his site discusses Znaimer’s ideas about TV and provides links to some of the criticisms of TVTV: The Television Revolution here: .

The following 3.5-minute video provides an overview of TVTV: The Television Revolution”, which was broadcast on CBC TV on Sunday, April 9, 1995. Interestingly, the opening sequence of the program imitates Kubrick’s Dawn of Man opening to his great film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but instead of discovering a mysterious black obelisk, the humanoid apes of the sequence discover an old-fashioned tube TV set from which the image and voice of Moses Znaimer soon emanates.

Categories: Blog

The Future of Education: The Class of 1989 by Marshall McLuhan & George B. Leonard (1967)

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 1:17pm


This article by Marshall McLuhan was co-authored by George B. Leonard and was published in LOOK magazine, February 21, 1967, pp. 23-25. It is remarkably prescient about the changes imposed on education by new electronic media at that time (TV, radio, movies, recordings in the 1960s) and still bears lessons for educators in the digital 21st century. Thanks to Dr. Norm Friesen for posting this on his blog.

The future of education: The class of 1989


from: LOOK magazine, February 21, 1967. pp. 23-25.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS [from: p. 24]

Marshall McLuhan is perhaps the most provocative and controversial thinker of this generation. His books, such as Understanding Media, have challenged many established notions about man and civilization. Now director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, Professor McLuhan next fall will take the $100,000-a-year Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at Fordham University in New York.

George B. Leonard, West Coast Editorial Manager and senior editor for LOOK, has received more national awards for education writing than anyone in the history of magazine journalism. Leonard often serves as an educational consultant on both the East and West Coast and has a book on education in progress. The authors’ present collaboration grew from a series of intensive discussions in San Francisco and Toronto.

 [p. 23] THE TIME IS COMING, if it is not already here, when children can learn far more, far faster in the outside world than within schoolhouse walls. “Why should I go back to school and interrupt my education?” the high-school dropout asks. His question is impudent but to the point. The modern urban environment is packed with energy and information –diverse, insistent, compelling. Four-year-olds, as school innovators are fond of saying, may spend their playtimes discussing the speed, range and flight characteristics of jet aircraft, only to return to a classroom and “string some more of those old beads.” The 16-year-old who drops out of school may be risking his financial future, but he is not necessarily lacking in intelligence. One of the unexpected statistics of recent years comes from Dr. Louis Bright, Associate U.S. Commissioner of Education for Research. His studies show that, in large cities where figures are available, dropouts have higher average IQ scores than high-school graduates.

This danger signal is only one of many now flashing in school systems throughout the world. The signals say that something is out of phase, that most present-day schools may be lavishing vast and increasing amounts of time and energy preparing students for a world that no longer exists. Though this is a time of educational experiments, the real reforms that might be expected have as yet touched only a small proportion of our schools. In an age when even such staid institutions as banks and insurance companies have been altered almost beyond recognition, today’s typical classroom –in physical layout, method and content of instruction– still resembles the classroom of 30 or more years ago.

Resistance to change is understandable and perhaps unavoidable in an endeavor as complex as education, dealing as it does with human lives. But the status quo may not endure much longer. The demands, the very nature of this age of new technology and pervasive electric circuitry, barely perceived because so close at hand, will shape education’s future. By the time this year’s babies have become 1989’s graduates (if college “graduation” then exists), schooling as we now know it may be only a memory.

Mass education is a child of a [p. 25] mechanical [next page] age. It grew up along with the production line. It reached maturity just at that historical moment when Western civilization had attained its final extreme of fragmentation and specialization, and had mastered the linear technique of stamping out products in the mass.

It was this civilization’s genius to manipulate matter, energy and human life by breaking every useful process down into its functional parts, then producing any required number of each. Just as shaped pieces of metal became components of a locomotive, human specialists become components of the great social machine.

In this setting, education’s task was fairly simple: decide what the social machine needs, then turn out people who match those needs. The school’s function was not so much to encourage people to keep exploring, learning and, therefore, changing throughout life as to slow and control those very processes of personal growth and change. Providing useful career or job skills was only a small part of this educational matching game. All students, perhaps more so in the humanities than the sciences and technologies, were furnished standard “bodies of knowledge,” vocabularies, concepts and ways of viewing the world. Scholarly or trade journals generally held a close check on standard perceptions in each special field.

Specialization and standardization produced close resemblance and, therefore, hot competition between individuals. Normally, the only way a person could differentiate himself from the fellow specialists next to him was by doing the same thing better and faster. Competition, as a matter of fact, became the chief motive force in mass education, as in society, with grades and tests of all sorts gathering about them a power and glory all out of proportion to their quite limited function as learning aids.

Then, too, just as the old mechanical production line pressed physical materials into preset and unvarying molds, so mass education tended to treat students as objects to be shaped, manipulated. “Instruction” generally meant pressing information onto passive students. Lectures, the most common mode of instruction in mass education, called for very little student involvement. This mode, one of the least effective ever devised by man, served well enough in an age that demanded only a specified
fragment of each human being’s whole abilities. There was, however, no warranty on the human products of mass education.

That age has passed. More swiftly than we can realize, we are moving into an era dazzlingly different. Fragmentation, specialization and sameness will be replaced by wholeness, diversity and, above all, a deep involvement.

Already, mechanized production lines are yielding to electronically controlled, computerized devices that are quite capable of producing any number of varying things out of the same material. Even today, most U.S. automobiles are, in a sense, custom produced. Figuring all possible combinations of styles, options and colors available on a certain new family sports car, for example, a computer expert came up with 25 million different versions of it for a buyer. And that is only a beginning. When automated electronic production reaches full potential, it will be just about as cheap to turn out a million differing objects as a million exact duplicates. The only limits on production and consumption will be the human imagination.

Similarly, the new modes of instantaneous, long-distance human communication –radio, telephone, television–are linking the world’s people in a vast net of electric circuitry that creates a new depth and breadth of personal involvement in events and breaks down the old, traditional boundaries that made specialization possible.

The very technology that now cries out for a new mode of education creates means for getting it. But new educational devices, though important, are not as central to tomorrow’s schooling as are new roles for student and teacher. Citizens of the future will find much less need for sameness of function or vision. To the contrary, they will be rewarded for diversity and originality. Therefore, any real or imagined need for standardized classroom presentation may rapidly fade; the very first casualty of the present-day school system may well be the whole business of teacher-led instruction as we now know it.

Tomorrow’s educator will be able to set about the exciting task of creating a new kind of learning environment. Students will rove freely through this place of learning, be it contained in a room, a building, a cluster of buildings or (as we shall see later) an even larger schoolhouse. There will be no distinction between work and play in the new school, for the student will be totally involved. Responsibility for the effectiveness of learning will be shifted from student to teacher.

As it is now, the teacher has a ready-made audience. He is assured of a full house and a long run. Those students who don’t like the show get flunking grades. If students are free to move anywhere they please, however, there is an entirely new situation, and the quality of the experience called education will change drastically. The educator then will naturally have a high stake in generating interest and involvement for his students.

To be involved means to be drawn in, to interact. To go on interacting, the student must get some-where. In other words, the student and the learning environment (a person, a group of people, a book, a programmed course, an electronic learning console or whatever) must respond to each other in a pleasing and purposeful interplay. When a situation of involvement is set up, the student finds it hard to drag himself away.

The notion that free-roving students would loose chaos on a school comes only from thinking of education in the present mode –as teaching rather than learning– and from thinking of learning as some-thing that goes on mostly in classrooms. A good example of education by free interaction with a responsive environment already exists, right before our eyes. Watch a child learn to talk or, for an even more striking case, watch a five-year-old learn a new language. If the child moves to a foreign country and is allowed to play intensely and freely with neighborhood children-with no language “instruction” whatever-he will learn the new tongue, ac-cent free, in two or three months. if instruction is attempted, however, the child is in trouble.

Imagine, if you will, what would happen if we set the five-year-old down in a classroom, allowed him to leave his seat only at prescribed times, presented only a few new words at a sitting, made him learn each group before going on to the next, drilled him on pronunciation, corrected his “mistakes,” taught him grammar, gave him homework assignments, tested him and-wont of all-convinced him that the whole thing was work rather than play. In such a case, the child might learn the new language as slowly and painfully as do teenagers or adults. Should an adult try to learn a language by intense play and interaction, he would probably do much better than be would in a classroom, but still fall short of a young child’s performance. Why? The adult has already learned the lessons that the old schooling teaches so well: inhibition, self-consciousness, categorization, rigidity and the deep conviction that learning is hard and painful work.

Indeed, the old education gives us a sure-fire prescription for creating dislike of any type of human activity, no matter how appealing it might seem. To stop children from reading comic books (which might be ill-advised), you would only have to assign and test them on their content every week.

Learning a new language is a giant feat, compared to which mastering most of the present school curriculum should prove relatively simple. Long before 1989, all sorts of equipment will be available for producing responsive environments in all the subject matter now commonly taught, and more. Programmed instruction, for example, creates high involvement, since it draws the student along in a sort of dialogue, letting him respond at frequent intervals. Programming at its best lets the student learn commonly-agreed-upon cultural techniques and knowledge-reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography and the like-in his own time, at his own pace. But present-day programming may soon seem crude in light of current developments. Computers will be able to understand students’ written or spoken responses. (Already, they understand typed responses.) When these computers are hooked into learning consoles, the interplay between student and learning program can become even more intense.

When computers are properly used, in fact, they are almost certain to increase individual diversity. A worldwide network of computers will make all of mankind’s factual knowledge available to students everywhere in a matter of minutes or seconds. Then, the human brain will not have to serve as a repository of specific facts, and the uses of memory will shift in the new education, breaking the timeworn, rigid chains of memory may have greater priority than forging new links. New materials may be learned just as were the great myths of [p. 25] past cultures-as fully integrated systems that resonate on several levels and share the qualities of poetry and song.

Central school computers can also help keep track of students as they move freely from one activity to another, whenever moment-by-moment or year-by-year records of students’ progress are needed. This will wipe out even the administrative justification for schedules and regular periods, with all their anti-educational effects, and will free teachers to get on with the real business of education. Even without computers, however, experimental schools (see The Moment of Learning, LOOK, December 27, 1966) are now finding that fixed schedules and restrictions on students’ movements are artificial and unnecessary.

Television will aid students in exploring and interacting with a wide-ranging environment. It will, for example, let them see into the atom or out into space; visualize their own brainwaves; create artistic patterns of light and sound; become involved with unfamiliar old or new ways of living, feeling, perceiving; communicate with other learners, wherever in the world they may be.
Television will be used for involvement, for two-way communication, whether with other people or other environmental systems. It will most certainly not be used to present conventional lectures, to imitate the old classroom. That lectures frequently do appear on educational television points up mankind’s common practice of driving pell-mell into the future with eyes fixed firmly on the rearview mirror. The content of each brand new medium thus far has always been the ordinary stuff of the past environment.
The student of the future will truly be an explorer, a researcher, a huntsman who ranges through the new educational world of electric circuitry and heightened human interaction just as the tribal huntsman ranged the wilds. Children, even little children, working alone or in groups, will seek their own solutions to problems that perhaps have never been solved or even conceived as problems. It is necessary here to distinguish this explore story activity from that of the so-called “discovery method,” championed by some theorists, which is simply a way of leading children around to standard perceptions and approved solutions.

Future educators will value, not fear, fresh approaches, new solutions. Among their first tasks, in fact, may be unlearning the old, unacknowledged taboos on true originality. After that, they may well pick up a new driving style in which they glance into the rearview mirror when guidance from the past is needed but spend far more time looking forward into the unfamiliar, untested country of the present and future.

In a sense, the mass-produced student of the present and past always turned out to be a commodity-replaceable, expendable. The new student who makes his own educational space, his own curriculum and even develops many of his own learning methods will be unique, irreplaceable.

What will motivate the new student? Wide variations between individuals will make competition as we now know it irrelevant and, indeed, impossible. Unstandardized life will not provide the narrow measures needed for tight competition, and schools will find it not only unnecessary but nearly impossible to give ordinary tests or grades. Motivation will come from accomplishment itself; no one has to be forced to play. Form and discipline will spring from the very nature of the matter being explored, just as it does in artistic creation. If the student of the future may be compared with the child at play, he also resembles the artist at work.

The little red schoolhouse will become the little round schoolhouse.

A strange dilemma seems to arise: It appears that, with the new modes of learning, all the stuff of present-day education can be mastered much more quickly and easily than ever before. Right now, good programmed instruction is cutting the time for learning certain basic material by one-half or one-third. What will students do with all the time that is going to be gained? The problem is not a real one. With students constantly researching and exploring, each discovery will on up a new area for study. There is no limit on learning.

We are only beginning to realize what a tiny slice of human possibilities we now educate. In fragmenting all of existence, Western civilization hit upon one aspect, the literate and rational, to develop at the expense of the rest. Along with this went a lopsided development of one of the senses, the visual. Such personal and sensory specialization was useful in a mechanical age, but is fast becoming outmoded. Education will be more concerned with training the senses and perceptions than with stuffing brains. And this will be at no loss for the “intellect.” Studies show a high correlation between sensory, bodily development –now largely neglected– and intelligence.

Already, school experimenters are teaching written composition with tape recorders (just as students play with these marvelous devices) in an attempt to retrain the auditory sense, to recapture the neglected rhythms of speech. Already, experimental institutes are working out new ways to educate people’s neglected capacities to relate, to feel, to sense, to create. Future schooling may well move into many unexplored domains of human existence. People will learn much in 1989 that today does not even have a commonly accepted name.

Can we view this future, the hard and fast of it? Never, for it will always come around a corner we never noticed, take us by surprise. But studying the future helps us toward understanding the present. And the present offers us glimpses, just glimpses: Seven-year-olds (the slowest of them) sitting at electronic consoles finishing off, at their own pace, all they’ll ever need in the basic skills of reading, writing and the like: eight-year-olds playing games that teach what we might call math or logic in terms of, say, music and the sense of touch; nine-year-olds joining together in large plastic tents to build environments that give one the experience of living in the Stone Age or in a spaceship or in an even more exotic place-say, 19th-century America: ten-year-olds interacting with five-year olds, showing them the basics (now unknown) of human relations or of the relationships between physical movements and mental states. In all of this, the school –that is, an institution of learning confined to a building or buildings– can continue to hold a central position only if it changes fast enough to keep pace with the seemingly inevitable changes in the outside world. The school experience can well become so rich and compelling that there will be no dropouts, only determined drop-ins. Even so, the walls between school and world will continue to blur.

Already it is becoming clear that the main “work” of the future will be education. that people will not so much earn a living as learn a living. Close to 30 million people in the U.S. are now pursuing some form of adult education, and the number shoots skyward. Industry and the military, as well as the arts and sciences, are beginning to consider education their main business.

The university is fast becoming not an isolated bastion but an integral part of the community. Eventually, nearly every member of a community may be drawn into its affairs. The university of the future could offer several degrees of “membership,” from everyday full-time participation to subscriptions to its “news service,” which would be received in the home on electronic consoles.

Already, though not many journalists or college presidents realize it, the biggest news of our times is coming from research in the institutions of higher learning –new scientific discoveries, new ways of putting together the webs of past and current history, new means for apprehending and enjoying the stuff of sensory input, of interpersonal relations, of involvement with all of life.

The world communications net, the all-involving linkage of electric circuitry, will grow and become more sensitive. It will also develop new modes of feedback so that communication can become dialogue instead of monologue. It will breach the wall between “in” and “out” of school. It will join all people everywhere. When this has happened, we may at last realize that our place of learning is the world itself, the entire planet we live on. The little red schoolhouse is already well on its way toward becoming the little round schoolhouse.

Someday, all of us will spend our lives in our own school, the world. And education –in the sense of learning to love, to grow, to change– can become not the woeful preparation for some job that makes us less than we could be but the very essence, the joyful whole of existence itself. END

FULL CITATION: McLuhan, M., & Leonard, G. B. (1967). The future of education: The class of 1989. Look, February 21, 23-24. Online Source 

Categories: Blog

Call for Papers: The Toronto School – THEN | NOW | NEXT, Toronto – Oct. 14-16, 2016

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 03/21/2016 - 2:11pm
International Conference   –   “The Toronto School: Then | Now | Next”
Toronto, October 14-16, 2016 CALL FOR PAPERS
Deadline for Submission: June 30, 2016

The Coach House Institute at the Faculty of Information (iSchool) University of Toronto invites proposals for the international conference “The Toronto School: Then | Now | Next”. The conference will be held at the University of Toronto, October 14-16, 2016.

Main Theme Between the 1930s and 1970s, a community of intellectuals coalesced in the city of Toronto to discuss and investigate communication as a complex, interdisciplinary process that structures individuals, cultures, and societies. This scholarly community, that emerged in and around the University of Toronto achieved international recognition for its innovative and trans-disciplinary approaches to the evolving societal challenges. “The Toronto School: Then | Now | Next” Conference aims to bring together international scholars to engage in dialogue on the origins, rise, decline and the rebirth of the so-called Toronto School. Discussion will focus on its pioneers, champions but also its critics. It will examine the extent to which the Toronto School has provided a legacy that continues to offer insight on crucial and systemic issues facing contemporary society across various disciplines.

Suggested Topics for Paper Submissions General areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • New understandings, approaches, comparative assessments of the major figures associated with the golden age of the Toronto School, including for instance Eric Havelock, Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye, Edmund Carpenter, Walter J. Ong, Tom Easterbrook, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Carl Williams, Glenn Gould, and Harley Parker.
  • Innovative interpretations of theories in their historical context, and ideas emanating from the School and its intellectual tradition.
  • Associations between core theories/ideas of the Toronto School of Communication and other schools/traditions, in the Humanities, in the Social Sciences and contemporary culture.
  • Germination of media studies in 1950s Toronto.
  • Canadian approaches to communications study and their impact on the twentieth-century intellectual debate internationally.
  • Role of communication in the history of civilization, and in the structuring of human cultures and the mind.
  • Time-biased and space-biased dialectical approaches applied to cultural ecology.
  • Sensorial, cognitive, and behavioural implications of the medium.
  • Interplay of orality and literacy in today’s media environment.
  • Poetic, symbolic, and mythical thinking in contemporary cultures.
  • Aesthetic forms as a mode of critique and interpretation of cultural artifacts.
  • Interpretation, extension, and application of the theories central to thinkers from the Toronto School.

Guide for authors   – Authors are invited to submit their abstracts by June 30, 2016 using exclusively Easychair at:

Abstracts of between 1,000 and 1,500 words, in English, and presented in pdf format should be uploaded into EasyChair along with: title of proposed presentation, five keywords, and for each author their name, title, position, name affiliated institution and a short biographical statement (40-50 words each). In addition details for the corresponding author should be provided. In case of acceptance, author(s) will be asked also to provide a condensed abstract (200 words for inclusion in the program), and to present the paper at the Conference (see registration deadline for authors).

NB: The submission of an abstract must be on the understanding that if the paper is accepted at least one author will register for and attend the conference. The costs of attending the conference including registration fees, travel, accommodation and other expenses, are the responsibility of the presenter or their institutions. A condensed abstract of each paper and a biographical statement of presenting author(s) will be published in the Conference Program.

Peer Review Process   – All submissions will be reviewed by the Programme Committee (see Conference website for details).

Paper Awards   – All accepted papers will be considered by the Programme Committee for one of three Outstanding Paper Awards (1,000 CAD $ each), including an award for Outstanding PhD Student Paper. Please indicate with your submission if the primary author is a PhD student. The Outstanding Paper Awards will be announced at the closing session of the Conference.

Panel Presentations   – The language of the Conference is English. Accepted papers will grouped into sessions including 3 to 4 papers focused on similar themes. Each presentation must not exceed 20 minutes; each panel will include a 20-minute Q&A, following the last presentation.

Conference Proceedings   – Full papers are not required in advance, but are invited for submission following the event to be considered for inclusion in the Conference Proceedings, which will be published in 2017. Final original unpublished papers between 5,000 and 6,000 words, should be submitted in English using U.S. spelling, in APA style, and in .doc or docx format, by December 15, 2016. All attendees will receive a copy of the Proceedings when it is published.

Registration Fees   – Registration information will be available at the Conference website ( In order to be included in the final program the deadline for authors’ registration is August 30, 2016. Reduced hotel room rates will be available to conference attendees. Conference registration opens April 1, 2016.

Important Dates   – Early Bird Registration Opens: April 1, 2016 Deadline for abstract submission: June 30,2016 Notification of acceptance: July 30, 2016 Draft Programme Published: August 1, 2016 Registration deadline for authors: August 30, 2016 Late registration begins: September 1, 2016 Final Programme Published: September 1, 2016

Information   – Conference Coordinator, Dr. Paolo Granata (McLuhan Centenary Fellow, Visiting Professor University of Toronto).           For more information about the Conference visit: . Send email correspondence to:

We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto and “The Toronto School: Then | Now | Next” !


Promoted by:
Supported by:


Categories: Blog

What Would Marshall McLuhan Say About Screen Culture?

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 03/13/2016 - 7:29pm

goldman sachs ar_vr cover

Written By MARCO ADRIA   –   Published: 24 February, 2016

How today’s modern advances might be seen through the eyes of Canada’s most famous media theorist

McLuhanthumbThis is the year of augmented reality. In 2016, manufacturers, beginning with Microsoft, will offer products that will allow us to see virtual objects as if they were part of the material world. The uses of augmented reality for consumers are likely to include videogames and enhanced movies. But augmented reality will also allow businesses to test and adapt new products before final production. Imagine putting on a headset and viewing a new electric car from different angles and even starting it up for a virtual test drive — all before the car is manufactured.

Marshall McLuhan was an international media theory rock star, even managing to make his way into a Playboy feature interview and a Woody Allen movie over the course of his life. Born in Edmonton in 1911, he had much to say about new media. During his lifetime, the radio, television, and the computer all went from imaginative fancy to wide use. We consider Marshall’s insights about understanding and using media predictive, because they can be applied even to those media, including augmented reality, that were invented long after his death in 1980.

If Marshall were still with us, he might describe our time as a screen culture. Screens are all around us. We view and respond to hundreds of messages, both text and images, each day or, for some of us, each waking hour. Marshall often referred to the transition from a print culture, which began with the invention of the printing press in 1440, to a culture of electricity, which he judged to have begun with the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century. While a print culture was individualistic and critical, reflected in the practice of private and silent reading, an electric culture was characterized by speed, and by many things happening at once.

Marshall loved metaphors. They helped him to understand the ultimate meaning of a new medium. They also aided his public explanations. For example, for Marshall, the television screen could be understood as a mirror, and the mirror effect was first experienced by looking into still water. He reminded us that the reflection seen in water was first described in the story of the mythological figure of Narcissus. Narcissus sees his reflection in the water and believes it to be beautiful. He becomes enchanted and wants to possess this “other” person. So unsettling is the experience that he eventually kills himself by plunging a dagger into his chest.

“Narcissus oil” is still made and sold. It is a “narcotic,” a category of active components that we still use today and whose name originates from the root of the name Narcissus. The myth of Narcissus carries the lesson that observing our image in the mirror (and therefore in our screens) can have a mesmerizing effect. The effect can be psychological and neural. Narcissus has been smitten in both mind and body. Marshall describes the “numbing” effects of media in his bestselling book, Understanding Media:

“Narcissus mistook his own reflection in the water for another person. This extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image. The nymph Echo tried to win his love with fragments of his own speech, but in vain. He was numb. He had adapted to his extension of himself and had become a closed system.” Read the rest of the article here .

Marco Adria is Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta, and Visiting Professor, Tecnológico de Monterrey. 

See Related Posts:-

Narcissus as Narcosis: A Contemporary Media Example –

Extension, amputation, alienation & Narcissus Narcosis: McLuhan’s Concepts Applied to New Media –  

Categories: Blog

New Publication Announcement: The New Science of Communication: Reconsidering McLuhan’s Message for our Modern Moment

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/10/2016 - 1:41pm

Anthony Wachs’ new book has been published and is shipping:-

 Reconsidering McLuhan's Message for our Modern Moment

By Anthony M. Wachs

November 2015 | paper | ISBN 978-0-8207-0487-6

Publisher: Duquesne University Press

Book Information:

“The medium is the message,” and we now live in a “global village” — much of Marshall McLuhan’s significant contributions to communication theory has been reduced to these well-known aphorisms. And while these catchphrases do indeed capture certain aspects of his thought, a fuller understanding of his vision remains remarkably incomplete. In this study, Anthony M. Wachs engages in an unconventional — and controversially orthodox — reading of McLuhan’s work on media and technology.

McLuhan proposed four laws to be used in evaluating any medium: What is enhanced or intensified? What is rendered obsolete? What is retrieved that was previously obsolesced? What happens when pressed to an extreme? In order to help the reader gain a better grasp of the problems of the “electric age,” Wachs details the connection between McLuhan’s views on technology, media, and communications, and the classical arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. He proposes that these laws have been understudied, misunderstood, and underutilized, and that, while they are indeed grounded in ancient modes of understanding that Bacon and Vico referred to as the “new science,” they are uniquely helpful in understanding our contemporary moment in time.

The New Science of Communication offers an original contribution to scholarship on McLuhan and media ecology, as scholars interested in the interactions of media with human feeling, thought, and behavior have forced modern presuppositions onto their readings of McLuhan. Wachs, however, corrects this misreading by uniquely combining communication and media, and restoring classical and medieval communication theory as an alternative to modern rationalist theories. He argues that this restoration provides a way to think through the implications of living in our own electronic age in a more balanced way, reestablishing the importance of humanities-based education within the twenty-first century. (Information source )

Author Information:

 ANTHONY M. WACHS is assistant professor and director of forensics in the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication Studies at Northern State University. He is the associate editor of Discourse: Journal of the Speech Communication Association of South Dakota, which received the Central States Communication Association’s Outstanding Journal Award for 2014.

Categories: Blog

McLuhan, Frye & me: B.W. Powe takes the measure of their genius

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 03/05/2016 - 8:07pm

By Peter Robb, The Ottawa Citizen

For three decades the University of Toronto was the home of two towering intellects: Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye.

It was, according to B.W. Powe, whose 2014 book Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (University of Toronto Press) followed their careers, a special time and place in Canadian intellectual life. 

The two men, Powe said in an interview in advance of an event sponsored by the Ottawa International Writers Festival on March 8, were the yin and yang of Canadian cultural thought in the latter half of the 20th century. These days, Powe, who was born in Ottawa, teaches in the English Department at York University. He is a poet, novelist, essayist and critic. He is at work founding the McLuhan Initiative for the Study of Literacies at York and is also the university’s director of the creative writing program.

“They were two pivotal geniuses in the Canadian cultural landscape. They were at the same university at the same time through 30 years. Both recognized the other’s genius. Both knew the other one was doing something of landmark importance.” 

Northrop Frye

Northrop Frye

ADDENDUM: MARCH 6, 2016   –   Bruce Powe has requested the following corrections to be made in this essay:-

Dear Readers,

There are two errors in the Ottawa Citizen piece on my book on Marshall McLuhan and Nothrop Frye and my presentation at Carlton University that very much need addressing:
One: I am not the Creative Writing Program Coordinator at York University. I haven’t been since July 2014. The CW Coordinator is Michael Helm, a well known and much respected novelist. He’s been doing a remarkable job, and deserves the acknowledgment.

Two: I would never have said (and could never have said) Marshall McLuhan didn’t read books. He read voraciously. What I said must have been this, “His preference was for the oral.” I talked about how he listened deeply to the voices in poems. I said that his primary sensory approaches were oral-audile-tactile. And that he encouraged us to listen to the books of the world.

I would never have perpetuated the cliche and misconception that McLuhan somehow didn’t read.
In fact, he was much more of an attentive practical literary critic (following in the I.A. Richards’ line) than was Frye. Frye tended to read poems in terms of how they fit his grand theoretical scheme. McLuhan always looked closely at a poem, instructing us on its tonalities, rhythms, forms and effects.

This is important to convey. I hope these necessary corrections will be printed in the paper.

Thank you,   B.W. Powe”


Powe, who was a student of both men, says that McLuhan, who was not given to praising his colleagues, said that Frye was “working on the frontier, that he was a true frontiersman. That was always a high compliment for McLuhan. That meant you were out in the wilderness thinking on your own.”

Frye said McLuhan was the greatest improviser he had ever met and was a genuine prophetic visionary.

Powe,  who became very close to McLuhan’s family over the years, went to the memorial service for McLuhan at U of T’s convocation hall and “third row from the front, there was Frye. He was deaf at that point and was leaning toward the podium trying to hear what was being said with a look of extraordinary sorrow on his face because he knew that the only other one on campus that could match him with a similar level of genius was McLuhan.”

McLuhan is, of course, the man whose vision seems to have predicted our current time. The dictionary of popular culture is replete with his aphorisms.

“He did say that newspapers and books and all those phenomena based on the page and privacy and solitude, and communication through the printed word, would disappear. And when he said that in 1959, everyone thought he was some kind of heretical crank. Now, in 2016, to say that is a banality. It’s so obvious.”

McLuhan’s phrase “Breakdown Leads to Breakthrough” seems particularly apt for a time of Uber and Reddit and Airbnb.

“It was one of the eerie things about him. It seemed like he was visiting from the future. Being around him, you had the sense, sometimes, that he was mainlining something that was not immediately apparent to everyone else.”

Frye, on the other hand, was all about the book.

“In that sense, it may seem on the outside that he was a more conventional figure, but in many ways he was not. He had a great prophetic vision, which was that all the works were one book.”

That began with the Bible and extended to the novels of the second half of the 20th century.

“Don’t forget he was a United Church minister,” Powe said. “He said ‘I marry and bury students’ when asked how being a minister fit into his life” as an academic.

For all their disagreements and their extraordinary differences in personality, Frye and McLuhan forged a visionary core for Canada’s intellectual legacy, Powe believes.

“They are so well known everywhere else. I’ve lived in Spain and the priest at my wedding said ‘the global village was there between the two of you.’ 

“In some ways, they are our most adventurous intellectual writers, there are very few that you can put in the same territory.”

When he began his book on the two men, there was no other book written about them both.

Today McLuhan is accepted in the university world, but Frye is not, perhaps because he was so focused on literature and the primacy of the printed word, Powe said.

“In class, McLuhan seemed like he was translating the future to us instantaneously. He had an incredible ability to produce a headline. It would come out spontaneously and then he’d fall asleep.

Frye stayed awake. When Powe was attending Frye’s lectures, Frye was riding a wave of intense popularity. His classes were full and they were very respectful discussions about literary works.

Marshall McLuhan.


Both men had deep spiritual convictions. McLuhan was a devout Catholic convert.

“The global village could be seen as a catholic vision. It has implications of a new kind of communion in which we are sharing information and ideas.”

Powe’s McLuhan-Frye book was one he had thought about for many years. He was also teaching a course at York University on the two men.

The mark these two men made on Powe is still fresh. He remembers both men being very funny in their classes when he attended from 1978 to 1980.

McLuhan, for example, began all his classes with a series of jokes drawn from a file that he kept to hand.

“Looking back on that time, I thought that when I was a student of theirs, this is how it would always be. This utopian space was what university would always be like.”

McLuhan and Frye did butt heads, but in the beginning, Powe said, there was mutual admiration. One of the very first people McLuhan met when he came to U of T in 1946 was Frye at a meet-and-greet party.

Conflict began to arise in 1950s and ’60s when McLuhan became such a comet of success. Frye found McLuhan’s focus on pop culture trivial.

McLuhan saw that the TV screen was going to change consciousness itself.

McLuhan’s great discovery, Powe says, was that if you removed your personal opinions, suspend judgment and try to perceive the moment, you begin to see patterns forming.

Frye saw that at the heart of all literary writing is one great vision built around one seminal question: “Who Am I?” He believed the identity question is the key to understanding all human endeavour. He also believed in the honing of the imagination to learn heightened states of awareness.

He also thought that the Bible needed to be seen as a metaphor.

Powe believes Frye “wanted to revive comprehension of the Bible beyond literalism. He thought it was dangerous to see the Bible as history.”

Today that idea would be almost revolutionary in some political circles, particularly south of the border.

Both men could have taught somewhere else, but they chose to stay in the same English department for more than 30 years.

Neither man ever had a driver’s license. Their wives did the driving.

McLuhan didn’t like watching television or reading books. His primary medium was the radio, Powe said.

“He preferred to listen. He was grudging viewer of cinema.”

Frye prized his solitude and his library. “Even when he lectured, you got the sense he was talking to himself. McLuhan wanted us to go out into the streets and listen. To understand what the new is”. 

“McLuhan would never remember your name, but he knew the face. I don’t think he never knew my first name. He just called me Mr. Powe.” 

Writing the book was a bit of an exorcism and a measuring stick for Powe.

“It took me this long to feel that I could measure myself with them. Now I think I have taken them on board and will move onto new work.”

Powe’s latest book is poetry and is called Decoding Dust. It doesn’t mention either man at all.


Bruce Powe

McLuhan and Frye: A Reading by B.W. Powe

When: Tuesday, March 8, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Main Floor Reading Room, MacOdrum Library, 1125 Colonel By Dr., Carleton University

Free     –     Information:

Article Source:

Categories: Blog

McLuhan and Frye: A Reading by B.W. Powe: Joint Carlton University/Ottawa Literary Festival, Ottawa, March 8

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 03/04/2016 - 12:24pm
 A Reading by B.W. Powe B.W. Powe “There will likely be many McLuhan and Frye commentaries in the future, and with any luck some will be brilliant, but no one will ever write with such passion as Powe’s on the vision of  these two beleaguered spiritual explorers”. — Philip Marchand, National Post Please join us for a reading by B.W. Powe from his book about two titans of Canadian culture: Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (University of Toronto Press). The reading will be followed by an interview of the author by Associate Professor Travis DeCook of Carleton University’s Department of English. There will be ample time for questions from the audience as well, and copies of the book will be available for sale. Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye are two of Canada’s central cultural figures, colleagues and rivals whose careers unfolded in curious harmony even as their intellectual engagement was antagonistic. Poet, novelist, essayist and philosopher B.W. Powe, who studied with both of these formidable and influential intellectuals, presents an exploration of their lives and work in Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy.  Powe considers the existence of a unique visionary tradition of Canadian humanism and argues that McLuhan and Frye represent fraught but complementary approaches to the study of literature and to the broader engagement with culture. Examining their eloquent but often acid responses to each other, Powe exposes the scholarly controversies and personal conflicts that erupted between them, and notably the great commonalities in their writing and biographies. Using interviews, letters, notebooks, and their published texts, Powe offers a new alchemy of their thought, in which he combines the philosophical hallmarks of McLuhan’s “The medium is the message” and Frye’s “the great code.” DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 08, 2016   –   7:30 PM – 9:00 PM LOCATION: Main Floor Reading Room MacOdrum Library, 1125 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON CONTACT INFORMATION: Amanda Goth, 613-520-2600 ext 2727, REGISTRATION: Limited – Register Now About B.W. Powe: Read the TLS Review of this book previously published on this blog here: 

Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, by B.W. Powe

Categories: Blog

McLuhan Centre Winter Program Week 6: Monday Night Seminar, Mar 7; Video Lounge, Mar 8 – Picnic in Space

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 03/03/2016 - 8:30pm

Winter/Spring 2016 program of events

CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS –  Is culture the real business of the city?

MONDAY, 7 MARCH, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

With Chantal Pontbriand, Stephen Stohn & Linda Schuyler,  Jini Stolk

 Culture is our business by Marshall McLuhan

CHANTAL PONTBRIAND is a contemporary art curator and critic whose work is based on the exploration of questions of globalization and artistic heterogeneity. She has curated numerous international contemporary art events: exhibitions, international festivals and international conferences, mainly in photography, video, performance, dance and multimedia installation. She was a founder of “Parachute”
contemporary art magazine in 1975. After curating several major performance events and festivals, she co-founded the FIND (Festival International de Nouvelle Danse), in Montreal and was president and director from 1982 to 2003. In 2015, she was appointed CEO of MOCCA, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art in Toronto. @chanpont

STEPHEN STOHN & LINDA SCHUYLER is an entertainment lawyer and television producer. He is currently the president of Epitome Pictures Inc., which he and his wife Linda Schuyler founded and which was sold to DHX Media in 2014. Stephen and Linda are best known as the producers of the teen drama series “Degrassi”. For nearly 20 years, until 2009, Stephen was executive producer of the telecast of Canada’s music awards show, The Juno Awards, and during that period was a director and then Chair of Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Linda Schuyler who began as a teacher, is the primary creator and force of the Degrassi series and Instant Star series of teen
programs. @stephenstohn

JINI STOLK, Research Fellow at Toronto Arts Foundation and past Chair of the Ontario Nonprofit Network, has been a leader, connector and advocate in the arts and non-profit communities. She helped create powerful collaborative organizations like ONN and Creative Trust – which became a model for capacity building in the arts – and led major producing organizations (Toronto Dance Theatre) and membership organizations. She cofounded numerous advocacy campaigns and coalitions, and chaired and served on many boards, including Centre for
Social Innovation, Toronto Arts Council, and Toronto Artscape. She has won awards for her contributions to Toronto’s cultural life, and writes on boards, and on building capacity, audiences and space for the arts at @TOArtsFdn




TUESDAY, 8 MARCH, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

‘Picnic in Space’ film still

Picnic in Space is a rare film featuring Marshall McLuhan and his long time collaborator, Harley Parker, a Canadian artist and scholar (1967).


Watch a 39 second trailer to Picnic in Space below:

Location: The Coach House, 39A Queen’s Park Crescent, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto

Categories: Blog
Syndicate content