Sometime Between Now & When the Sun Goes Supernova Set for Théâtre Aux Ecuries, Montréal – May/28-30

McLuhan Galaxy - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 8:03pm

Created in 2013 in Calgary, Sometime between now and when the sun goes Supernova is Mark Lawes’ new multidisciplinary bilingual creation for a hyper-accelerated world, where the familiar rubs shoulders with the strange. Inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s theories on media which essentially predicted the internet 50 years before its application, Sometime between now and when the sun goes Supernova is an inquest, one that investigates manifestations of personal isolation in an increasingly connected globalized world. The performers are caught on the soundstage of a B-horror movie or a pornographic film; yet the setting could be a suburban home. Amnesia flirts with psychosis in a world where we feel the convulsions of a hyperactive, digital, consumer society. Sometime between now and when the sun goes Supernova will be presented at Théâtre Aux Ecuries from May 28-30.

“I am interested in the hybridization of identities and how culture shapes who we are. Douglas Coupland and Marshall McLuhan were both born in the Canadian West, a place in search of identity, where utopian ideals are often transformed into dystopia, their opposite. Inevitably Los Angeles, Hollywood and the phenomenon of the ‘suburbs’ became my subject of investigation; like Brentwood, where Marilyn Monroe is buried for example. The existence of these suburbs hinges on a false reality: the gated community, a safe, comfortable cocoon for the nuclear family, a perfect, clean and artificial environment, the image of a private Garden of Eden sold to middle-class Americans and Canadians by spinners of dreams… A new generation was born out of these suburbs, lost in the “supersaturated information age” as Coupland put it.” -Mark Lawes, Artistic Director, Theatre Junction

For three months during the summer of 2012, Mark Lawes and his team developed Sometime between now and when the sun goes Supernova under the auspices of the City of Paris and the l’Institut français international art-in-residence program at Les Récollets. Since 2006, Lawes has been creating work with a multidisciplinary company of artists. His writing for the stage is created organically out of a friction between fragments of history, visual art, contemporary dance, music, and an alphabet of material coming from dramaturgical research. Playing with the possibilities of live performance, Lawes continues to cross boundaries between artistic disciplines. His first trilogy, based on themes of death, desire and the Canadian West, received two national tours- to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre (On the Side of the Road, 2009) and Montreal’s Usine C (Lucy Lost Her Heart, 2012). Theatre Junction will be back at Théâtre Aux Ecuries in September for an artistic residency that will host the first phase of their next creation. This work is poised to break out for the national and international scene. (Source:

Categories: Blog

Subtle Technologies Festival – Where Art & Technologies Meet, May 20-31 – Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 7:15pm


Join us to celebrate participatory culture in art and science at this year’s 17th annual Subtle Technologies Festival. Looking at art, science and DIY culture we will investigate the tools and techniques of harnessing collective knowledge and creativity. Our theme for 2014 is “Open Culture”. The festival will celebrate the ways artists and scientists are creating and making use of tools and techniques to harness the collective power, knowledge and creativity of the citizen. Bringing together artists and scientists who are working in these domains will open streams of dialogue leading to increased collaboration between artists and scientists who are interested in contribution of an engaged public.

 Festival Highlights


Opening Reception – May 23 at 7:00 pm

Open Culture/Urban Interventions, curated by Nina Czegledy – May 20-31

Featuring: Stephen Hobbs and Marcus Neustetter, Willy Le Maitre, Ron Wild and Joe Geraci, Patricio Davila and Dave Colangelo, Donna Legaut

Paul H. Cocker Gallery, Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University, 325 Church Street, Toronto

Open Access, curated by Farah Yusuf – May 23

Featuring artworks by Hacklab.TO, Maggie Flynn, Risa Horowitz, Scott Kobewka and Sheraz Khan, Joana Moll, Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, Thomas Rex Beverly, Milton Friesen, Marinos Koutsomichalis, Afroditi Psarra, Maria Varela

Lobby of Architecture Building, Ryerson University, 325 Church Street, Toronto

SYMPOSIUM – May 24 & 25 – **REGISTER NOW**

DAY 1 – Saturday May 24 – Click here for full schedule and list of events

Day 2 – Sunday May 25 – Click here for full schedule and list of events

A diverse look at open culture in art and science. From DIY bio-printers to citizen science, crowdsourcing, open access journals and performance work we will explore the movement towards greater participation across and among disciplines.

LIB 72, Ryerson University

PUBLIC LECTURE – May 24 at 7:30 pm

Scientists Are Doing it for Themselves: Open Access, Open Data, Citizen Science
presented by John Dupuis

followed by

Panel Discussion
Critical State Making: Applying Open Culture in Post-Conflict Development
facilitated by Stephen Kovats

OCADU , Room 230, 100 McCaul Street, Toronto


DIT Alternative Energy Grid - May 21 from 6:30-9:30 pm and May 22 from 6:30-9:30 pm

Maker Space

RTA School of Media, Rogers Communication Center — RCC 194

Church and Gould

Click here to register. 

DIY Water Sensing - May 30 at 6:00-9:00 pm and May 31 at 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Place: Semaphore Demo Lab, Main floor, Robarts Library

130 St. George Street, on the University of Toronto campus

Click here to register.

Subtle Technologies gratefully acknowledges the support of




Special thanks to our Festival host:


Thank you to our partners:





DAS Logo V3

Festival Website:

Categories: Blog


McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 6:25pm

ST Festival 2014 LOGO









Categories: Blog

Paul Ryan, Video Artist, Media Educator & Scholar (1943-2013)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 05/19/2014 - 11:24am

Ryan, Paul IMG

A founding member of the pioneering media collective Raindance, Paul Ryan was both a practitioner and theoretician of the early video movement in the 1970s. Over four decades, Ryan’s video work evolved from free-form collaborations with members of Raindance to the invention of formal collaborative practices and the conceptualization of a notational system for interpreting the natural and built environment with electronic media. NASA published his Earthscore Notational System. Ryan’s design for an Environmental Television Channel was presented at a United Nations conference. His conceptualization of a program for a new Hall of Risk in Lower Manhattan was presented at the Venice Biennale.

Ryan authored seminal texts on video, which were published in the pioneering journal Radical Software (1970-74). Ryan’s writings were also published in journals such as Leonardo, Afterimage, Millennium, Terra Nova, and Semiotica. He was also the author of numerous books. including Two is not a Number (2011), The Three Person Solution (2009), Video Mind, Earth Mind (1992), and Cybernetics of the Sacred (1974), which is recognized as an influential text of the early video movement. His writings were also published in numerous journals, including Leonardo, Afterimage, Millennium, Terra Nova, and Semiotica.

Ryan was born in 1943 in the Bronx, New York and died in 2013. He spent five years of his early life as a novice in the Passionists, a Roman Catholic preaching order. He received a B.A. from New York University and pursued graduate studies with Philosopher of Communication Theory Marshall McLuhan at Fordham University*. This graduate work qualified Ryan as a conscientious objector of the Vietnam War.

Ryan’s work was included in the landmark exhibition TV as a Creative Medium at the Howard Wise Gallery in 1969. His works have been presented at the Venice Biennale; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and recently at Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany, among other venues. Works by Ryan are currently being archived at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., including his Television EcochannelEarthscore Notation and Hall of Risk Program.

Ryan was an Associate Professor in Graduate Media Studies at the New School in New York for many years. He lived in New York City and Solebury, Pennsylvania, until his death. (Source: )

* Paul Ryan’s CV provides this detail regarding his time at Fordham University (1967-69): Worked for a year as a research assistant to media scholar, Marshall McLuhan; anthropologist, Edmund Carpenter; educator, John Culkin and painter Harley Parker. My second year at Fordham was devoted to exploring video as a medium in McLuhan‟s terms, publishing my findings and exhibiting my video art. Legally, these two years fulfilled the alternate service requirement for my conscientious objector draft status. I consider this work, this combination of theory and practice, the equivalent of earning an MFA degree. ( )


In this 1995 interview, Paul Ryan talks about being Marshall McLuhan’s research assistant at Fordham, and other influences on him and his later work with video, including Teilhard de Chardin, cybernetics, computers (See especially the first 15 minutes):

Categories: Blog

Distant Early Warning Line Card Deck (1969)

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 05/17/2014 - 12:52pm
Photo courtesy of Eric McLuhan By Tim Belonax on the Design Envy website

Is it possible to train the way that you think, the same way you might prepare for a sporting event or study for an exam? Is it possible to improve the way that you think or are we simply born into one pattern of thought? As a graphic designer, there’s bound to be a point in your process where thinking creatively becomes a challenge or you simply want to push beyond your comfort zone.

I first became interested in thinking as a focused subject when I joined Project M in the summer of 2007. John Bielenberg, Project M’s founder, is notorious for “thinking wrong,” a method for breaking heuristic bias within a person’s thought process. He introduced me to Edward DeBono, who originated the term “lateral thinking” and was a proponent of teaching thinking as a subject in schools. DeBono’s Thinking Course was one particular book that John recommended, and it’s kept me interested in the subject ever since. 

I recently stumbled upon a deck of cards that were dedicated to creative thinking. Marshall McLuhan’s “Distant Early Warning” card deck was released in 1969 as part of McLuhan’s “DEW-Line Newsletter.” 

“The card deck was intended to stimulate problem-solving and thinking, in a manner that later came to be known as ‘thinking-outside-the-box,’” says Scott Boms, spokesperson for the McLuhan estate. The newsletter was initiated by New York publisher Eugene Schwartz, at the height of “McLuhan-mania.” The cards were designed by McLuhan, his eldest son Eric, Harley Parker and George Thompson, long-time family friend and assistant to McLuhan at the Center for Culture and Technology. The deck perfectly reflects McLuhan’s vision of the artist in a time of rapid social and technological change:  

“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,” stated Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

The DEW Line was a real thing. Stretching 3,000 miles across arctic Canada at approximately the 69th parallel sat a chain of 63 integrated radar and communication stations. Completed in 1957 during the height of the Cold War, the DEW Line was intended to provide advance warning of imminent air attacks on Canada and the United States. While McLuhan’s views were often very academic, he certainly had a sense of humor.

 The DEW Line Published through the Human Development Corp., the “DEW-Line Newsletter” came in different forms, like a record or slides, often including pre-released chapters from McLuhan books.  Each card deck comes in a slipcase and includes instructions for use. (Source: ) . The cards can be purchased at: . Eric McLuhan The language and typography of the cards worked with the existing graphics of playing cards See also The Distant Early Warning Line (DEW) Card Deck (1969) -

Artists as “the Antennae of the Race” -

See all the cards here:

Categories: Blog

An Evening of Marshall McLuhan & Bucky Fuller in Rotterdam

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 05/12/2014 - 11:19pm

Two of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and sadly two of the most under-appreciated. 
This is a great article showcasing several letters written by Marshall McLuhan to his contemporaries, from Tom Wolfe to Buckminster Fuller. It is a fantastic read.” />

Marshall McLuhan & Buckminster Fuller 

Friday 23 May    
20:00 – 22:00 
Arminius, Rotterdam

Buckminster Fuller is hard to classify. He is either engineer or architect or inventor or discoverer or geographer or mathematician or all of these. He was born in another century, and it seems clear that he is working on ideas which relate to the next century. In his own words, one could say he is a ‘Comprehensive Man’.

Television is cool and radio is hot, that’s the message, and the medium is Marshall McLuhan. Like most of McLuhan’s writing, his statements are pithy, apparently simple and provocative to the point of being outrageous. Marshall McLuhan studies the media as a way of understanding what makes us live the way we do. He is concerned with all media but he is best known as the prophet of the electronic revolution. See more at:

Buckminster Fuller and McLuhan

Buckminster Fuller & Marshall McLuhan in front of René Cera’s painting Pied Pipers All (Image: Dick Darrell/Getstock) See

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan’s DEW-Line Newsletter (1968-70)

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 05/10/2014 - 1:04pm

The Marshall McLuhan DEW-Line Newsletter was “an early warning system for the changing age we live in”. It was issued by media theorist, commentator and critic Marshall McLuhan [between 1968 and 1970], and included several loose-leaf facsimile papers on the nature of media, society and advertising, loose-leaf reproduced advertisements, and typographic experiments. DEW-Line is an acronym for Distant Early Warning Line, a defence system set up in the northern reaches of Canada during the Cold War to detect and report any incoming invasion of North America by the Soviets. The DEW Line became a metaphor for McLuhan on the role of art and the artist at a time of rapid social and technological change and he repeated the idea frequently. He wrote in Understanding Media (1964) “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.” (Source: ).

McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand writes that the newsletter was the brain child of New York publishing entrepreneur Eugene Schwartz, who conceived of the idea of publishing McLuhan, as Schwartz put it, “in a medium that could be delivered faster than a book but had more inherent depth than television “ – that is, through periodic newsletters. After McLuhan’s arrival at Fordham University in the Bronx in the summer of 1968 to spend the next year there, Schwartz signed him to a two year contract. The newsletters were to be edited by McLuhan’s son Eric, ensconced in an office on the top floor of 200 Madison Avenue. Marchand writes: “The newsletter was offered to the public at $50 for a year’s subscription; more then 4,000 people eventually signed up. Schwartz considered this figure to be ‘relatively low’. He assured McLuhan that this was only the beginning and that circulation would climb as the newsletter took off. The readers were primarily top-flight executives in advertising, in firms like IBM. Schwartz even made sure a copy was sent to the White House”. The first issue appeared in July of 1968. (Marchand, P.  (1990). Marshall McLuhan: The Medium & the Messenger. Toronto: Vintage Canada, pp. 209-210).

See promotional material, likely issued by direct mail, arranged in matrix fashion here:- )

DEW Line Card Deck – A spin-off product to the newsletter

Categories: Blog

Historicist: Explorations at the Vanguard of Communications Studies

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 05/05/2014 - 1:16pm

Cover of Explorations 3 (August 1954).

The short-lived but influential magazine overseen by Edmund Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan

(Republished by Permission)

In the 1950s, anthropologist Edmund Carpenter, English professor Marshall McLuhan, and others were at the centre of an innovative working group at the University of Toronto investigating modes and media of communication from a variety of academic perspectives. The establishment of the journal Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication in 1953 provided an outlet for their discussions and emerging ideas. The Globe and Mail‘s literary critic, William Arthur Deacon, proclaimed that the intellectual magazine’s cultural importance marked “a coming-of-age in Canada.”

Its content was an eclectic mix of treatises, poems, excerpts from popular magazines, and clippings of advertisements, with subjects ranging from indigenous cultures or musical instruments in Africa to experiments conducted in television studios. The magazine was both intellectually exhilarating for its cutting-edge ideas, and ploddingly dull for the opacity of certain articles. In his biography of McLuhan, Coupland characterized the magazine as a “glorious stew of diamonds and rhinestones and Fabergé eggs and merde.” And, along with the Ford Foundation-funded Seminar on Culture and Communication, Explorations was instrumental in laying the foundation of modern media studies.

The journal’s original nine issues, published in limited numbers between 1953 and 1959, were considered collector’s items almost immediately upon their publication and now fetchmore than $100 eachif you can find them.

Many of McLuhan’s key ideas had their genesis in the pages of Explorations, leading most observers to closely associate the journal with the media theorist. In fact, though often unacknowledged, the real driving force behind the publication was Carpenter, McLuhan’s friend and close collaborator.

As early as March 1951, McLuhan conceived of studying communications through experimental seminar cutting across strict boundaries between disciplines. It was a difficult proposition in an age before interdisciplinarity was widely accepted, but he found a kindred colleague with complementary ambitions in anthropology professor Edmund (Ted) Carpenter.

 Ted Carpenter (1922-2011)

Born in Rochester, Carpenter was intrigued by excavating prehistoric Iroquoian sites as a teenager. He enrolled in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania on the eve of the Second World War, but finished his degrees after serving in the Pacific Theatre. After accepting a teaching position at the University of Toronto, Carpenter embarked on a series of expeditions to the Canadian north and published several books on his experiences with the Aivilik people. On the side, Carpenter produced and hosted a series of shows on CBC radio and, later, television.

McLuhan and Carpenter co-wrote an application to the Behavioral Sciences Division of the Ford Foundation for an inter-faculty project investigating the effects of new media of communication. After being awarded funding in the spring of 1953, the two assembled their collaborators to lay out the content and scope of the Culture and Communication seminars (which was to be the core of their project) and to identify common areas of interests and methodological parallels between disciplines. This cadre, which became known as the Explorations Group, included D. Carl Williams of the psychology faculty and political economist Tom Easterbrook. Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, visiting professor of Town Planning in the School of Architecture, had been an early supporter of McLuhan’s seminar proposal, but wouldn’t rejoin the group until her return to Toronto from an overseas assignment in mid-1954.

The first seminar, held on October 15, 1953, was attended by about a dozen graduate students from the faculties of English, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology. Word spread rapidly across campus about the intellectually challenging but invigorating discussions and guest speakers at the seminars, and graduate students scrambled for a seat at the table.

Read the rest of this lengthy article from Torontoist at .

Explorations in Media Ecology, the journal of the Media Ecology Association, carries on the tradition of the original Explorations.

See the previous posting on this topic titled Explorations: Studies in Culture & Communication (1953-59) 26mar14 here

Categories: Blog

New Book: The Medium is the Muse [Channeling Marshall McLuhan]

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 05/04/2014 - 1:13pm
<p>Oracle of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan believed artists could wake us and offer new windows into the world. This diverse collection brings together twenty-nine poets, writers, and artists who channel McLuhan as both medium and muse. Like McLuhan’s work, this volume will delight, divert, provoke, incite and inspire readers to channel McLuhan in their own imagination and creative endeavors.</p><br /><br />
<p>Contributors:</p><br /><br />
<p>Lillian Allen, Michelle Rae Anderson, Mary Ann Allison, Marleen Barr, David Bateman, Arthur Asa Berger, bill bissett, Tony Burgess, Jerry Harp, Adeena Karasick, William Marshe, John G. McDaid, Jill McGinn, Elizabeth McLuhan, Peter C. Montgomery, Dean Motter, Alexandra Oliver, John Oughton, Si Philbrook, B.W. Powe, Robert Priest, Stephen Roxborough, Lance Strate, Steve Szewczok, Andrea Thompson, Toshio Ushiroguchi-Pigott, John Watts, Dale Winslow, Tom Wolfe” width=”325″ height=”504″ /> The Medium is the Muse [Channeling Marshall McLuhan]

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


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

Edited by Lance Strate & Adeena Karasick

NeoPoiesis Press, LLC is an independent publisher whose main goal is to print and promote outstanding poets, writers and artists. NeoPoiesis Press: Celebrating the independent, creative mind. We strive to reflect the creative drive and spirit of the new electronic media environment. Website:

Note: see posting on Artists as “the Antennae of the Race” 4 postings below this.

Categories: Blog

More on Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 05/03/2014 - 6:19pm

It's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Northrop Frye, Canada's most distinguished literary critic, who died in 1991.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) – Photo by Fred Phipps

The following quote is from B.W. Powe’s new book about Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, announced in the posting below this one:-

 “I argue here that Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye initiated a visionary-apocalyptic tradition in Canadian letters. It is an original tradition, seminal to understanding the uniqueness of the Canadian spirit. Their range of thought, the depth of their perceptions and speculations, the complexity of their engagements, the impact of their writings, the drama of their ideas, the effects of their intensities of insight and foresight are still being attacked, absorbed, debated, and adapted by critics, philosophers, writers, and teachers. McLuhan and Frye form an exciting alternative visionary protocol to other (European-based) theoretical propositions, a distinct intellectual re-creative stance. They were an audacious pair. So compressed and allusive, provocative and inspirational is their work that I will say that they are our most necessary literary figures. Certainly, they continue to be among the most influential authors in what I call the Canadian sublime, the essential literary and intellectual tradition emerging through our writers and artists, thinkers and poet-philosophers. - Powe. B.W. (2014). Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, pp. 11-12.


This video is from the Frye Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, during the centenary year of Northrop Frye’s birth in 2012. It shows a performance by two actors depicting an encounter between Frye and McLuhan in the waiting area of Toronto’s Pearson Airport and their ensuing conversation during the flight delay(duration 12: 13):

See the following previous postings about McLuhan & Frye:

Northrop Frye’s References to Marshall McLuhan in Correspondence: 

Bruce Powe’s Lecture on McLuhan and Frye:

This lecture looks at the the first meetings of what are arguably Canada’s best known and most influential thinkers, and their 34 year dialogue with one another through their books, lectures, notes and comments. It is the premise of B.W. Powe’s new book on his two teachers that McLuhan and Frye are the sources for an original indigenous visionary tradition. The lecture will look at their conflicts and their harmonies of thought; it will explore how central they are to the Canadian experience of technology and identity. We are still catching up to these two figures who are encoded in our mythological landscape.

 B.W. Powe

Categories: Blog

Just Published – Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy

McLuhan Galaxy - Wed, 04/30/2014 - 1:10pm

 Apocalypse and Alchemy

By B.W. Powe

Two of Canada’s central cultural figures, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye are rarely seen as sharing the same path. Their eloquent but antagonistic public responses to each other’s work testify to a professional rivalry and underscore the legend of competing theoretical tribes. The first sustained comparison of their lives and work, Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye: Apocalypse & Alchemy calls into question this popular conception by revealing a curious harmony between the careers and output of these twin intellectual giants. 

Poet, novelist, essayist and philosopher B.W. Powe draws upon his experiences studying with McLuhan and Frye, as well as interviews, letters, notebooks and published texts to expose the great commonalities in their writing and biographies. 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 “great code”. Much like the two thinkers who initiated it, what Powe christens the “visionary-apocalyptic tradition in Canadian letters” offers an original, dynamic approach to reading both literature and the broader culture.

B.W. Powe is an associate professor and the Creative Writing Program coordinator in the Department of English at York University.

Select Advance Praise for Marshall McLuhan & Northrop Frye:

“An entirely fresh view of McLuhan and Frye, the great Orator and the great Theorist, as exuberant visionaries who breached the future in tandem during their years teaching at the University of Toronto. Powe’s scholarship is marked by a distinctive ease and clarity of style rooted in a rigorous reading of all the pertinent texts.” - Barry Callaghan, Editor-in-chief, Exile: The Literary Quarterly

“Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye is the first book to thoroughly address the uncanny relation between these two great Canadian thinkers in a systematic way. B.W. Powe shows a deep knowledge of both McLuhan’s and Frye’s works, as well as of their critics.” - Elena Lamberti, Department of Foreign languages and Literature, University of Bologna

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

335 Pages, List price $32.95 (CAN), Paperback, 978-1-4426-1616-5

Northrop Frye  mcluhan blog.jpg

Categories: Blog

Mansaram at A Space Gallery, Toronto

McLuhan Galaxy - Tue, 04/29/2014 - 8:03pm
Multimedia Artist Panchal Mansaram

28 MARCH – 3 MAY 2014
A Space Gallery, 401 Richmond St. W., Toronto

 SAVAC in partnership with A Space Gallery and Images Festival, Monitor Reruns brings together five Canadian artists whose works represent the last decade of Monitor

Shai Heredia, founder of Experimenta, India’s first experimental film festival, has curated Monitor Reruns, an exhibition that draws from the Monitor archives. Selected works from; Nurjahan Akhlaq,  Ayesha Hameed,  P. Mansaram,  Vivek Shraya & The Torontonians.

Works by Mansaram:-

1. Devi with Pink Stuffed Goat by P. Mansaram, India, 1979 (16:17) A film collage by Mansaram, Devi with Pink Stuffed Goat reflects on two significant locales in artist’s life – Mumbai and Rajasthan. He describes Mumbai as “a city in motion, collage in motion and crowd in motion.” The symbols in the film hark back to his childhood in Rajasthan; as he describes, “palace, Devi, Devtas, colourful oddnees, mysticism, animal sacrifice and hunting.

3. Intersect by P. Mansaram, India, 1967 (6:06) Intersect is Mansaram’s first film, which was inspired by the films of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. Intersect reflects his work in collage, including combining radio and television commercials with film content.

47.  Mansaram-McLuhan Interview, Audio, Toronto, 1967, (44:00)

5.  Stills & Contact Sheets from P. Mansaram’s East-West Intersect, Canada, 1967.

6.  Mansaram’s 12 feet long mixed media on Canvas, titled Rear View Mirror, 1967

A SpaceGallery, 401 Richmond Street W., Toronto, Suite 110,   416 979 9633   –   Gallery Hours, Tue-Fri  11-5,  Sat 12-5.


P. Mansaram completed his studies at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam in 1964, and has exhibited internationally ever since. He has worked extensively with Marshall McLuhan over the course of two decades, championing digital film and the photographic image, in addition to his collage work. His work is housed in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Dehli and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Picture 2

Marshall McLuhan and P. Mansaram at the opening for Mansaram’s ‘Rear View Mirror’ exhibition at the Picture Loan Gallery in Toronto, 1974.

Categories: Blog

Artists as “the Antennae of the Race”

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 04/26/2014 - 8:00pm

Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists.  - Ezra Pound

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

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

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

A BBC Radio article reports on recent research that provides evidence to explain why artists have such perceptual abilities, what McLuhan called “integral awareness”:

By Melissa Hogenboom Science reporter, BBC Radio Science

Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found.

Participants’ brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery.

The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist’s talent could be innate.

But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors report.

As in many areas of science, the exact interplay of nature and nurture remains unclear.

Lead author Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven, Belgium, said she was interested in finding out how artists saw the world differently.

“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” she explained.

In their small study, researchers peered into the brains of 21 art students and compared them to 23 non-artists using a scanning method called voxel-based morphometry.

These detailed scans revealed that the artist group had significantly more grey matter in an area of the brain called the precuneus in the parietal lobe.

“This region is involved in a range of functions but potentially in things that could be linked to creativity, like visual imagery – being able to manipulate visual images in your brain, combine them and deconstruct them,” Dr Chamberlain told the BBC’s Inside Science programme.

For the full report, listen to Inside Science on BBC Radio 4

Participants also completed drawing tasks and the team looked at the relationship between their performance in this task and their grey and white matter.

A changing brain

Those better at drawing had increased grey and white matter in the cerebellum and also in the supplementary motor area – both areas that are involved with fine motor control and performance of routine actions.

Grey matter is largely composed of nerve cells, while white matter is responsible for communication between the grey matter regions.

But it is still not clear what this increase of neural matter might mean. From looking at related studies of other creative people, such as musicians, it suggests that these individuals have enhanced processing in these areas, Dr Chamberlain added. Read the rest of this article here: )


A Dew Line Radome, 1956

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”. – Marshall McLuhan

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Congress Joint Session “Innis Acros the Disciplines”, May 27, 2014 14:00 – 15:30

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 6:18pm

Harold Innis public-domain library archives-canada.jpg Innis in the ’20s

Innis Across the Disciplines: New Insights, New Opportunities for the Digital Humanities Communications and History

John Michael Bonnett, H.V. Nelles, William Buxton, Geoffrey Rockwell

Time:  May 27, 2014,  14:00-15:30

Harold Innis is one of the most compelling and important figures in 20th century Canadian intellectual history. A founder of the Toronto School of Communications, his writings have proven influential in fields ranging from history to the digital humanities, and in the writings of individuals as diverse as Marshall McLuhan, John Seely Brown and the British geographer Sir Peter Hall. Despite the widely acknowledged importance of his work, however, Innis’ writings have also frustrated and challenged scholars, in large measure because of the author’s dense, elliptical verbiage. Incoherence, the Economist magazine once noted in 1946, was Harold Innis’ besetting sin. Innis’ work may not be an easy read, but scholars continue to find his writings an interesting place to visit and re-visit, in large measure because his contributions continue to yield new insights when viewed in relation to other items in his corpus, and in relation to the intellectual discourse of his time.

The purpose of this panel is to examine the past, present and potential future contributions of Innis’ writings to the disciplines of history, communications and the digital humanities. It is occasioned by the publication of John Bonnett’s Emergence and Empire: Innis, Complexity and the Trajectory of History. It will feature the insights of three senior scholars, one from each discipline, who will draw on their own understandings of Innis, and insights from Emergence and Empire, to comment on how past, present and emerging understandings of Innis present opportunities to influence the expressive, analytical and pedagogical practices of the three disciplines. It will also feature a paper from the book’s author, John Bonnett. The three scholars are:

William J. Buxton, Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University • H.V. Nelles, L.R. Wilson Professor of Canadian History, Department of History, McMaster University • Geoffrey Rockwell, Humanities Computing Program and Department of Philosophy, University of Alberta. The publication of Emergence and Empire is a propitious moment to consider Innis’ impact on the three disciplines, for two reasons.

The first is that Innis’s writings in both economic history and communications continue to generate interest amongst scholars in the social sciences and the humanities, particularly in Canada. As such, they can be used by Canadian digital humanists as a resource to inform, consolidate and legitimize their research and practices. This argument is prompted by two arguments in Emergence and Empire, the first being that Innis was an early social science proponent of information visualization; and that Innis proposed modes of analysis currently being pursued in historical GIS. By drawing on Innis, Canadian scholars in particular can argue that they are undertaking activities consistent with the finest traditions of scholarship in Canada. Innis’ writings will likely also prompt new scholarship. He pressed for GIS-like studies showing the relationship between Canada’s economic evolution and innovations in transportation infrastructure, studies to date that have not been extensively undertaken.

Emergence and Empire also presents historians and communication scholars an opportunity to reconsider Innis’ place in the intellectual context of his time. It also affords an opportunity to reconsider the relationships Innis drew between communication technologies, information flows, social cohesion, and the historical process. This claim is prompted generally by the book’s argument that Innis’ work should be viewed as a sustained meditation on the nature of historical change: Innis believed human history was governed by self-organizing systems governed by positive feedback as well as formal and final cause. More specifically, this claim is supported by two arguments of the book, that Innis independently and concurrently produced work that mirrors Norbert Wiener’s Cybernetics; and that Innis was a neo-Kantian who promoted an Idealist philosophy of history.

The task of this panel, in short, will be to re-visit each discipline’s respective understanding of Innis, to reflect on how Innis’ writings can and should influence each discipline’s practice now, and how his writings suggest the three disciplines should collaborate in future.

This panel will be a joint session of the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Communications Association and the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities at Congress 2014 of the Humanities & Social Sciences (see ).

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New Book – Emergence & Empire: Innis, Complexity, & the Trajectory of History

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 5:53pm

Emergence and Empire

zoom cover image

A ground-breaking look at the writings and philosophy of pioneering Canadian thinker Harold Adams Innis.

Harold Innis was one of the most profound thinkers that Canada ever produced. Such was his influence on the field of communication that Marshall McLuhan once declared his own work was a mere footnote to Innis. But over the past sixty years scholars have had a hard time explaining his brilliance, in large measure because Innis’s dense, elliptical writing style has hindered easy explication and interpretation. But behind the dense verbiage lies a profound philosophy of history.

In Emergence and Empire, John Bonnett offers a fresh take on Innis’s work by demonstrating that his purpose was to understand the impact of self-organizing, emergent change on economies and societies. Innis’s interest in emergent change induced him to craft an original and bold philosophy of history informed by concepts as diverse as information, Kantian idealism, and business cycle theory. Bonnett provides a close reading of Innis’s oeuvre that connects works of communication and economic history to present a fuller understanding of Innis’s influences and influence.

Emergence and Empire presents a portrait of an original and prescient thinker who anticipated the importance of developments such as information visualization and whose understanding of change is remarkably similar to that which is promoted by the science of complexity today.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 3

1 Constructs of Change 15
2 The Fur Trade 50
3 The Cod Fisheries 78
4 Political Economy in the Modern State 127
5 Empire and Communications and The Bias of Communication 184
6 The Enduring Significance of Harold Adams Innis 251

Conclusion 280
Notes 295
Index 363

Author: John Bonnett is a Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities and associate professor of history at Brock University.

 Harold Innis (1894-1952)


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Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: iProbes & iPhone Photographs

McLuhan Galaxy - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 7:17pm
Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan


Distributed for Intellect Ltd (UK) by the University of Chicago Press 240 pages | 100 color plates | 9 x 9 | ISBN: 9781783200306 |Published January, 2014 ( )  In this timely and highly original merging of theory and practice, conflict photographer and critical theorist Rita Leistner applies Marshall McLuhan’s semiotic theories of language, media, and technology to iPhone photographs taken during a military embed in Afghanistan. In a series of what Leistner calls iProbes—a portmanteau of iPhone and probe—Leistner reveals the face of war through the extensions of man. As digital photography becomes more ubiquitous, and as the phones we carry with us become more advanced, the process of capturing images becomes more democratic and more spontaneous. Leistner’s photos result from both access and impulse. Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan will appeal anyone with an interest in the conflicts in the Middle East, the seminal communications theorist, or iPhone apps and photography.

Contents –  Foreword

Hipstamatic Blues by Julian Stallabrass

The Process

Smartphones + War in Afghanistan – Marshall McLuhan b. 1911 in Alberta Canada – The embed – Semiotics – Figure + Ground – Reading McLuhan – Musa Qala – The social media – River City – iPhone + the Hipstamatic app – The thingness of things – The iProbes – Prophylactive therapy

The Extensions of Man

Camera obscura – Electric light – Typewriter – Telephone – Phonograph – Smartphone

McLuhan + Fiore + The Printed Book

The iProbes

iProbe 01_The iphone Camera + the Hipstamatic app ; iProbe 02_Phone Texting ; iProbe 03_Body Armour ; iProbe 04_Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) ; iProbe 05_Figure / Ground ; iProbe 06_Improved Explosive Devices (IEDs) Made of Wood ; iProbe 07_Fuel Dispensers ; iProbe 08_Loudspeakers and Sermons from the Mosque ; iProbe 09_Mobile Telephony: “Can You Hear Me Now?” ; iProbe 10_The Written Word: “Proceed At Your Own Risk” ; iProbe 11_Unmaned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs); iProbe 12_Sandbags and HESCO Concertina Barriers ; The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:00­–11:10)

The Tetrads: Laws of Media

Notes – Bibliography – Colophon – Acknowledgements – About the author

YouTube trailer about the book:

Read the U of T News interview with Rita Leistner: Previous postings on this blog about her work: ;  ;
Categories: Blog

Paul Levinson: A Tetrad on the Selfie (& An Explanation of McLuhan’s Tetrads)

McLuhan Galaxy - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 11:56am

From Paul Levinson’s Infinite Regress blog (by permission):

I [Paul Levinson] just had an exchange with Ian Bogost over on Twitter, after I posted the above photograph of me, Marshall McLuhan, and Eric McLuhan, taken at the “Tetrad Conference” I organized at Fairleigh Dickinson University in March 1978.
Ian aptly said that I needed a “4th” (the “tetrad” has four components).
I replied that the 4th person pertaining to the photograph was the photographer*, which has flipped into the selfie.
Here, then, is a full tetrad on the photograph, and it’s flipping into the selfie:

The photograph enhances capture of literal images.

The photograph obsolesces portrait painting.

The photograph retrieves memory, looking at images in pools of water, etc.

And the photograph flips into the selfie.

And it’s a physical flip of the camera in the phone, as well as a philosophic flip.
*photographer was my student, Mary Lou Bale

For more on the tetrad …   a guide to the information millennium /

See also from which this is extracted:

 The Process of Tetrad Creation

The tetrad is arrived at through a process of asking questions, based on historical, social, and technological knowledge of the subject:

  • What does any artifact enlarge or enhance?
  • What does it erode or obsolesce?
  • What does it retrieve that had been earlier obsolesced?
  • What does it reverse or flip into when pushed to the limits of its potential?

These questions result in a set of four effects, namely: enhancement, obsolescence, retrieval, and reversal. These four elements are in a resonant relationship (or “interchange”) with one another; the parts of the tetrad are in a complementary relationship:

An example for the cellphone:-

“Laws of Media: Mobile Phone”, Marshall McLuhan, from Laws of Media, 1988, page 153.

Categories: Blog

Marshall McLuhan on Timothy Leary, Psychedelics & Electronic Technology

McLuhan Galaxy - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:16am


By Michael Horowitz and Lisa Rein

How about Tim as the Ulysses of the inner trip? Electric technology, by virtue of its immediate relation to our nervous system, is itself a sort of inner trip, with drugs playing the role of sub-plot or alternative mode. It may well appear a few years hence that the panic about psychedelic drugs relates less to the chemistry than to the hidden terrors which people feel in the presence of electric technology.” – Marshall McLuhan, June 1974, (From a previously unpublished letter – See full text below.)

McLuhan black outlineThere is no other 1960s intellectual figure whom Timothy Leary came to admire more  than Marshall McLuhan. He considered McLuhan’s famous statement–“the medium is  the message” – the most important cultural insight of the ‘60s, a decade saturated with  insightful and lasting one-liners, some of the most famous coming from Leary’s own  brain. Leary has even credited the world’s foremost media theorist with giving him the  pep talk that resulted in his own famous mantra: “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”

 In 1964, when LSD was fast becoming a national issue on a trajectory that eventually  made it the most vilified drug of the decade, McLuhan’s treatise Understanding  Media became (alongside The Tibetan Book of the Dead) the latest roadmap for Leary’s  positioning on the subject that had increasingly preoccupied him since he and Richard  Alpert had been forced out of Harvard, where they had been doing groundbreaking  research on psilocybin, LSD and DMT during the early 1960s.

understanding media

 McLuhan argued that all media are “extensions” of our  human senses, bodies and minds, that “amplify and  accelerate existing processes.” It was the medium itself, regardless of the content, that was the message.

He could have been speaking of LSD as much as a television screen.

In McLuhan’s estimation, the “only sure disaster would be a society not perceiving a technology’s effects on their world, especially the chasms and tensions between generations.” In the culture wars of the ‘60s, this became known as the “Generation Gap” and lead to a suppression of youth protest culture by the ruling class. The new medium of television broadcast it to every living room, from civil right protestors being attacked by sheriffs’ dogs to hippies being busted for smoking pot to anti-war demonstrators being beaten by cops to the rows of body bags in the jungles of Vietnam.

Man is about to make use of that fabulous electrical network he carries around in his skull” – Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, 1963

During the spring of 1963, as they were being excommunicated from Harvard, Leary and Alpert’s parting shot was the publication, in the Harvard Review, of their manifesto, “The Politics of Consciousness Expansion,” in which they claimed:

Politics Consciousness791 black outline “The effects of consciousness-expanding drugs will be to transform our concepts of human nature, of  human potentialities, of existence. The game is about to be changed . . . . Man is about to make use of  that fabulous electrical network he carries around in his skull . . . . Prepare your intellectual craft to  flow with the current.”

 “Around this time, McLuhan met another noteworthy counterculture figure, Timothy  Leary, who later  remarked that there was no need to turn on McLuhan to LSD since the  professor got high on the yoga  of his art form–talk. As Leary explains, ‘He talks in  circles, and spirals, and flower forms and mandala  forms’.” (Philip Marchand, Marshall  McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, p. 126).

 Leary and McLuhan had lunch at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan in the spring of 1966, following Tim’s  appearance at the U.S. Senate Hearings on the psychedelic drug “crisis,” and shortly before he gave a  talk on “The Molecular Revolution” at the first non-academic LSD conference in San Francisco. Leary  wrote a lengthy account of this critical meeting with McLuhan in his autobiography (Flashbacks, pp.  251-52).

Read the rest of this long essay, especially McLuhan’s Unpublished Letter In Support of Prisoner Leary (1974), at: .

Thanks to Paul Levinson for bringing this article to my attention.

 tim sweater black outline Timothy Leary (1920 – 96)

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New Book Announcement – Digital Modernism: Making It New in New Media

McLuhan Galaxy - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:42am
Digital Modernism Making It New in New Media Jessica Pressman OUP USA Modernist Literature & Culture 240 pages | 20 halftones | 235x156mm 978-0-19-993710-3 | Paperback & Hardcover | 27 February, 2014 From the book’s Introduction:- McLuhan not only wrote at the midpoint of the twentieth century, but he is also himself  a midpoint between modernism and digital modernism. Donald Theall writes,” since the mid-point of the century a single name, McLuhan, has brooded ghost-like over social and cultural understanding of the intersection of communication, computers, persuasion, and the emergence of a technoculture.” Moreover, Mr. McLuhan is a bridge between literary and media studies because he adopted the role of the modernist poet/critic in the postmodern period using  an understanding of literature that he gained from the New Critics to explain the age of television. I hope we can now see how retracing McLuhan’s connections to the New Criticism shows how he adapted the practices of an earlier cultural moment to address his own. We can learn from McLuhan and do something similar. Indeed understanding McLuhan in this way serves to remind us that we too can and, indeed, must renovate traditional critical practices to suit the needs of our emergent literary culture. McLuhan saw the world in the midst of transformation due to media shift, and he offered the following query. Posed in the language of modernism (and of vorticism in particular), it could easily serve as a thesis or a probe for the chapters that follow: “May not our job in the new electronic age be to study the action of the new vortex on the body of the older culture?” Reading McLuhan as both a modernist and a theorist of new media, I answer “the Oracle of the Electric Age” in the affirmative. How exactly to go about studying the new vortex of the electric age and its impact on literature is my pursuit in the following chapters. The full Chapter One, titled, Close Reading: Marshall McLuhan, from Modernism to Media Studies can be accessed here: . Oxford University Press OUP listing description:
  • Presents surprising juxtapositions between early 20th-century modernist literature and early 21st-century digital texts
  • Covers canonical work by Joyce and Pound alongside lesser known works of electronic literature by William Poundstone and Judd Morrissey
  • Establishes electronic literature as an important area for modernist studies

Digital Modernism examines how and why some of the most innovative works of online electronic literature adapt and allude to literary modernism. Digital literature has been celebrated as a postmodern form that grows out of contemporary technologies, subjectivities, and aesthetics, but this book provides an alternative genealogy. Exemplary cases show electronic literature looking back to modernism for inspiration and source material (in content, form, and ideology) through which to critique contemporary culture. In so doing, this literature renews and reframes, rather than rejects, a literary tradition that it also reconfigures to center around media. To support her argument, Pressman pairs modernist works by Pound, Joyce, and Bob Brown, with major digital works like William Poundstone’s “Project for the Tachistoscope: [Bottomless Pit]” (2005), Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries’s Dakota, and Judd Morrissey’s The Jew’s Daughter. With each pairing, she demonstrates how the modernist movement of the 1920s and 1930s laid the groundwork for the innovations of electronic literature. In sum, the study situates contemporary digital literature in a literary genealogy in ways that rewrite literary history and reflect back on literature’s past, modernism in particular, to illuminate the crucial role that media played in shaping the ambitions and practices of that period. (Source )

Jessica Pressman Jessica Pressman

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