An Excerpt From Culture Worrier by Journalist Clarence Page 

INTRODUCTION   –   WHAT? ME WORRY?

Culture Worrier: Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change by Clarence Page, Foreword by Chris MatthewsCulture Worrier: Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change by Clarence Page, Foreword by Chris Matthews

When the pioneer media guru Marshall McLuhan visited my university during my student days, he said something that has stuck with me. A student asked what he thought of the “black power” movement that was simmering at the time. “White America is detribalizing,” he observed in his characteristically prophetic fashion, “and black America is re-tribalizing.”

He said more, but the elegant imagery and symmetry of that statement has stayed on my mind ever since. McLuhan used the term “tribe” a lot. He spoke and wrote about “tribal man” versus “technological man,” for whom modern media are extensions of the self. In these and in other ways, he was far more often quoted than understood. But what he was saying made clear sense to me. It was the civil rights era. White America was relaxing its historic customs, institutions and traditions of white privilege. Black America, particularly my young generation—presenting cool but feeling very cautious—was turning inward, rejecting the melting-pot assimilationist values of our elders and reaching back to discover our roots in a place to which we never had been, a romanticized Eden called “Africa”—or in some super-righteous circles, “Afrika.”

Fast forward. Were McLuhan around today in the new media age of Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram and the cloud—and once he got through with his I-told-you-so’s—I believe he would observe something quite the opposite of what he said about racial tribes in the 1960s. He might well observe that African-Americans in the age of Barack Obama have been detribalizing while white Americans in the age of tea party politics are re-tribalizing.

Or maybe he, like the world, would be more complicated than that. In McLuhanesque terms, I have seen all Americans re-tribalize—as in, rearrange ourselves less strictly along lines of race or ethnicity than along lines of shared culture, values, interests and attitudes. Today’s tribes are less distinctly racial and ethnic than cultural and political. Such is the new neotribalism that has defined my career as a reporter and my past three decades as a columnist, from which the works in this book were selected. I’ve written a lot about race and ethnicity, but race only has been the most obvious marker of far more significant cultural and tribal relations in our society. Ambrose Bierce got the point with his dour Industrial Age definition of “the Conservative” as “a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”

———- [ snip ] ———-

McLuhan, who died in 1980 at age 69, had an idea of what was ahead. “The tribalizing power of the new electronic media, the way in which they return us to the unified fields of the old oral cultures, to tribal cohesion and pre-individualist patterns of thought, is little understood,” he wrote. “Tribalism is the sense of the deep bond of family, the closed society as the norm of community.” Had he stuck around long enough to have seen increasingly vast and diverse new political media and vast audiences tuning in not only to their own favorite opinion but also their own favorite version of facts, I suspect he once again would have said, “I told you so.”

Reprinted with permission from Culture Worrier by Clarence Page, Agate Bolden, September 2014. (Read the rest of this ecerpt at: http://tinyurl.com/nesrpar)

*****

Along with tribalism and race, the author of this book should have included  identity and its loss, which was of even greater concern for Marshall McLuhan, who he cites throughout this excerpt. Identity and loss of identity are at the root of much of the violence and discord that we see in the world today. A McLuhan quote:-

 “The violence that all electric media inflict in their users is that they are instantly invaded and deprived of their physical bodies and are merged in a network of extensions of their own nervous systems. As if this were not sufficient violence or invasion of individual rights, the elimination of the physical bodies of the electric media users also deprives them of the means of relating the program experience of their private, individual selves, even as instant involvement suppresses private identity. The loss of individual and personal meaning via the electronic media ensures a corresponding and reciprocal violence from those so deprived of their identities; for violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence.” – “Violence of the Media”, Canadian Forum, 1976

See McLuhan speak about identity on this video excerpt from Marshall McLuhan Speakshttp://tinyurl.com/qewuyg3 

Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction.  - Marshall McLuhan


On the Media is a weekly one-hour National Public Radio program devoted to media criticism and analysis. See http://www.onthemedia.org/ .

WNYC’s Sara Fishko left us with some intriguing questions [regarding Marshall McLuhan]. To answer them, Brooke speaks to Nicholas Carr about how Marshall McLuhan’s theories have held up, 50 years later. Carr’s latest book is called The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, and examines the impact of our growing dependency on computers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

GUESTS: Nicholas Carr     –     HOSTED BY: Brooke Gladstone

Click on the following to hear the interview with Nicholas Carr:

 
//www.onthemedia.org/widgets/ondemand_player/#file=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onthemedia.org%2Faudio%2Fxspf%2F407365%2F;containerClass=onthemedia

About Nicholas Carr: http://www.nicholascarr.com/

  Nicholas Carr


From The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, Bantam Books, New York, 1967.

 Penguin Edition


You are invited to the launch of Rita Leistner’s unique book 

Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: iProbes & iPhone Photographs

The Time: October 29, 5:30PM to 8:00 PM

The Place: Alumni Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto 

MM_Afghanistan

The Northrop Frye Centre, which is hosting the event, has asked that people rsvp if they can (so they will know how much food & drink to provide): http://www.vic.utoronto.ca/academics/Research_Centres/fryecentre/nfcrsvp2.htm

See website: http://www.lookingformarshallmcluhan.com/book/

From a recent review:-

This book is astonishing!

Rita has an MA in Comp Lit, and she has written essays for other people’s books on conflict photography, but here she gets philosophical and whimsical in ways that will surprise everyone. She really takes the idea of photography as a communication technology and runs with it.

Here is what the back of the book says better than I can paraphrase:

“In 2011, Rita Leistner embedded with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan as a team member of the experimental social media initiative Basetrack. What resulted is Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan. In this insightful and provocative, playful and original merging of theory and practice, Leistner applies the pioneering Canadian media theorist’s ideas on language and technology to contemporary warfare and increasingly ubiquitous smartphones.” ( http://tinyurl.com/mnmafxu )


Originally posted on Miss Rosen:

book-of-probes_i6 med_probes_sprd_1-jpg81zGOB8eVPL

“All the new media, including the press, are art forms which have the power of imposing, like poetry, their own assumption,” Marshall McLuhan observed. We live in a time when new media is so ubiquitous as to be omnipresent and the only escape from the world we’ve built is to be out of satellite range—or, even more difficult, to simply turn it off.

But we don’t because we won’t because, like the greatest pharmaceutical drugs, new media has rewired our brains to change the way in which we perceive ourselves and the world itself. The way in which we live has become so extreme that we are hard pressed to remember how we operated any other way. We take for granted the way in which these interactions create and define experience, allowing ourselves to fall under the spell, whether we want to or not. At a time when to…

View original 821 more words


Derrick, who used to work closely with Marshall McLuhan, is a Professor of the French Language department at the University of Toronto and of the Sociology department at the Federico II University in Naples, scientific director of the Italian magazine Mediaduemila and research director at the UOCDerrick de Kerckhove [was] Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology and Professor in the Department of French at the University of Toronto. He was an associate of the Centre for Culture and Technology from 1972 to 1980 and worked with Marshall McLuhan for over ten years as translator, assistant and co-author. He co-edited the book The Alphabet and the Brain (Springer Verlag, 1988) with Charles Lumsden which scientifically assesses the impact of the Western alphabet on the physiology and the psychology of human cognition. Brainframes: Technology, Mind and Business (Bosch & Keuning, 1991) addresses the differences between the effects of television, computers and hypermedia on corporate culture, business practices and economic markets. The Skin of Culture (Somerville Press, 1995) is a collection of essays on the new electronic reality. Derrick’s latest book,Connected Intelligence (Somerville, 1997) was launched in 1997.

This is an edited English translation of a recent interview in Spain taken from http://tinyurl.com/dxnmwtq .

*****

You started studying French language and Literature.

It was an accident. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It cultivates your sensibility and you do become critically aware… you learn methods of looking and feeling. But I think I would have probably been a better architect. I loved being an architect, but I didn’t realize it was so good.

Afterwards you studied Sociology and new technologies.

That was an accident too. Now that I think of it, my life is nothing but a series of wonderful accidents. I was very much bored by French Literature and my wife, who was my fiancée then, said that if I was bored at the University of Toronto because you are only at the French department you are stupid. You should go and listen to the famous people here, who are really well-known around the world for being who they are. She gave the names of Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye and Robertson Davies. Robertson Davies was a writer, a novelist, and he was OK. Frye was a really famous literary critic, a big guy, but I didn’t find it that exciting. But McLuhan… that was amazing! I couldn’t understand anything he said. Maybe that’s why it was interesting!   …..

Let’s talk a bit about Marshall McLuhan. You consider him your master.

Absolutely. Without him I wouldn’t be here.

He said that “the medium is the message”. Does this mean that everything is done and said and we cannot expect anything new to appear in arts or culture?

No, what is happening now is as big as the Renaissance, and it could be much bigger. It is a big change of being. It is not just a change of mood or politics, it is a change of being. Exactly where we are going I am not absolutely sure, but we are exploring possible ways of being. Cinema is a good example, I call it “Pinocchio 2.0”: Blade runner is one example of being a replicant, Tron is going inside the machine, Avatar is going 3D into the screen and beyond, The Truman show is being the focus of attention of the whole world not knowing that one is such… I used to throw away the American cinema because of the happy endings and so, but no, they are very intelligent and they know what they are looking for. I have always been fascinated by the way we project our image.

McLuhan wrote also about the “global village”, and it was in the sixties, when no one could even imagine internet. Was he like a 20th century Jules Verne?

No, it was different. He discovered that teaching Literature to young American students was hopeless, they didn’t get it. So he questioned which was their culture, and he saw this advertising. He wrote a book, The Mechanical Bride, where he was actually analyzing pictures and asking the people what did it say to them. They thought that was interesting. And that’s how he began studying culture as an object of analysis.

The Skin of Culture

 *****

Derrick de Kerckhove lays the foundation for his provocative ideas by reviewing the roots of  literacy. Starting with the emergence of the alphabet, the reader is taken on a journey of man’s  quest to learn who he is and what he wants in an ever-changing universe. There is a full  elaboration on the more recent developments. He places us in the transition from an age of  broadcast technologies to that of a networked global environment. We are brought from the  collective mind, as influenced by television, to the convergence of individuals being productive  within a broader system. Empowerment, we are told, is now possible as a result of these new  forms of consciousness.


the tetrad is imaged as a double Mobius strip

In Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village (1989), published posthumously, Marshall McLuhan summarized his thinking about technology in a concise tetrad of media effects. The tetrad is an analytical tool for considering the effects on society of any technology/medium, artifact, or idea (put another way: a means of explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of a technology, artifact or idea) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical/analytical tool, offering his laws as questions to to be asked of any technology, artifact or idea:

  1. What does the artifact enhance?
  2. What does the artifact obsolesce?
  3. What does the artifact retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does the artifact reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?

The laws of the tetrad exist simultaneously, not successively or chronologically, and allow the questioner to explore the “grammar and syntax” of the “language” of media. By flip or reverse, McLuhan meant that a technology or artifact “overheats”, or reverses into an opposing state, when pushed to its extreme. (adapted from http://tinyurl.com/2p82l5 )

*****

Tetrad

In this excerpt, innovation expert Jeff DeGraff applies the Laws of Media to the process of innovation, which illustrates how these laws can be applied to human processes or ideas:-

The late Marshall McLuhan, University of Toronto professor and cultural guru, suggested a functional definition for innovation that is easily recognizable by anyone in any type organization.

 

 

An innovation…

  1. Enhances something: Think about how Google was a late entrant into the search biz but lapped the field with its simple approach
  1. Eliminates [obsolesces] Something: Think about how Charles Schwab eliminated the need for stock brokers by connecting the back office of the trading house directly to the customer
  1. Returns Us to Something [Retrieves] in Our Past: Think about how the desire to have home cooked family meals has lead to the proliferation of underground dining and slow food restaurants
  1. Over Time Reverses [Flips] into Its Opposite: Think about how e-mail was going to set us all free but instead enslaved us with its ubiquitous and overwhelming demands

It is assumed that the more potent the innovation the more it embodies the four attributes and vice versa.

McLuhan understood that innovation was specific to the situation that gave rise to it or destroyed it. So he focused on its effects and not its causes. He warned that a one size fits all approach with its simple checklist would do more harm than good and lead to a form of intellectual and creative myopia.

Innovation has a transformative power for brief period of time when it produces the ability to create or destroy value. After that it becomes the standard, the norm and the ordinary. Like milk, it has a shelf life and goes sour over time. (Excerpted from http://tinyurl.com/kc6pskb )

Image 2: “Laws of Media: Mobile Phone”, Marshall McLuhan, from Laws of Media, 1988, page 153.

 


My apologies to subscribers; the beginning portion of this posting that you received earlier was unintentional; I accidentally hit the publish button instead of the preview one. As an example of Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic ability, discussed in the last posting, consider his perceptive comments about computers, at a time when only large mainframe computers existed, and his premonitions about a future technology that came to be the Internet. This excerpt is from Robert Logan’s 2013 book, McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight. Toronto: Key Publishing.

*****

So many of McLuhan’s pronouncements about the effects of electric media are prophetic because it seems as though he was aware of the coming of the Net, the Web and other digital media. A simple example of his prescience is that he, in fact, through his writing foreshadowed the Internet. William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, certainly deserves credit for coining the term cyberspace but long before Neuromancer was written or even conceived of, McLuhan (1967, p. 67) described the Internet in the following passage in response to being asked “How is the computer affecting education” McLuhan’s response was an almost exact description of the Internet:

“The computer in education is in a very tentative state but it does represent basically speeded up access to information and when it is applied to the telephone and to Xerox it permits access to the libraries of the world, almost immediately, without delay. And so the immediate effect of the computer is to pull up the walls of the subjects and divisions of knowledge in favor of over-all field, total awareness – Gestalt”.

McLuhan’s description of the Internet was complete with the exception of packet switching if you allow Xeroxing to represent the reproduction of a hard copy by a printer. And he opined this description two full years before the development of ARPANET in 1969, the forerunner of the Internet.

An even earlier remark by McLuhan (1962) in the Gutenberg Galaxy also foreshadows the Internet:

“A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve individual encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind”.

One can also interpret without too much of a stretch the retrieval of “individual encyclopedic function” in the above quote as a foreshadowing of Wikipedia as Derrick de Kerckhove once did (the provided link doesn’t work).

McLuhan not only foreshadowed the Internet and Wikipedia, but he also foreshadowed Innocentive.com, a Web site that connects companies that have a problem to solve with experts that Innocentive has aggregated. They call the process “Open Innovation,” which they describe as follows:

“Open Innovation allows many people from different disciplines to tackle the same problem simultaneously and not sequentially. Anyone can participate with collaborative technology and Open Innovation training. When many minds are working on the same problem, it will take less time to solve it”.

McLuhan (1971) in a convocation address at the University of Alberta said:

The university and school of the future must be a means of total community participation, not in the consumption of available knowledge, but in the creation of completely unavailable insights. The overwhelming obstacle to such community participation in problem solving and research at the top levels, is the reluctance to admit, and to describe, in detail their difficulties and their ignorance. There is no kind of problem that baffles one or a dozen experts that cannot be solved at once by a million minds that are given a chance simultaneously to tackle a problem. The satisfaction of individual prestige, which we formerly derived from the possession of expertise, must now yield to the much greater satisfactions of dialogue and group discovery. The task yields to the task force.

McLuhan not only foreshadowed the development of the Internet and crowd sourcing he with his co-author George B. Leonard in an article in the popular magazine Look also explained why the digital media would be so compelling to young people and to a certain degree their elders. They suggested that the age of print and the fragmentation that it encouraged was over (McLuhan and Leonard, 1967).

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… 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.

He and Leonard (ibid.) also predicted that the relationship to humankind’s knowledge would change with electrically configured information as we are beginning to see in this the Internet Age.

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 past cultures as fully integrated systems that resonate on several levels and share the qualities of poetry and song.

Still another foreshadowing of McLuhan was that of the smart phone as described by his biographer Phillip Marchand (1989, p. 170).

“He told an audience in New York City shortly after the publication of Understanding Media that there might come a day when we would all have portable computers, about the size of a hearing aid, to help mesh our personal experiences with the experience of the great wired brain of the outer world.

What makes this prediction even more amazing is that there were no personal computers at the time, no cell phones and no Internet (i.e. ‘the great wired brain of the outer world’)”.

The notion of the need for keeping messages short and hence the power of the one-liner foreshadows in our digital era texting, instant messaging and Twitter.
… 
References:
Marchand, Philip. 1989. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. Toronto: Random House.
McLuhan, Marshall. 1967. “The New Education.” The Basilian Teacher, Vol. 11 (2), pp. 66-73.

McLuhan-Misunderstood-Setting-the-Record-Straight-9781926780528

Photograph of Marshall McLuhan

From: Marshall McLuhan Speaks

Marshall McLuhan has been called the prophet or oracle of the Electric Age before. In an era of futurists and prognosticators such as Toffler, Naisbitt and Bucky Fuller, the futurist label could well be applied to McLuhan too; however, he avoided it, claiming instead to be writing about the present: “The present is very difficult to see. It takes enormous energy, and most people don’t have enough energy to see anything, let alone the present. That’s why they talk about the future.” (The Book of Probes, p. 530). However, the following article calls him a “media futurist” and one can see why from his cited comments:-

*****

“Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. “Time” has ceased, “space” has vanished. We now live in a global village…a simultaneous happening.”  -Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is The Massage (1967)

The fact that you are reading this not in a book or were spurned to read this through electrical circuitry through the expanse of Facebook or Twitter spills the irony water flow over the glass like Marshall McLuhan would have seen.

Our global connectiveness and the never ending stream of online perpetuity has created a world consciousness.  Twenty four television, reality shows, streaming live data, cellular service, instant information, and the promotion of the Westernized world into every facet of reality on Earth has not stopped since Canada’s favorite futurist weirdo wrote his first book on media in 1951, The Mechanical Bride, an extensive examination of popular culture when popular culture was just starting to take off.  Most people though have no idea who McLuhan is, and how his thoughts go hand in hand with what our “global village” has begun today.

To many Herbert Marshall McLuhan was an explorer of the word and language, a constant searcher of the meaning of our mediums.  By 33, McLuhan had already compiled two sets of BA’s and MA’s from the University of Manitoba and Cambridge, finishing his PhD from Cambridge in 1942.  He had began to teach English literature to students at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1930s when he began his directions toward pop culture and used his thoughts on the advertising of the day to compare great literature to his bored American students.  His critical analysis of the pop-up world his students lived in with cigarette billboards and vacuum radio jingles permeating their pathways enabled him to parallel his literature world to their world.  McLuhan saw that there was no difference in the message world, only in the information that was being pushed.

“Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment,” McLuhan said in a 1969 Playboy magazine interview“Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ…the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it.  I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.”

If you have no idea what McLuhan is talking about, take a number.  At the time of his numerous books, interviews, and television appearances, Marshall still could not be completely understood.  His language spoke in code, and he himself seemed somewhat pleased to be the smartest person in the room.  At his apex in the human media world in the late 1960s and early 1970s, McLuhan’s strange ideas drenched the same media culture he often lambasted.  He basked in their glow while news men and television presenters just tried to get a hold of what he was talking about.

It was after the release of his third book, Understanding Media in 1964, that McLuhan thrust himself on the public domain that he wrote about.  While the counterculture roared to find meaning past the turbulent 1960s, McLuhan rose as a messiah of the medium, a truth seeker whose hard to understand ideas fit nicely with live free mantra of that time.  Everyone wanted to see and be seen with McLuhan as Warhol, John and Yoko, Dick Cavett, and many others all made their play for the man.

One could see why.  He was exciting.  He said crazy things.  He always sounded like some guy from the future using terminology that you knew, but piecing phrasing together like no one could really quantify.  Take a look at these quotes that I put next to things he knew nothing about to give you insight on where he thought we were going, and you be the judge of his prophetic ways:

Google and search engines “Instead of buying a book, you will go to the telephone and describe you interests, your needs, and your problems…and all at once with the help of computers, they will xerox all your materials to you personally.  (1966)

Facebook and Identity:  “In the new electric world, where everybody is involved with everybody, where everybody is involved in complex processes, the old identity cards, the old means of finding out who am I, will not work. (1968)

The Connected World Information World“The global village is not created by the motor car or by the airplane.  It is created by electronic information movement.”  (1968)

Retro-Revivals“Because we ordinarily what we see in the present is in the rearview mirror.  What we ordinarily think of as the present is really the past.  Content is always the previous medium.  It is impossible for man to look straight at the present because he is so terrified by it…and so revivals are everywhere today.  Revivals of clothing, of dancing, of music, of shows, of everything, we live by the revival.  It tells us who we are or were.” (1968)

24 Hour News, Twitter, and the Instantverse:  “You no longer have to be everywhere in order to do everything.  The same information is available at the same time in every part of the world.  The world is now like a continuing sounding tribal drum where everybody gets the message every time.  A princess gets married in England, boom, boom, boom, go the drums.” (1966)

McLuhan died in 1980 after a life as a trend predictor, future poet, educator, and even a provocateur.  It’s a shame more people don’t know about him, or maybe, he was there all along, a phonetical  resonance that remains for us to keep uncovering for another 100 years. (Source: http://www.houstonforesight.org/?p=501 )

We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.  - Marshall McLuhan


The medium is *still* the message, I might add. This essay by Paul Hiebert underlines the continuing relevance of Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of his most important book, “Understanding Media” (1964). McLuhan’s ideas were descriptive of media both of his own time and especially now, when much of what he wrote anticipated our New Media of today. Both Paul Levinson and yours truly are cited.

 

Marshall McLuhan.jpg

Marshall McLuhan, c. 1936 at the age of 25

The Medium Is the Message, 50 Years Later

• September 30, 2014

Five decades on, what can Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media tell us about today?

He had a thing for clip-on neckties. He once said LSD was the lazy man’s form of Finnegans Wake. When deciding whether a book was worth reading, he’d flip through its table of contents then skip ahead to page 69. If page 69 offered no insight, he’d put the book down and move onto the next. In a 1951 letter to Ezra Pound, he described himself as an “intellectual thug.”

That man was eclectic Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who lived from 1911 to the very last day of 1980, the same year CNN launched. This year, however, marks the 50th anniversary of his famous work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, which builds upon his famous aphorism: “The medium is the message.” Last April, the Journal of Visual Culture devoted an entire issue to exploring Understanding Media‘s enduring influence. Article titles include “I Sing the Senses Electric,” “Reading for the Noise,” and “Terrorphone.”

Along with the success of his 1962 book The Gutenberg Galaxy, which describes how changes in communication technologies (e.g. the printing press) fundamentally alter people’s orientation to the world, Understanding Media propelled McLuhan into the realm of pop-culture priesthood. He appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and the cover of Newsweek. Executives from General Electric and IBM arranged private meetings. In the New York Herald Tribune, Tom Wolfe wondered if McLuhan was the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, and Einstein. A 1965 piece in Harper’s, titled “Marshall McLuhan: Canada’s Intellectual Comet,” states, “like it or not, he is on his way to becoming one of those annoying ‘seminal’ thinkers whose arguments you must adapt, incorporate, or dispose of before pressing ahead in his field or—as McLuhan clearly believes—into areas well beyond it.”

The most important part of this essay can be found at http://tinyurl.com/kvh5vqo .

Paul Hiebert is the editor of Ballast, a Canadian-centric Website about culture and politics. See http://ballastmag.com/ .

The content below is from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968 – 1974 (see http://tinyurl.com/3lnfjy4 )

 

In Understanding Media, McLuhan surveys changes in perception affected by evolving media environments, from early print culture to modern television. For McLuhan, the media environment of the electronic age demanded radically new pedagogy to help young minds navigate these new conditions. Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, influenced by McLuhan’s work, promoted experiments in new media as responsive to these shifts in culture, offering new possibilities for teaching and learning for an electronic age.

Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New American Library, 1964).

Understanding Media

Understanding Media Ad

Advertisement for Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in the Whole Earth Catalog




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