• From Porter, A. (1969). Cybernetics simplified. Barnes & Noble Inc. pp. v-vi


This is a much needed book. It helps to build a bridge between The Two Cultures whose separation plagues C.P. Snow and many others. The very word “cybernetics” is a useful clue to the central meaning of the electronic revolution. The speed-up of information movement creates an environment of “information overload” that demands pattern recognition for human survival. It was natural therefore, for the first explorers of this field to use a term from navigation. In economics it has become natural to speak of the decision-making of tomorrow as taking place in a world economy. Instant access to and retrieval of information creates entirely new economic and political situations. The new information environment created by the new electronic technologies is quite imperceptible and can only be discovered by special inventories of changing trends and changing human responses to the new environment.

In his new book, The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker devotes much of his discussion to the changing relation of the executive to time as a resource. The electric speed-up tends to reduce both distance and time so that both acquire new values. Drucker devotes special attention to the effects of the computer on management. “Critical path” programs provide advance planning of each part of a work. Each part has to be ready on time in order for the whole program to be workable. Much flexibility of on-the-spot decisions is thus sacrificed. “In its place there are high-risk decisions” (page 163). Speed up of information necessarily entails a great increase of awareness of other operations. Nothing can be treated as merely isolated and separate any more. The total human response to any innovation becomes part of the operation that must be anticipated.

In his essay “The Impacts of Science on Public Policy”, Emmanuel G. Mesthene points to the changes in banking that result from the elimination of transaction time by the introduction of computers. For example, large bank balances are no longer needed.
“Bankers originally saw computers as faster and more efficient mechanical clerks that could improve old procedures. But, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they are taking over and changing the very nature of the banking business. Even the physical plant is being changed. A new bank building in Chicago has been designed around the need for powerful antennas at the skyline of the city to facilitate wireless communication.
This is an important lesson to learn from our experience with science and technology in the last quarter century. To turn to science as a means is to take the first step toward changing one’s ends.
((page 101)

Earlier Mesthene had pointed out that science changes the ground-rules of our physical environment:
Our newfound ability to change the physical world within the same time spectrum required by social or political changes has affected our attitudes and policies in ways that enhance our use and the effects of science still further. We support much more science than ever before – an order of magnitude more than a quarter century ago. (page 98)

We would do well to consider the effect of the new satellite environment around the planet as altering our very concept of Nature. “Nature” is now content, as it were, in a man-made environment. One of the unexpected effects of the new feelings toward nature has been the programming of invention itself. There has come a need to put invention on a systematic basis so that we can invent whatever we need to invent. But more important is the need to anticipate the effects of these inventions.

It is here that Professor Porter’s discussion of homeostasis has great relevance to the social and political climate of our age. The same pattern appears in the educational sector where the trend is towards learning as discovery rather than learning as instruction.

Professor Porter’s book will be of the utmost service in promoting an understanding of the need for the wedding of science and technology and of politics and the arts.

Marshall McLuhan

On Dr. Arthur Porter see on this blog see Dr. Arthur Porter (1910-2010), Acting Director for the Centre for Culture & Technology, University of Toronto (1967-68) at https://tinyurl.com/t55tjx7

Dr. Arthur Porter

2 tetrads and 7 pages of notes on the effects of COVID-19 by Andrew McLuhan

Andrew McLuhan wisely describes humanity’s struggle against COVID-19 as a World War because he knows how his grandfather described World War III: “World War I a railway war of centralization and encirclement. World War II a radio war of decentralization concluded by the Bomb. World War III a TV guerrilla war with no divisions between civil and military fronts.Take Today: The Executive as Dropout (1972), p. 152. World War III has already been happening in the Middle East and other places.

By Andrew McLuhan

This means war.

COVID-19 is, in effect, World War III (or later) in terms of the level of innovation we’re seeing. Almost every aspect of society is faced with significant challenges, forced to adjust, to adapt.

We are in a period of change equal to the introduction of smartphones and high speed mobile internet, and the lasting effects will be as great. There will be no return to normal, only new norms. It will surely be a matter of pre- and post-COVID-19.

Wartime is always a period of maximal innovation and growth. In response to extreme threat, governments remove many of the usual barriers, relaxing regulations and throwing money at research and development. The result is a frenzy of activity and innovation across all sectors as, on the one hand, an arms race is on to keep technologically ahead of the enemy, offensively and defensively; and on the other hand, efficiencies are sought to conserve resources. In both cases, we respond with novelty, innovation, as we seek to do new things, to do more with less.

COVID-19 has been declared ‘enemy’ of the world, and global efforts are now underway to meet the threat. This brings the world together in some efforts, while also tending toward isolation in others. The inseparability of economies and cultures today is at once benefit and liability — it makes the pace and scale of contagion, of destruction or solution, almost unimaginably powerful.

When the enemy in this war is a virus, anyone you meet it a potential combatant. This is an enemy without ideology, without a face. Familiarity and trust have no place as your closest people, not to mention strangers, could be carriers — are a threat. The individual and collective psychological reaction to this in the near and long term shouldn’t be neglected.

It seems there is no desirable or safe point of contact in ‘viral space.’ An adjustment of our sense of personal space of this order is no small thing. Its suddenness is sure to have immediate and lasting consequences. I am already seeing and hearing a rise in anxiety from friends who are isolating themselves. In an already anxiety-ridden world, anxieties are going through the roof. Social distancing, a present virtual reality, is now quickly becoming a physical rule of thumb. People try to make light, how they feel their inner introvert is just fine with this. It’s true — we are accustomed to spending so much of our time, place so much of our attention and consciousness online. We already live in this kind of physical social isolation. But there’s a difference between (at least the perception of) choice and enforced necessity. Humans are social and physical creatures. We’ve seen all sorts of psychological changes in the last few years, commensurate with the global rise of mobile technologies. We can expect to see a lot more. What will be the lasting effects of these new shifts in culture?

In short order, it seems everything is shutting down. Cancel culture has gone viral. In many cases, this has not meant a cessation but a shift of activity. This is digital infrastructure and the perceived promise of remote work’s trial by fire. As the days go by and work and study resume as and where possible, things are going to be much different. It will be some time before we can judge the quality of performance in terms of productivity et cetera, but the nature of the activity is much different. More work on one’s own. Collaborative work through virtual communities. Many of these adjustments will become permanent.

“The medium is the message,” (Marshall McLuhan, 1958) is a call to examine the effects of human innovation, activity, from a structural or environmental perspective. The word ‘medium’ itself suggests an environment, a culture, in which things grow.

Where COVID-19 is a suitable subject for media study, is that regardless of its origin, it has quickly had the effect that a major human technology does, impacting and reorganizing human activity of all kinds with corresponding societal, psychological and sensorial impact and response from us.

The advantage is that we aren’t distracted by ‘content’ as such, but forced to reckon with the effects, effects so sudden and wide that they will almost certainly be lasting, game-changing — new norms. As, short of catastrophe, there is no going back to a world without smartphones, so there is no going back to a pre-COVID-19 world.

The global nature of this pandemic demands a global response. In a short time it has had a major impact on the world’s work and social lives, deep changes which will express themselves in novel ways as we go forward and reimagine what it means to work, learn, play, and express ourselves; commune and communicate as humans.

If this is indeed a World War, it is the best kind possible. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It has no religious, ideological, racial bias. It does have one common enemy, us, and it is up to us to come together and meet it with all the considerable force of human compassion and ingenuity.

Andrew McLuhan

[Originally written for American Mind] – Source https://tinyurl.com/r25nc3m

“War has become the environment of our time if only because it is an accelerated form of innovation and education”.  – The Book of Probes (2003), p. 381.

A young Moses Znaimer

By Dom Serafini

Moishe (Moses) Znaimer is a media entrepreneur, media executive, media innovator, TV host, producer, content distributor, actor, TV historian, TV museum curator, TV philosopher, and prophet, who has been influencing and polarizing Canadian society since 1965, when he received a master’s degree in politics from Harvard University. But let’s start at the beginning.

Moishe Znaimer was born sometime in 1942 (he isn’t sure of the exact date), while his father, Aron, who was from Latvia, and his mother, Chaya Epelsweig, who hailed from Poland, were on a train to Kulyab in Tajik (which was then part of the USSR, but is now known as Kulob and is in Tajikistan) to escape the Holocaust, each as a sole survivor of their respective families.

After World War II ended, the Znaimers went to Poland, then West Berlin, then a Displaced Persons camp in Hessisch Lichtenau, Germany, before finally arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, as refugees, in 1948. Shortly thereafter, they settled in Montreal, and eventually the young Moishe went to Toronto. This nomadic existence allowed him to be able to eruditely argue in four languages: Russian, Hebrew, French, and English. As an undergrad, he even served as president of McGill University’s Debating Union, and changed his official name from Moishe to Moses.

Znaimer documented his parents’ escape from the Nazis in the book Passages: Welcome Home to Canada (Doubleday Canada, 2002) by Michael Ignatieff and Rudyard Griffiths.

In its 2010 edition, The Canadian Encyclopedia reported that “Znaimer developed a reputation as the ‘bad boy of Canadian television’ due to his aggressive pursuits of opportunities, as well as his ‘aggressive sexuality,’ which the Toronto Star referred to in a 2009 [article] as his ‘most vivid personality tic.’ He is known for his tight control of his image in the media, and the way he crafts an enigmatic persona through the numerous contradictions in his work and life.”

However, the Encyclopedia continued, in 2006, “in recognition of Znaimer’s contribution to the Canadian media landscape, the City of Toronto designated the area around Citytv [the TV station that he founded] at 299 Queen Street West as Moses Znaimer Way.” The street sign wasn’t actually erected until 2008. (There is also a Marshall McLuhan Way on nearby St. Joseph Street, to honor the acclaimed Canadian media philosopher).

For this report, VideoAge contacted three of Znaimer’s former associates, each of whom declined to explain the “challenging” relationship they had with him, while a fourth one, a 25-year veteran of Citytv, answered: “He would very quickly get frustrated by the failure of others to see and execute his vision. He got frustrated when it took an idea of his a long time to roll out. He was prepared to be wrong, but his ideas and concepts were usually very well thought through, so it would take a very solid set of arguments to move him from a position. And… he was usually right.”

Znaimer’s interest in television first manifested at age 13 when he became a naturalized Canadian citizen and used C$200 of his bar mitzvah money to buy his family a 1955 Admiral TV set. This was just three years after the inauguration of television services by the state-owned CBC. That must have left a lasting impression on him, since in 1992, 37 years after that first TV set, he founded the Moses Znaimer TV (MZTV) Museum, with has a large collection of TV equipment dating from the early days of television that he began collecting in the 1980s and originally kept in the Citytv building. That particular Admiral TV set is not at the museum, but “there are other Admiral models in the collection, mostly from the 1940s,” he said.
Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/swghfnr

On McLuhan’s influence on Znaimer see https://tinyurl.com/qvhv7b3 

Moses Znaimer in 2007

Camille Paglia

This is another one of the interviews resurrected or rather, in Tetrad terms, Retrieved from the Understanding McLuhan interactive CD-ROM from Voyager Interactive (1996) [see https://tinyurl.com/uodqk9k] which can no longer be watched via the browsers of today and thus has vanished from accessibility. Thanks for your excellent recovery work, Clinton.

Q: Could you tell us a little about your intellectual connection to Marshall McLuhan?

A: My name is Camille Paglia. I am Professor of Humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and I am the author of two books: Sexual Personae and Sex, Art and the American Culture. I consider Marshall McLuhan one of the great masters of my college years. I was in college in 1964 to 1968, at the very high point of the ‘60s revolution. Marshall McLuhan was assigned in my classes at what now seems to have been a very avant-garde campus, Harper College of the State University of New York at Binghamton. Marshall McLuhan was one of a number of figures which would include for me, Allen Ginsberg, Norman O. Brown, later on and Leslie Fiedler, and so on; figures who had kind of a general view of culture and who I consider sort of the foundation stones of my work.

Now, it’s just shocking to me that we’ve had a period over the last 20 years where a bunch of French theorists who know nothing about media have been the dominant god figures of the Ivy League and all other kinds of chic campuses across the country. It just amazes me because none of the French theorists, none of the experts in post-structuralism know anything about media. Nothing whatever. These are figures that pre-date World War II in their thinking, they were untouched by media in the North American sense, in the kind of all-encompassing, total-immersion sense that we know it here, even the kinds of thinking that you get out of the so-called Frankfurt School, associated with Adorno, dates to the 1930s in Germany! It’s amazing to me! But right now if you go to any of the cutting edge campuses (supposedly), in this country, you will get mass media fed to you through a number of ridiculous sieves. You will get it either through pro-structuralism, you will get it through the Frankfurt School, or through semiotics, all of which to me is a big pile of manure that we have to just flush! We already had a North American shaman of media, and that was McLuhan. McLuhan has been absorbed into the minds of everyone of my generation.

Q: That said, why did McLuhan seemingly fall out of sight for a decade or more? Why wasn’t he studied or more widely read?

A: Why is he not read? My theory is this: that the people who are most affected by McLuhan did not go on to graduate school. They dropped out of the system. So, by the late ‘60s, most of my generation were in journalism or they went into film-making, or they joined communes, or they took drugs and they blew out their brains on acid, as I have written and so on.

What we have now at the top, and I’m saying everywhere, it’s why we have these vacuums in the major magazines, why we have British editors of so many magazines in America, because the generation, which is mine, that should have took over, the one that was most revolutionized by McLuhan’s thought, simply opted out. We thought we could change things from the outside, but we could not. So this is my explanation, that essentially what you have are millions of people out there who absorbed McLuhan with their mother’s milk, as it were, in college, and who are ready to be resummoned to a new view of popular culture. These are the people who in fact buy my books. People are always trying to carry on about me, and saying I’m sort of a symptom of a patriarchy or for the far right, or something like that, which is ridiculous. My real audience are all those people, scattered around the globe now, who are authentic ‘60s people, who have been displaced from the cultural centre by those untouched by McLuhan and everything else. This is my explanation. I think, of course, we are ripe for a return. We are in the moment now in the ‘90s when French theory is on the way down. Everyone knows this. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education has recently written an article “What now, what next after theory?” We are in the post-theory age.

We are ready for the return of McLuhan. I consider myself directly in his line. Many, many similarities between us: we were raised as Catholics, we are highly scholarly in our vocations. We have this kind of interdisciplinary mind that did not fit in at all with what was demanded of a kind of overspecialized and excessively literary new critical style. McLuhan was kind of the bad boy of letters. He did not get along well with administrators or with other people and he was always quarrelling with other faculty members and so on. I love his quarrelsome disposition, his flair for theatre. There are all kinds of things about him that I find very attractive. The only problem is that he never wrote his master work. That is the issue, is that he wrote several early books, and they were like collections of essays of his. I think that has cost him his reputation in the long run. But even Norman O. Brown, who did write a master work, Life Against Death , has in some way been displaced by the influx of French theory.

Q: McLuhan seems to be making a resurgence in the popular culture. Why?

A: I think we’re at the moment now when people feel that media should be at the centre of the cultural agenda and I don’t want a situation where we have, as in the Ivy League, cultural studies, as it’s called, taking over the analysis of media. It is so pedantic, so academic, a bunch of nerds sitting around in the Ivy League humanities department, who think, “We’ll just take this one video by George Michael and we’ll compare it to something by Foucault.” That is ridiculous! I hate it! We have examples of these kind of dilettante, Ivy League dilettantism now, where they think that after ignoring media for thirty years they can suddenly turn on the TV or go to a Madonna concert, and suddenly they’re experts in media. Well, mass media is as deserving of a full scholarly analysis and absorption as any other discipline in the history of mankind. And those of us who have kept the faith right from the start; I have been totally absorbed in the world of television and movies and rock music for like, 40 years of my 46 years of life. I’m just like this walking encyclopedia of it. I was cleaving to it at a time when, in the late ‘60s at Yale Graduate School when it certainly cost me. It certainly cost me a lot in my career. But anyone who was touched by Marshall McLuhan realizes that is the way of the future.

I think that I had not heard the name McLuhan even mentioned to me over the last 15 years, and all the sudden in 1993, I’ve heard it everywhere. I don’t know what that means, but I do believe in the zeitgeist, I do believe in cycles, and I think that McLuhan is indeed the prophet of the video age.

I think that we’re moving towards not only a nation and a continent and a world, but a kind of universe of television communication. I believe that McLuhan did in some sense look forward to virtual reality. He did indeed perceive that someday there would be a global village, everyone interconnected, in the way we are now with fax machines and phone machines and portable phones and cellular phones and everything else. Everything that he dreamed of has indeed come to pass in this very short space of time. So bizarrely, academic theory has not kept pace with actual technological breakthroughs and that’s why we have to bring McLuhan back. It’s no coincidence that he was Canadian. It’s no coincidence that this is a North American vision.

Whenever I go to Europe, I am always depressed by the lack of television in Europe. There are some places, some hotels, where you can get the satellite kind of 26 different stations from all kinds of different countries, but it’s like a little smattering of Spanish TV, of French TV, of Italian TV. But in no way does anyone in Europe or London, in the UK, imagine what we have had in America now for 30 years, which is like this total… the world is created by media here in America. People like to complain about this “oh, politics and television are much too incestuously related, television has caused vulgarization of politics” I don’t agree with this at all. I believe that television is the window to the future, that television, as Star Trek has shown, will be the window on the cosmos. I feel that we’re moving toward a kind of Star Trek reality where one day people will be leaving Earth and be born on a spaceship and live and die on a spaceship before they ever reach the end of their mission. I think that all kinds of futuristic sorts of projections about media have actually said more to us about the way an ordinary child lives in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. It’s closer to the Star Trek future than you’d find, let’s say, in an Ivy League English department right now. An Ivy League English department is more removed from reality than an African-American child in Philadelphia who has nothing, but they always have a TV. Everyone has a TV. Now there’s recent attention in fact that in Brazil you have a tremendous problem with poverty; everyone has a TV. That TV is becoming a kind of structuring way of perceiving reality. We are way far behind in being able to interpret it.

I think, again, it’s no coincidence in terms of what I share with McLuhan that my interpretation of TV is sort of a religious interpretation of mass media. That is what I said my work is, that western culture is a combination of these two diverse, two quite different strands. One is a Judaeo-Christian and one is the Greco-Roman or the pagan. I have said that we’ve had all kinds of errors in historiography saying that paganism was defeated by Judaeo-Christianity. I say that that’s false, that paganism was driven underground and has erupted again at three key moments: one of them was the Renaissance, most people would agree with that, that it was in some sense a revival of Greco-Roman motifs and learning; then I say it was at Romanticism with the eruption of the Dionysian-Chthonian element, the Dynomic from underground. Now the third eruption is that of modern mass media. That is what I’m saying: modern popular culture is all the repressed pagan content of western civilization and has erupted. That’s why I call the 20th century the age of Hollywood.

In order to understand this age, in order to analyze it, you have to use lucid, concrete language. This seems to be obvious. You cannot impose abstractions upon the pagan sensory stimulations of mass media. This is where McLuhan was right on. McLuhan was always interested in the sensory. He believed that the sensory was the real liberation. The sensory was the real revolution. Interesting coming from a Catholic, who came out of a very repressed background, and I think that this is correct. We learn from mass media, we absorb from mass media through the senses. It’s not through the old, logical, rational, Appolonian circuit. Therefore, the way to analyse media is again to use sensory language, and that is what I have tried to do. I think that that perception, my initial perception about this, certainly came from McLuhan.

Whenever I write about media, or when I write about high art, I am trying to use a very explosive, high-impact – some people would describe it as muscular sound – that’s coming from the way I – it’s coming from a big, bold graphics of advertisements. Coming from the big, bold colors and size of 1950s Technicolor Cinemascope movies and so on. I’ve joined McLuhan in this to Walter Pater, the great aesthete who said in the 19th century that the way you should write about criticism is in terms of the way the artwork strikes you, really plays upon your senses. So I feel that here’s one of the big things in McLuhan that we simply have to keep stressing. That he, like any great poet, believed in the sensory. He believed in the language of the sensory, the power of the sensory. Until we can educate people in that direction, and not just overlay these stupid, jargon-ridden, pseudo-abstractions that pass for philosophy coming from French theorist semiotics, then we’ll never understand this mass media envelope in which we live.

Q: Some might draw comparisons between McLuhan’s career, his rise to fame, and your own pop culture status.

A: I also consider McLuhan a great personal role model for me because he was a professor, a very learned man, who suddenly was caught in the public spotlight, and then was seen everywhere. Suddenly he was in this magazine and that magazine. He was taken up by journalists. People would call him up and ask him questions on all kinds of topics from the simple to the abstruse and so on. We haven’t had anyone like that – before me – since McLuhan. It’s odd. One had thought that McLuhan was the harbinger of a whole new kind of fusion of academe and media. This is what I have been saying right from the start, that there is too big a gap in America between the world of scholarship and the world of mass media in which the people live, in which everything gets done.

Everything is done through media in America. I feel that it’s a function of the intellectual in America to close that gap. I feel that Susan Sontag started to do it, and then pulled back and became very snobbish and began chasing all kinds of French intellectuals, foreign intellectuals, any man with a foreign name became more interesting to her than our own mass media. For me, Marshall McLuhan’s experience, and I think that the speed at which I became a kind of pop figure shows that there was a vacuum. It was a vacuum waiting to be filled. The speed at which I began to be the subject of cartoons, with which suddenly journalists enjoyed quoting me on some topic and I’m quoted on everything from Fabio, to like, the most recent penis-cutting incident done in Virginia or wherever – I think that what’s wonderful. McLuhan was creating the persona of the scholar who was also the cultural commentator, who reconciles in his own mind, his own person, the terrible division that we have between high culture and popular culture that we still suffer from, despite everything that Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg – the great pop artists – did. We still have a terrible gap. We have a terrible gap where some – rock and roll, to me one of the great art forms of the end of the century, still has never gained the respect that is deserves from critics. There are people who are rock fans, and have written serious books about it, but people who are untouched by rock music have absolutely no respect for it. There’s a lot of work to do here at the end of the century following in the McLuhan line.

Even though McLuhan’s books are long lost and no longer read, still, one of his most famous terms is that polarity between hot and cold about which he analysed the television. And it was used by the American media to explain why John Kennedy did so well in the first debate that he had with Richard Nixon. People say that those who happened to listen to that debate on the radio felt that Nixon had won the debate. Those who watched on television thought that Kennedy had resoundingly defeated Nixon. So, what McLuhan began to see is that style is substance in many ways in modern times. People feel uneasy about this because they feel that surely that will mean the rise of another Hitler and Stalin, and I say no. I believe that the television camera coming so close to a person’s face finally tells you the truth. The camera does not lie over time. You can manipulate a political advertisement. You can manipulate in a program. You can do all kinds of cutting. But a camera just trained on a person in a long debate of the Nixon versus Kennedy kind or following candidates through a period, through the primaries, through all the things that can come at you, and you’re exhausted and you’re going from state to state and never have enough sleep and so on, I think that television is the best indicator yet that we have, of in fact the character of a person.

Q: What about McLuhan’s other insights and theories, such as hot and cool?

A: Now in terms of the hot versus cold, it is felt that as McLuhan said, that television is a cool medium and does not take kindly to hot personalities. This was the earliest thing that I can remember in terms of analysis of television – a time when no one took television seriously. I’m talking about the middle of the 1960s. No one would dream of taking television seriously when I was in college. I felt that I was fascinated by all things involving popular culture and this was probably the first term of analysis I can remember ever coming to me. It came to me as a college student. I thought “that is wonderful” and I have kept it to this day. Even now, I’m constantly talking in terms of hot personalities and cold personalities, and when it came time for me to go on to television after my book Sexual Personae was finally published, I was at this point,in my 40s, I was very aware of this, and as I went on television, I have always kept McLuhan’s advice in my mind. It’s been a great struggle for me, as a hot personality, to adapt to the television medium and it took me quite a while to figure out what to do. I’ve always been terrified of coming across as sort of like a hurricane or tornado on television. I’m fascinated by the kinds of personalities that television is kind to and the kind of personalities who do best in person. It seems to me that the television medium requires a certain kind of communication, it requires you to be much more physically still that you are in real life. I’m like an Italian, always running hither and thither and I had to really control my excessive body language and so on. When I have dealings with people in the media, with 60 Minutes , Steve Croft and so on, or been in television studios and watched the anchor people give the opening presentations, I am absolutely fascinated by the kind of almost – seems like almost zen-like gestures, very small, slight gestures worthy of a Japanese geisha that the skilled television communicators use. It is a whole art form in itself. It’s shocking. This is not part of our educational system.

It seems to me that this is far more important, to learn about how to interpret modern reality and how to exist in modern reality. To tell people about the ritual formulas of television presentation. I think a course in mass media beginning with Marshall McLuhan’s theories should be required of people, and again not importing any foreign garbage from France or from Germany. All we need is the kind of pep talk that people tell you when you go to television training sessions. All our politicians now, those who are interested in either senatorial or presidential office go to television consultants and are told about the kinds of gestures and the kinds of styles and how to condense down their thoughts into manageable forms. People say that that is bad. That politics is a sound byte, has led to simplification and oversimplification and reductiveness and a kind of dumbing-down of important policy issues.

Certainly, Neil Postman, who I respect very much – I think Neil Postman is wonderful – Neil Postman certainly believes this: that television is responsible for a kind of a dangerous oversimplification of our politics. I don’t agree with this at all. I feel that unlike Neil Postman’s admiration for the great Lincoln-Douglas debates of the 19th century and so on, I feel that we’re not in a time now where we can have long, 3 1/2 hour debates. There’s no way that any presidential candidate can ever be fully prepared for the kind of crises that face a world leader today. That, point in fact, the sound byte or the TV camera coming up into your face, that can tell me far more about a man or a woman’s reflexes, a man or woman’s character under pressure. It is television that has made Perot, for example, but it also destroyed Perot. The television coming up close has in fact reduced Perot’s, I think, ultimate electability. Perot’s ideas without a television camera would have been far more potent, I think. The television camera coming up close, just showed his slipperiness, showed that he is a wonderful outside critic of establishment excesses, but that this is not someone you want to trust in the White House.

So again, I feel that television, far from, as Postman says, causing the death of politics, is the way that we will avoid Hitler. Hitler could not have survived. That small, absurd man with the moustache could not have risen, I believe to national power in Germany with the television camera following him around. He would look too absurd. And certainly I think it’s one of the reasons why the Klan, despite the Ku Klux Klan continuing to arise in spots all around the country, the Klan continually looks ridiculous. No one has to say anything. All you have to do is take these cameras into a Klan office or take the cameras into a skinhead or neo-fascist organization, have them talk, and when the camera is up in their face, there is nothing charismatic about these people. They look as if they are very confused, desperate, and people without any deep politics. But the power of symbol, the power of language from a great distance, can be very dangerous. We’ve seen it again and again in the rise of fascist dictators in this century.

Sometimes you hear the charge that McLuhan was homophobic. But it seems to me there needs to be some more research into this. But from what I’ve seen in a wonderful recent biography of his, if he was homophobic, it was the homophobia of a man who was so attracted to other men, that he feared in himself, that is, it doesn’t seem to be to be the kind of homophobia of the far right, the kind of simple hatred. It’s a highly complex homophobia, if it’s there. It is a homophobia of a man who’s totally under the control of women. He was under the control of very powerful women throughout his life, from his mother, to his wife, and so on. So I think that it would be quite unfair to just take our contemporary term homophobia and transport it backwards.

Q: Does McLuhan’s work offer anything to us as we move into a new world of communications and media?

A: I think in the ‘90s now, we want to totally restructure education so that it allows the student to understand the mass media world that we live in and will continue to live in for like the next 1,000 years, as far as I’m concerned. I think that McLuhan, first of all has to be put back onto the reading list immediately, and the French theorists thrown off of it, and the school of Adorno as well, and I think that we have to turn back, because there’s another name I want to mention in line with McLuhan. That is Parker Tyler. Parker Tyler, who was gay, was to me the greatest theorist of film that this country has ever seen. Now, it’s very interesting that he is not mentioned. Someone who was very close to him in sensibility, who has written less copious works, Pauline Kael, again someone who writes about the sensory appreciation of literature.

So I think that what we need now in the 1990s is a return to all kinds of discarded figures. We have to have a clearing off of the cultural stage, it seems to me. We have to read only those figures like McLuhan, like Parker Tyler, like Pauline Kael, who can open us up sensorily toward this world we are immersed in. It is my belief that popular culture and mass media speak to a part of the brain that is not measurable yet. They have still not figured out how to measure that part of the brain that looks at television. I have repeatedly spoken about how I feel, that I have all kinds of different parts of my brain and this one part that is the conventional, traditional, Appollonian part that was trained by logic – I am aware of using that, I use it as a teacher, I use it as a writer and so on. But at night, when I turn on Entertainment Tonight , after dinner and just sit there drinking my coffee, it’s very clear to me that the Appollonian part of my brain shuts down and something else opens up, and it’s almost like a pure, non-critical – here’s where Neil Postman gets very anxious – it’s absolutely non-critical. It is a part of the brain that is pure observation. Pure observation without cultural preconception. This is why the very thing Neil Postman condemns – he’s saying that the person watching television has no critical sense whatever – is to me the real multiculturalism of TV. It seems to me we have to stop referring to TV as the idiot tube or it’s an idiot experience, or like couch potatoes, or all that. I don’t believe that for a minute. I find that I have far better conversations with people who watch television 15 hours a day than I ever do with the so-called scholars and intellectuals at Harvard, Yale or anywhere else. Those people are dead! Those people are lost! They cannot negotiate in this world of television and popular music.

We have to embolden the young people first of all, to demand as we did in the ‘60s, an end to any kind of false abstraction in their education. I believe history should be taught. Now here is where my message – people say I’m conservative. What are they talking about? To teach history? To teach the history of the human race, the history of the art forms, that’s conservative? That’s ridiculous! That is absolutely ridiculous. History must be taught. History must be fully understood. Logic must be taught and fully understood, because otherwise you’re at the mercy of television. You don’t want to be at the mercy of it. But then we have to have a whole new discipline, it has to be entirely new. The rules of study of television, it seems to me, have to be made up. I think that the young people of the ‘90s, they’re very interested in our ideas of the ‘60s, and I hope that they will be able to put our ideas into effect without making the mistakes that we did. Because again, we did not enter the professions. We thought we could change the world without entering them. I think that the professions require a certain kind of discipline and a certain kind of self-suppression for many years that people are not always willing to do. People want the easy career straight out. I want a whole new curriculum and I want the students in the classroom in the ‘90s to be much more skeptical about what they’re getting.

If the teacher in a cultural studies course about media is giving them moralistic terms that make them superior to media, using words like “commodification” or “sexual objectification” about women, if you get any kind of moral tone and a kind of condemning tone about media, you can be sure your teacher doesn’t know his or her ass from his or her elbow. Because I just absolutely loathe the impartation of moralistic terms of the Judaeo-Christian realm into the pagan realm of mass media. Mass media are completely amoral. It’s completely amoral. If you’re going to use terms, you’re going to have to use them from the history of paganism, not from the history of Judaeo-Christianity. So that’s why I titled the first chapter of my book Sexual Personae – I called it “Nature” or “Sex and Violence.” “Sex and Violence.” I believe that the sex and violence which the moralists are always deploring in mass media, that’s in fact the reality about life, that the mass media is showing. Mass media is showing sex and violence as the reality of life, which is censored everywhere else that you are. Everywhere else that you are, you’re getting a packaged or censored view of reality. But mass media shows you the brutal reality of nature. All those things which have been sort of sanitized out of the world that we now live in. So I think that, McLuhan for me is going to be one of the great reborn figures of the fin de siecle. He is certainly going to be one of the primary shapers, it seems to me, of 21st century sensibility.
Source: https://tinyurl.com/w8jp29f

Related is Paglia’s 1993 interview for Wired Magazine.

See also by Camille Paglia, The North American intellectual tradition (2000) “McLuhan’s pioneering examination of the revolution wrought by electronic media in Gutenberg’s print culture demonstrated how history could be reinterpreted with terms bridging high and popular culture. He had a breathtaking sweep of vision and a charming aptitude for the startling example. McLuhan’s irreverent, aphoristic wit was perfectly attuned to the brash spirit of my generation, with its absurdist “happenings” and its taste for zinging one-liners — in the satiric style of Lenny Bruce or the gnomic manner of Zen sages and Hindu gurus”…

This 9-page article is the best account of Ted Carpenter’s life and career that I’ve come across. Please follow the link at the bottom to read the whole thing. There is a bibliography at the end.

By Ellen Harold

Multifaceted anthropologist Edmund (“Ted”) Snow Carpenter is an ethnologist, archaeologist, filmmaker, and communications theorist. An authority on the Arctic peoples of the circumpolar regions, their art and archaeology, he has also studied and written about the peoples and art of New Guinea, Borneo, and Tibet. He was, in addition, a leading figure in the Toronto School that developed modern communications studies and a pioneer in the visual anthropology movement that used film to document cultures. He is or has been, in addition, a broadcaster, producer, film-maker, exhibition curator, and author, whose interests encompass tribal, surrealist, and modern art. In his capacity as an administrator and as an editor he has shown tireless generosity in collaborating with and helping other scholars, even to the point where his own contributions have been somewhat obscured. In compiling the following profile we are particularly indebted to Harald E.L. Prins and John Bishop’s first portrait, “Edmund Carpenter: Explorations in Media & Anthropology,” published in Visual Anthropology Review in 2002. We also wish to thank Ted Carpenter and Adelaide De Menil Carpenter for their assistance and feedback.

Carpenter was born in 1922 in Rochester, New York, where his father was an art teacher. His interest in prehistoric archaeology began in childhood, when he and his twin brother and cousins dug for Indian relics near their parents’ summer home at Gull Lake, Michigan. When Carpenter was 13, Arthur C. Parker, director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and himself a Seneca Indian, invited him to spend weekends on a WPA-sponsored excavation of prehistoric Iroquoian sites in the Upper Allegheny Valley.

In 1940 Carpenter enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania to study with pioneering anthropologist Frank Speck (1980–1950), who advocated documenting cultures through multiple media, including imaginative literature, visual art, cinema, and photography. In an interview years after Speck’s death Carpenter paid tribute to Speck’s humanistic outlook, declaring that, “even now he remains my guide, my fond companion, my guardian spirit” (quoted in Harald Prins and John Bishop, Visual Anthropology Review 17, no 2 [2001–2002], p. 112).

Between his freshman and sophomore years in the summer of 1941 the nineteen-year- old Carpenter worked as foreman of a WPA-CCC crew excavating Pennsylvania Indian mounds. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Marine Corps, continuing to write papers on indigenous Pennsylvania ethnography during wartime. During the occupation of Japan he served as Judge Advocate, COM-MARIANAS, and also supervised the work of some 500 prisoners of war in excavating local archaeological sites. In 1946, he was discharged from the army with the rank of captain. He received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania for service-related courses and experience and was appointed an instructor in anthropology at Penn. In 1948, he was hired to teach anthropology at the University of Toronto and two years later received his Ph. D. from Penn for his dissertation on the pre-history of northeastern America. He married and had two sons. To support his family and fund his researches he took a series of second jobs, finally finding a niche as a broadcaster on Canadian educational radio and television (then newly invented), an experience that gave him an insider’s perspective on the new electronic media.

Inspired by Innis and also (and especially) by Dorothy Lee’s ideas about literacy and linear thinking, as well as by Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir’s hypothesis on the influence of language structure on patterns of thought and behavior, Carpenter and McLuhan began co-teaching a course on the new media. In 1951, McLuhan published The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951) about the relationship of orality, literacy, and technology. Then, with the help of a Ford Foundation grant, the two men founded an interdisciplinary project, Changing Patterns of Language and Behavior and the New Media of Communication (overseen by McLuhan). This gave rise to their joint editorship of the eclectic journal of communications Explorations (1953–59), in whose pages McLuhan first formulated some of the ideas elaborated later in his books, but never, some think, more accessibly than in these early writings. Selected articles from the magazine (with contributions by Ray L. Birdwhistell, Northrop Frye, Fernand Leger, McLuhan, Gilbert Seldes, Jean Shepherd, and D.T. Suzuki among others) were reprinted in book form as Explorations in Communications, an Anthology (1960). According to the preface:

Explorations explores the grammars of such languages as print, the newspaper format and television. It argued that revolutions in packaging and distribution of ideas and feelings modified not only human relations but also sensibilities. It further argued that we are largely ignorant of literacy’s role in shaping Western man [and woman], and equally unaware of the role of electronic media in shaping modern values. Literacy’s vested interests were so deep that literacy itself was never examined. And the current electronic revolution is already so pervasive that we have difficulty in stepping outside of it and scrutinize it objectively. But it can be done, and a fruitful approach is to examine one medium through another.(Preface, p. ix)

Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/sonhhzf


The Original Explorations Journal of Ted Carpenter & Marshall McLuhan (1953 – 1957)

The launch is planned for the first week of March. I will post an announcement when it is online.

By Bob Logan

The New Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication project and journal is inspired by the journal Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication. The first eight issues of Explorations were published between 1953 and 1957 at the University of Toronto and edited by Edmund Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan. A ninth issue was published in 1959 and was edited by Edmund Carpenter alone. Marshall McLuhan then edited issues 10 to 32 between 1964 and 1972 that appeared as inserts in the alumni magazines of the University of Toronto with issues number 10 through 19 appearing in the Varsity Graduate magazine and issues 20 through 32 appearing in the University of Toronto Graduate.

Our Goals
We hope to recapture the spirit of the original Explorations journal which had such an important influence in the development of the Toronto School of Communication. Just as the founders of Explorations were focused on the new electric technologies of their times, primarily television, mainframe computers, and other electric and electronic media, our focus will be on the new digital technologies of our times, namely personal computers, tablets, smartphones, the Internet, the World Wide Web, social media, AI, robots and the new devices that have not yet been invented.

Although our focus is on the technology world of today, especially as it relates to media and communication, new knowledge is still being discovered about McLuhan and his work and we will publish articles about such discoveries and understandings that we think are significant. Our basic approach to these studies will basically be that of media ecology as developed by Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Ted Carpenter, Walter Ong, Neil Postman and a host of other media ecologists but need not be limited to that. Media studies is a big tent and we are open to other approaches to it such as media and communication history, media anthropology, media ethics and media literacy. Media ecology was formulated in the past and in order to avoid “embalming truth” we must be prepared to consider these and other new approaches to media studies that will arrive.

And we will make use of a variety of digital media to organize and deliver our open access online journal and project as described below.

Mission Statement
Our mission parallels that of the original Explorations. The first paragraph of our mission statement is identical to the of the original Explorations, but the second paragraph takes into account the digital environment in which we now live:

New Explorations, like the original Explorations, is designed not as a permanent reference journal that embalms truth for posterity, but as a publication that explores and searches and questions. We envision a series that will cut across the humanities and social sciences by treating them as a continuum. We believe anthropology and communication are approaches, not bodies of data, and that within each of the four winds of the humanities, the physical, the biological and the social sciences intermingle to form a science of man. – Ted Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan. 1953. Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication 1, iii.

While we embrace the mission statement of the original Explorations, we will also deal with the dramatically new environments characterized by the new digital media and AI. To the four winds of the original Explorations project, we now add the fifth wind of the new digital technologies to help us understand what it is to be human in 2020 and beyond.
I will be posting additional information about our plans for this journal in few days for authors and readers of New Explorations: our plans for a secondary server that will provide a discussion forum for readers and authors, a place for artists to share their creative work, relevant news sharing, listing of our Editors and staff and Editorial Board with its strong international representation. Stay tuned.

Eric McLuhan & Ted Carpenter

Neil Postman

This is another one of the interviews resurrected or rather, in Tetrad terms, Retrieved from the Understanding McLuhan interactive CD-ROM from Voyager Interactive (1996) [see https://tinyurl.com/uodqk9k] which can no longer be watched and read on the PCs of today by Clinton Ignatov, a self-described computer “geek”. He used a Windows 3.1 Virtual Machine to accomplish this, adding to the Derrick de Kerckhove interview published earlier on this blog. And Clinton promises to post more of the other interviews on that CD-ROM. Thanks, Clinton!…

After Marshall McLuhan’s passing in 1980, educator and lifetime New Yorker Neil Postman became the central figure in the field which has come to be known as Media Ecology.

Q: Could you tell us about your first encounter with Marshall McLuhan?

A: I was a graduate student at Teachers College [at Columbia University] and the course was being conducted by Louis Forsdale. He’s retired now but he was a friend of McLuhan. McLuhan was an obscure English professor at the University of Toronto, but Forsdale was well aware of some of McLuhan’s ideas and brought him down from Toronto to give a lecture. McLuhan, in those days, still smoked cigars, although he mostly had them unlit as far as I could see, and he gave his talk with an unlit cigar in his mouth. And he talked in that style that we later came to call McLuhanesque: a series of dramatic propositions and generalizations. He didn’t pause to defend any of them, or even to explain them that much. Charlie Weingartner, my friend—he went to graduate school with me—we loved it. We just thought he was onto something, and we especially liked his style. Of course many of the other students didn’t; some were befuddled, but afterwards Forsdale, McLuhan, Charlie and I went for a drink and I think The Mechanical Bride had been published, and either on that occasion or a later occasion when he came back to speak, we carried about 500 copies of this book which you couldn’t give away at that point, and stored them in Forsdale’s apartment. But that was my first encounter with McLuhan and I was enormously impressed with the range of his knowledge and also with the intellectual daring that he displayed.

Q: Did you have a chance to work with him or hear him speak on other occasions?

A: Oh yes, on many occasions. One of the most memorable was a meeting in Cincinnati of the National Council of Teachers of English, and I remember that Charlie Weingartner, McLuhan and I shared a room together, which was great fun because Charlie and I had a chance to listen to McLuhan invent ideas and do his probes deep into the night. On that occasion his cigar was lit and the lights were off and it was two or three in the morning, and we finally had to ask him if he could stop and let us all get some sleep. But I would say from roughly 1956 until he died, I took every opportunity I could find to listen to him speak and to have conversations with him. Although the word conversation here has to be explained: I don’t think I ever really did have a conversation with McLuhan and I don’t recall being present when anyone else actually had a conversation. Mostly you listened, let him play this tape out that he had in his mind. And of course, it was always fascinating. Even when you asked him questions you had the feeling that though he always seemed to be answering your question, he was just going on with the tape. No one I knew ever really resented that; we considered it a privilege to be present so we could listen and watch the tape unwind itself.

Q: What probe or idea stands out the most for you?

A: Of course, there were many. I recall once he came to New York, I think to make an appearance on the Today Show. Frequently he would call me when he came to New York, and we would try to have lunch together. I remember this one, because he called to say he was in town and if I could hop down to the Hilton where we could have lunch, but while he was talking about that, he just inserted the idea that the invention of photography made a certain kind of representation of the rich impossible. That conspicuous consumption became impossible as soon as the photograph became invented. Now I don’t know that that’s such an astounding insight, although it’s interesting to think about, it’s just that it came in the middle of his saying did I have time to come to lunch. So I guess that was on “the tape” and he felt that he had to get it out.

Q: How do you think he has influenced your work?

A: I can’t think of a book that I’ve written that I could have written if not for McLuhan. Which is not to say of course that he approved of any he might have read, or would approve of others that he never did read, but so far as I’m concerned, I always have felt that the question that he asked which is I think his main contribution, is embedded in every idea that formed a book for me – whether I was writing about media in Amusing Ourselves to Death or writing about language in Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk, or writing about education in Teaching As A Subversive Activity—that the question that McLuhan posed is at the heart of it. And the question is something like: “Does the form of any medium of communication affect our social relations, our political ideas, or psychic habits, and of course, as he always emphasized, our sensorium?”

So that once you have a question like that you can look at almost any social institution and put that question at the center of it. And I think I’ve done that in every book I’ve written. Certainly, it was right from the first, because the first book I wrote was for the National Council of Teachers of English, and it was about television—it was called Television and the Teaching of English. And I know I couldn’t have written that book if I hadn’t known about McLuhan. So far as I’m concerned, my career as a writer and teacher and social critic, has been dependent on McLuhan, what I call McLuhan’s question. Now I should add that it’s not that others, let’s say Louis Mumford for example, didn’t ask this question before McLuhan did. But McLuhan asked it in a way that called it to everyone’s attention, and that I think is an enormous contribution that he’s made to scholarship, and especially to me. And I’d add that there probably is not a communications department in any college or university in America that does not reflect in some way, McLuhan’s question.

McLuhan’s answers, which you’ll find all over the place in Understanding Media, are sometimes interesting, sometimes I think they may be irresponsible, and sometimes just wrong, but that never bothered me and I don’t think it should bother students who read McLuhan. And he himself said many times, these were probes and that one should not take his answers too literally. He wanted to focus people’s attention on the question, and would have agreed that there would be other people, especially young people raised in the electronic environment, that would be able to come up with a lot better answers than he did.

Q: Where do you think he was wrong, or irresponsible?

A: Well I think the whole idea of hot medium and cool medium didn’t really work. I think in the end I believe Marshall gave it up after awhile. But it was interesting as almost everything he said was interesting. He was trying to construct a new kind of taxonomy for perceiving media—and that is a taxonomy that has to deal with how any particular medium massages or affects your sensorium. But when he tried to explain this idea by categorizing media as hot and cool and then giving definitions, the foundation of the definitions was confused because sometimes he seemed to be concentrating on the mechanical reproduction, the process of a medium; sometimes he seemed to be focused on something else that was not entirely clear. Moreover, if you tried to use his own system: something like print, which he thought was a hot medium, could just as easily have been a cool medium, because that, of all media, seemed to give you the least information. That was one of the characteristics of a cool medium, that it didn’t supply you hotly with lots of information so that there had to be greater participation on the part of the audience to fill in. Well, it always puzzled me that he’d call print a hot medium and as I remember, I think he also called radio a hot medium, which seemed to me to fulfill the conditions of what he meant by cool medium. So that was kind of confusing, and it was too bad because when he became almost a cult figure and a guru of the electronic age, many people focused on this hot and cool medium distinction, and they couldn’t always take it very far because they were confused. But I don’t think he was disturbed about that.

If I had said to him what I just said to you, he would have said, “Well, okay, if it’s not straight, make up a better one.” But he would have given the lead as to what to look at, and we’ve had students here at New York University, that have tried to invent better ones. They would have a value in their work they would have to attribute to McLuhan’s inspiration.

Q: To what extent has he influenced the media ecology programme?

A: A great deal. Well, first of all I should tell you that he is directly, in a way, responsible for the media ecology programme because he and I had a conversation once and he said that he didn’t think he had the temperament or the desire to form a graduate programme with all of the bureaucratic elements that would entail, at the University of Toronto, but he thought I should do it. So he suggested that we try to develop a grad programme at NYU that would explore these probes, he even suggested the term media ecology. He used that phrase in a letter he wrote to Claire Booth Luce saying something to the effect that the media ecology of cultures probably need to be managed in a systematic way—and the term struck me as very useful, since ecology was used to mean the study of environments and how environments can be healthy and become toxic and so on. I thought that his putting the term media in front of ecology suggested in a forceful way that people studying media were not just studying machines and how they work, but the interaction between the structure and form of machines and the human sensorium. This gave a special kind of meaning to the phrase symbolic environment because we live in at least two kinds of environments: the natural, and the symbolic. I thought it would be helpful to call the programme Media Ecology.

So from the beginning, the spectre of Marshall McLuhan was all over this department. Of course since then, so many people, the heirs of McLuhan’s legacy, have written on the subject from a McLuhanesque point of view, that he is by no means even the best person to read on the subject these days. That wouldn’t bother him either. All of our students are required to read McLuhan, but we no longer place his work at the centre of their studies. I try to get them to understand what his role was in the formation of communication departments and research about media, and most of our students I think do, but they go on to all sorts of other people. Some who are explicitly McLuhanites, like Walter Ong, Mumford of course, who didn’t like McLuhan one bit, but many other people, Weisenbaum and Rojac and Jacques Ellul, and I could go on, who wouldn’t want to think of themselves as McLuhanites, but actually have a point of view that’s very close to his.

Q: Have his questions outlived his own personal legacy?

A: Yes, but I think that’s the way things are supposed to go, that if we looked at Marx’s question, or Freud’s question, we have to pay due respect to those people who either formed those questions or brought them to our attention. But I don’t think we need to be fixated on that person himself or herself, and we have to move on.

Q: Would you say he was a great thinker?

A: I would say great thinker, and then add the following: that there are many rooms in the house of the intellect. And different kinds of thinkers occupy different kinds of rooms. Now if there’s a room for those thinkers who see something quite differently from everyone else, and form a question that people in the other rooms hadn’t thought about, in that sense we could say he was a great thinker. I don’t think we would call him a great scholar, because I don’t think he really had the patience to work through some of the implications of what he was saying, even in a book like The Gutenberg Galaxy. Basically these are quotes and allusions to the role that the printing press and movable type played in shaping people’s psychic habits. But it didn’t go into things so deeply. It also has to be added, other people have said this frequently, that there was more than a touch of the poet in him, as everyone who knew him will tell you, he loved playing with language and making puns. Some of his ideas have almost a poetic import to them, as distinct from a researchable, definable context. So I have no hesitation using the term “great thinker” for McLuhan, provided people understand that there are different kinds of great thinkers.

Q: If you had to have the last word on McLuhan, what would it be?

A: How about if I put it this way: if I could speak to McLuhan in some heavenly situation, and I only had a minute to see him again, after I asked him how things are going of course, I think I would tell him that what he did when he was here was extremely significant, that it opened up new pathways to thinking about media, and that there are thousands of young people now, in both the academic world, and in the communications industry, who think differently about what they’re doing because he lived. So I’d say, “Thanks Marshall, go back to heaven.”

Q: If you had two minutes and were able to ask him one question about 1995, what would you ask?

A: Well, I wouldn’t want to depress him, but I would ask him this question: it seemed to me that toward the end of his life, and I’m not referring especially to after he had the operation on his brain tumor, that he had become more pessimistic about the liberalizing that he thought electronic media would lead to. An opening up of the sensorium, that we would not be quite as inhibited and rigid as the printed word had made us, and he thought there were all sorts of inspiring and freeing ways, or opportunities that electronic media would open up. But as I say, toward the end he was skeptical about whether or not what he prophesized would happen. And I would ask him if he’s been paying attention since he left us, to what’s been going on, and is he still optimistic, or has he become more pessimistic. For example, he did think, as Walter Ong thinks as well, that there would be a restoration of the oral tradition—Ong calls it secondary orality—and I look for that all the time and don’t really see it. So I’d ask him if he sees it and what am I missing? Is there something that he’s noticed that I haven’t—probably there would be—and just when he was about to tell me, time would be up, which would be just fine with him and me because, in a way it would mean he was saying to me, “No, you have to look for it and come to your own conclusion.”
(Source: http://www.clintonthegeek.com/))

Click on image for expanded view

Edmund “Ted” Carpenter, an anthropologist, was a colleague of Marshall McLuhan’s at the University of Toronto in the 1950s, and a lifelong friend. McLuhan immediately recognized a fellow “intellectual thug” when he met Carpenter in 1948. Both cultivated reputations as academic iconoclasts. In his biography of McLuhan, The Medium and the Messenger, Philip Marchand recounts how Carpenter was reputed by those at St. Michael’s College to have the largest collection of books on the devil and diabolism in Canada.

In 1953, McLuhan and Carpenter were awarded a Ford Foundation grant for their interdisciplinary project “Changing Patterns of Language and Behavior and the New Media of Communication.” Citing the work of Innis as demonstrating that new communications technologies reconfigured political, economic and social dynamics, the proposal suggested that the new media of television, radio and movies were reshaping society, and were creating a new language “since the media of communication were themselves languages, or art forms” (Marchand 117). Their collaboration on this project lead to the publication of Explorations, an eclectic journal of media exploration, from 1953 to 1959. Selected articles from Explorations were reprinted in Explorations in Communications in 1960. The “Introduction” to this collection of articles by an impressive range of writers from D.T. Suzuki and Northrop Frye to Fernand Leger and Gilbert Seldes, establishes a theme which would pre-occupy both McLuhan and Carpenter for the rest of their careers.

As an anthropologist, Carpenter was exploring some of the same territory as Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir, Edward Hall and Victor Turner. Each in his own way discovered that we have much to learn about the unacknowledged values of our own culture by juxtaposing them against the values of another culture. Examining one medium through another. After this collaboration with McLuhan, Carpenter went on to pursue his career in anthropology, but he always retained an interest in the shaping of sensibility by media and culture. To the study of media he brought the skills of a person who, as an outsider, must find a way into another culture. The challenge for the anthropologist is to become sufficiently integrated or accepted into a culture to be given a deep enough view of that culture, while still remaining the stranger, the estranged one, capable of seeing the culture with fresh vision.

Likewise, as investigators of the North American media, both McLuhan and Carpenter sought techniques which allowed them deep access to the culture while keeping them estranged from the sleep of reason and familiarity. Both were suspicious of the apparent clarity given to reality by the linearity of logical, sequential discourse; consequently, both experimented with techniques of dislocation and radical juxtaposition–McLuhan’s probes and apparent disregard for inconsistencies–to prevent an overly rigid, fixed-point perspective on the cultural environment. Understanding media was always in the context of motion, of changing perspectives. The result is a collage or mosaic of insights requiring the student of their ideas to assemble the pieces into a meaningful arrangement. The audience becomes the workforce. In this approach, they were participating in Vygotsky’s and Piaget’s constructivist principles of learning.

In the early 1970s, Carpenter published a series of books which approach media of communication, including culture, from an anthropologist’s itinerant perspective. In all three–They Became What They Beheld (1970), Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me! (1972) and Eskimo Realities (1973)– he uses juxtaposition, association, analogy and dislocation to structure the arrangement of ideas. “Organized ignorance can be a great asset when approaching the unfamiliar,” he writes in They Became What They Beheld, where he also describes his method of presentation.
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The short-lived but influential magazine overseen by Edmund Carpenter & Marshall McLuhan.

By Kevin Plummer

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 fetch more than $100 each— [actually, the availability & prices there now are quite reasonable] if 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.

In the early 1950s, Marshall McLuhan, an English professor at St. Michael’s College, hadn’t yet made a splash in academic circles or the broader culture. He’d first expanded his area of interest from literary studies to media analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his first teaching post. Several years after arriving in Toronto, he published his first book, Mechanical Bride (Vanguard Press, 1951), which examined Blondie comic strips and advertisements through a critical lens. But the volume didn’t have much impact inside academe or beyond, selling only a few hundred copies.

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.

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 8 issues of Explorations (1953 – 57)
Click  on the image for an expanded view.

Read the rest of this article here: https://tinyurl.com/rb6mban

Sept. 20, 1976 issue (Vol. 6, No. 12)

If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ’60s, Another Is on the Way

By Barbara Rowes

At 4 a.m. Herbert Marshall McLuhan, hip prophet of the ’60s for whom “the medium was the message,” awakens in his Toronto bedroom and slips into an ancient green bathrobe. He hurries into the kitchen not for breakfast but for a taste of biblical scholarship. For an hour he pores over scriptures in Greek, Latin, French, German and English, while gnawing on an orange.

Then he shifts to research for a new book, reading and scribbling notes. It will be called Laws of the Media, a sequel to his landmark Understanding Media. This year he also will publish a media textbook for high schools, one book on Canadian identity and two more on literature. McLuhan is returning to public prominence after a fallow period of nearly five years.

Just as Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis, Marshall McLuhan is the pioneer in media sociology [now the term is media ecology], the study of the effects of electronic information—TV, radio, stereo and cassettes—on society. Understanding Media created a storm of controversy when it was published in 1964, but now it is used in nearly every university on the North American continent and has been translated into 15 languages.

At 5:10 a.m. the 65-year-old scholar reaches for a white wall telephone and dials. “Barry, I think I’ve discovered something,” he booms in an imperious English accent. Barrington Nevitt, a consultant to the Ontario government like many of McLuhan’s friends, is accustomed to predawn calls. McLuhan plunges on. “I ran across a phrase just now which said that a scientific hypothesis can be disproved. Not proved. Disproved. I realized I might be able to use this in media study. It’s really quite enraging that nobody has ever thought of this before.” McLuhan apparently means that he will ask media students to consider what society would be like if radio and television did not exist. He hangs up abruptly and returns to his reading. Before he has breakfast he goes back to bed for a while. Second only to his devout faith in Catholicism is his belief in the catnap. He returns to the kitchen at 8 a.m., wearing a Hawaiian shirt and slacks. Corinne McLuhan, his wife of 37 years, is preparing his breakfast. He alternates between rare beefsteak and organic whole wheat bread, honey and an egg.

For years, while he waited for breakfast, McLuhan read the New York Times, until he suddenly decided it was obsolete. “The complicated layout of the Times is 19th-century. To get through the whole damn thing would take at least a week. In the electronic age people want information quickly.” He now picks up the news of the day from the Toronto Globe and Mail.

He is reading the society page aloud to his wife when George Thompson, his middle-aged assistant, walks in. “Good morning, George!” McLuhan bellows. “Did you get a chance to look at the glorious sky? There’s not a cloud in it. Why in the world would anyone want to do anything serious on such a beautiful day?”

McLuhan picks up his battered briefcase and marches across the lawn of his English manor house to Thompson’s vintage Chevrolet. He has driven McLuhan to his office at the University of Toronto for the past three years—ever since McLuhan gave up driving. “It was the least I could do for the environment,” McLuhan explains. Hidden from the road is a 19th-century carriage house which the university converted into the Centre for Culture and Technology to honor McLuhan in 1963. At 9:30 a.m. McLuhan bounds up the spiral stairway to his office. Poised stiffly with dictation pad in hand, Margaret Stewart, his secretary, runs down the messages. Woody Allen wants him to act in a film. After speaking to the comedian, McLuhan agrees. (Shooting took place two weeks later at 7:45 a.m. in a movie theater in New York. McLuhan plays himself.) Gov. Jerry Brown wants McLuhan to speak at a political conference in California. The vice-president of Televisa de Mexico asks McLuhan to a media conference in his country. Will he give hour-long interviews to Radio Québec and the BBC? Does he have time to fly to Denver to address a convention of computer executives? A Michigan educator has heard of the forthcoming textbook on the media. Can he order a thousand copies, even though it is not yet in print? Would McLuhan and his wife like to be the guests of the Smothers Brothers while they are performing in Toronto?…
Read this interesting Day in the Life of Marshall McLuhan at https://tinyurl.com/vevlnsq

This 3.5-minute segment of a televised interview of Marshall McLuhan on The Today Show on NBC TV with journalists Tom Brokaw and Edwin Newman show what McLuhan looked like in 1976. In it McLuhan criticizes a recent televised presidential debate between Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia who that year defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford from Michigan.