The photos above show Marshall McLuhan in his office at St. Michael’s College (1964), taken from the CBC documentary “McLuhan is the Message” (see video below).

Visitors wishing to view Marshall McLuhan’s Office are invited to attend this weekend, March 26 & 27 at the following times:

May 26 and 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto
The 19th annual Doors Open Toronto presented by Great Gulf provides an opportunity to see inside more than 130 of the most architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city. This year’s theme, “Film: The Great Romance” explores the city’s film and television industry.
For the first time since decades, Marshall McLuhan’s original, restored office at St. Michael’s College will be open to public (free admission).
St. Michael’s College featured sites for the weekend include also St. Basil’s Church, the Shook Common Room, the Kelly Library and the PIMS Library, one of the most substantial centres of medieval scholarship in North America.
On both Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m., Professor Paolo Granata will present a lecture to the public titled A Playful Mind: Exploring the Genius of Marshall McLuhan.” The lecture will take a place in Fr. Madden Hall, Carr Hall, located at 100 St. Joseph Street. Throughout the Doors Open weekend, there will be food, refreshments and St. Michael’s clothing available for purchase.
Background information:
In the spring of 1946, Marshall McLuhan received an offer to teach at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. From that time on, he would spend the rest of his life living and teaching in Toronto. McLuhan’s office was located in a Victorian House on the St. Michael’s campus, with unvarnished wooden floors that creaked and a door leading to the street on which McLuhan, ever sensitive to noise, hung a sign that read “slam gently”. According to his biographer Philip Marchand, McLuhan claimed this oxymoron communicated its message very effectively.
Into this office, McLuhan piled his six or seven thousand books and a shabby chaise longue with a thin green mattress for his five or six daily naps. On the walls, he placed a crucifix, oddities such as a death mask of Keats, and his personal talisman, the oar he won from rowing at Cambridge University.

Dr. Eric McLuhan, Portrait by Michael McLuhan

Eric McLuhan (1942 – 2018) passed away suddenly on Thursday, May 17, after losing consciousness in his hotel room in Bogota, Columbia after an academic visit to the Universidad de la Sabana in Chía, 7 km north of Bogota. He had been invited to deliver the inaugural lecture for the Doctorate in Communication program at the university. Titled “Media Ecology in the 21st Century”, it was very well-received. He was a scholar and a religious humanist, continuing his scholarship, research and writing until the end.

His son Andrew who accompanied him tried but was unable to resuscitate him. Andrew announced today on his McLuhan Institute Facebook page that there would be a funeral for Eric McLuhan at 11:00 A.M. in Our Lady of Torcoroma in Bogotá, Colombia today. It is anticipated that the McLuhan family will hold a commemoration ceremony and celebration of Eric McLuhan’s life back in Canada.

Eric McLuhan’s passing is a deeply felt loss to the overlapping Marshall McLuhan community of interest and the Media Ecology Association to which he contributed. There is no question that he did more than anyone else to complete and extend his father’s work and legacy with a prodigious output of unfinished books begun by his father that Eric completed, original books on media and culture and edited volumes. These include:

  • City as Classroom (with Marshall McLuhan, Kathryn Hutchon), 1977
  • Laws of Media: The New Science (with Marshall McLuhan), U of Toronto Press, 1988
  • The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake, U of Toronto Press, 1997
  • Electric Language: Understanding the Present, Stoddart, 1998
  • The Human Equation, Book I: The Constant in Human Development and Culture from Pre-Literacy to Post-Literacy (with W. D. Constantineau), BPS Books, 2010
  • Media and Formal Cause (with Marshall McLuhan), NeoPoeisis Press, 2011
  • Theories of Communication (with Marshall McLuhan), Peter Lang, 2011
  • The Human Equation, Book II: The Science of Investigation (with W. D. Constantineau), BPS Books, 2011
  • The Human Equation, Book III: Know Thyself: Action and Perception (with W. D. Constantineau), BPS Books, 2012
  • The Human Equation, Book IV: Mime and Media I (with W. D. Constantineau), BPS Books, 2016 [Forthcoming]
  • The Human Equation, Book V: Mime and Media II (with W. D. Constantineau), BPS Books, 2016 [Forthcoming]
  • Cynic Satire, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015
  • The Sensus Communis: Synesthesia, and the Soul, BPS Books, 2015
  • The Lost Tetrads of Marshall McLuhan (with Marshall McLuhan), OR Books, 2017

Edited Books

  • Essential McLuhan (with F. Zingrone), Stoddart, 1995
  • Who Was Marshall McLuhan? (with F. Zingrone, W. Constantineau), Stoddart, 1996
  • The Medium and the Light: Writings on Religion by Marshall McLuhan, (With Jacek Schlarek) Stoddart, 1998
  • The Book of Probes (with W. Kuhns), Gingko Press, 2004
  • McLuhan Unbound, Gingko Press, 2005

A Short Biography of Eric McLuhan from his Personal Website

Dr. Eric McLuhan B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D.

  • B.Sc. – Communications, Wisconsin State University, 1972
  • M.A., Ph.D. – English Lit., University of Dallas, 1980, 1982

An internationally-known and award-winning lecturer on communication and media, Dr. McLuhan has over 40 years’ teaching experience in subjects ranging from high-speed reading techniques to literature, communication theory, media, culture, and Egyptology. He has taught at many colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada and abroad.

In addition to co-authoring “Laws of Media” in 1988 and working closely for many years with his father, the late Marshall McLuhan, he has also been deeply involved in exploring media ecology and communications.

In 1980, with Roger Davies, Dr. McLuhan developed the Thinking and Writing workshops, and together they founded McLuhan & Davies Communications, Inc., to help business professionals with their writing and editing skills.

His research and thinking have been published in books, magazines, and journals covering topics such as media, communications, perception, and literature since 1964. He is currently researching the nature and structure of renaissances, including the one that now envelops us: the first global renaissance.

His most recent published work includes The Sensus Communis – Synesthesia, and the Soul(BPS Books, 2015)Cynic Satire (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), and a third book in The Human Equation series (BPS Books, 2012). Several other books are currently in preparation. (Source:

Dr. Eric McLuhan receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Letters from St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

Click on the image for an expanded view.

Designed by Paolo Granata, University of Toronto

Studying book history and print culture often requires a specialized terminology. Designed to honour the legacy of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, this 52-card deck is a guide to key terms, including illustrations and examples, used in printing history, bibliography, and textual scholarship. It’s also a deck of cards to play with – enjoy being the most bibliophilic poker player at the table! 

The Gutenberg Deck was designed by Professor Paolo Granata for the Elements of Material Bibliography and Print Culture course at St Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and for his students of the Book and Media Studies program. BMS program is an interdisciplinary and historical investigation of the role of printing, books, reading, and electronic and digital media in cultures past and present.

In supporting this program, St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto aims to retrieve the intellectual legacy of Marshall McLuhan who, from the heart of its campus, inspired young minds and engaged the public in probing the never-ending processes of the Gutenberg Galaxy.
The Gutenberg Deck will be available for sale in June 2018, that is, next month at the University of Toronto Bookstore (online and on site). See

Comment: The ever creative and scholarly Paolo Granata has followed up his The Medium board game, which also employs cards, with this new card deck which is an instructional medium for courses in bibliography, book publishing, or Gutenberg (print) culture. A deck of cards is a modest communication medium, but a medium nevertheless, most often used for entertainment, as in playing cards for bridge, poker or other card games. But they also have a use as personal instructional media for memorizing content such as dates, names and definitions or as flash cards for classroom drills. Paolo’s Gutenberg cards are both instructional and can be used as playing cards.

Paolo Granata designed this deck of playing cards to help students remember unique terms from Gutenberg (print) culture such as – recto, verso, plate, folio, quarto, etc – and the history of books and their publishing. Inspired by both flash cards and Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Card Deck (see, designed to stimulate problem-solving and thinking, in a manner that later came to be known as ‘thinking-outside-the-box’. The cards feature a picture of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of mechanical movable type, one side (recto) and a definition on the reverse (verso).

“Marginalia” appears on the 10 of diamonds, for example, and “codex” on the queen of spades. Gutenberg himself is the joker. Paolo gets students to correctly explain the words on the cards as they are played. This kind of experiential learning is a great way to get students to retain knowledge, as “repetitio est mater studiorum,” “repetition is the mother of learning. ” I strongly believe in the power of playfulness to inspire creativity and imagination,” says Paolo Granata.

Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Card Deck

Paolo Granata top centre & media scholar Andrey Miroshnichenko opposite him with 2 students

The Medium

A Marshal McLuhan Board Game

The Medium is a board game inspired by Marshall McLuhan, a thought-provoking game and teaching aid that encourages us to become aware of the media environment. It stimulates players to escape the maelstrom by recognizing the intended functions and side effects of any medium or technology.
Presented by Prof. Paolo Granata and his students in Book and Media Studies Program at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, in partnership with the School of Design at George Brown College, The Medium illustrates Marshall and Eric McLuhan’s Laws of Media: the four constant rules that govern all human innovations – enhancing, obsolescing, retrieving, and reversal into.
By playing in partners, The Medium stimulates a player’s cooperative, innovative, strategic and creative thinking skills, and it also provides a means to cultivate awareness regarding the implications of media and technology, on both individual and societal levels.
Interested persons in the Toronto area are invited to attend a Testing Night for the game on Tuesday MAY 29th, 6:00 PM at 401 Games (518 Yonge St., Toronto).
The game should be available for sale in the late summer or Fall. A notification will be posted here.


To understand McLuhan’s Laws of Media and how they can be applied to media and the kinds of insights that can be gained, see the following previous postings on this blog: 
The Laws of Media – A Conceptual Tool for Understanding Media –
Interview with Eric McLuhan on the Laws of Media –
Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media Applied: Photography Flips into Snapchat –
Marshall McLuhan’s 4 Laws of Media Applied to Innovation –

The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein & the Discourse of Technology

About the Book: Technology, a word that emerged historically first to denote the study of any art or technique, has come, in modernity, to describe advanced machines, industrial systems, and media. McCutcheon argues that it is Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein that effectively reinvented the meaning of the word for modern English. It was then Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its adaptations in Canadian popular culture that popularized, even globalized, a Frankensteinian sense of technology.

The Medium Is the Monster shows how we cannot talk about technology—that human-made monstrosity—today without conjuring Frankenstein, thanks in large part to its Canadian adaptations by pop culture icons such as David Cronenberg, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, and Deadmau5. In the unexpected connections illustrated by The Medium Is the Monster, McCutcheon brings a fresh approach to studying adaptations, popular culture, and technology.

About the Author: Mark A. McCutcheon is Professor of Literary Studies at Athabasca University. His scholarly publications include articles on such subjects as Canadian popular culture, Frankenstein adaptations, and copyright policy in English Studies in CanadaDigital Studies/Le champ numériqueContinuum, and Popular Music, among other scholarly journals and books. Mark has also published poetry and short fiction in literary magazines like EVENTExistereCarousel, and subTerrain. Originally from Toronto, Mark lives in Edmonton. His scholarly blog is and he’s on Twitter as @sonicfiction. (Publisher’s Listing:

From the Introduction: The question that animates this book might at first sound like the start of a joke: what do modern technology, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Canada have to do with one another? The short answer is “Marshall McLuhan,” and much of what follows will be devoted to explaining this punchline. I want to venture a twofold argument: first, that Shelley’s Frankenstein effectively “reinvented” the meaning of the word “technology” for modern English; and, second, that Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its receptions, especially in Canadian popular culture, together constitute a tradition in adaptations of Frankenstein that has globalized this Frankensteinian sense of the word. So my two main tasks here are to provide a concrete account of the historical origins and transformation of the definitively modern word “technology” and, by closely reading Frankenstein and its Canadian adaptations, many of which also adapt McLuhan, to model new directions for adaptation studies.
I aim to show how Frankenstein, technology, McLuhan, and Canadian popular culture relate to one another, in historical and cultural contexts, and to explore the implications of this interrelation…

Download the Free eBook: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited. Download from here:


Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next. A Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818-2018) Symposium/Exhibit/Public Reading 26 October 2018 (

Marshall McLuhan with TV at a Monday Night Seminar

While most people don’t equate television and learning, in the mid-twentieth century, at least a few educators imagined that the two were an ideal match. Long before video-sharing platforms like YouTube existed, a minority of educators and futurists already foresaw a time when “television learning” would become the norm (as an example, consider how education is depicted in the futuristic 1967 short film, 1999 AD). Perhaps the most well-known champion of television learning, however, was media studies scholar Marshall McLuhan [But his attitude was far from one-sided positivism and he also had later doubts.]

Marshall McLuhan’s Vision of Education for the TV Generation

As McLuhan once remarked, “To expect a ‘turned on’ child of the electric age to respond to the old education modes is rather like expecting an eagle to swim. It’s simply not within his environment, and therefore incomprehensible.” His solution was to create education geared to the specific needs and sensory preferences of the television generation. In short, McLuhan believed that new technologies such as television could overcome the tedious nature of the current approach to education. In a 1969 interview with Playboy Magazine, McLuhan, who had six adult children at the time, was asked where he would educate his children if they were still school age. His response was clear: “Certainly not in our current schools, which are intellectual penal institutions. In today’s world, to paraphrase Jefferson, the least education is the best education, since very few young minds can survive the intellectual tortures of our educational system.”

So, what was McLuhan’s solution? According to McLuhan, it was not enough to put televisions in classrooms, which was something some of his peers were calling for at the time. Instead, he said, “We have to ask what TV can do, in the instruction of English or physics or any other subject, that the classroom cannot do as presently constituted.” According to McLuhan, what TV could do was “deeply involve youth in the process of learning, illustrating graphically the complex interplay of people and events, the development of forms, the multileveled interrelationships between and among such arbitrarily segregated subjects as biology, geography, mathematics, anthropology, history, literature and languages.” While this may sound shocking, McLuhan never viewed television as a passive medium for couch potatoes. For him, it was always an active medium.

So, what would McLuhan have thought of YouTube? It seems highly likely that McLuhan would have enthusiastically embraced YouTube as a platform and potential way to transform education. After all, it is not only global in scope, enabling anyone from anywhere in the world with access to a digital device and Internet to share videos on any subject, but also highly interactive. Unlike a textbook, for example, learners can make their own videos and upload and share them with other potential learners and leave feedback on what videos are and are not useful. On this basis, it seems likely that had McLuhan lived to see the launch of YouTube, he would have readily embraced it as a breakthrough educational technology. One might further speculate that McLuhan that would have eventually launched his own YouTube channel.

Early Research on YouTube’s Educational Benefits Was Mixed

To be clear, despite the fact that content-craving K-12 teachers and college professors quickly discovered YouTube (on a bad day, there is nothing like a YouTube video to fill up those unaccounted for minutes in one’s lesson plan), YouTube has also at times proven to be a highly controversial platform among educators.

On the one hand, there were YouTube’s early enthusiasts. Diane Skiba’s 2007 article in Nursing Education  exemplifies why many educators were ready and willing to embrace the platform as an educational tool. As Skiba observed over a decade ago, “If you want to engage students of the Net generation, you will want to explore this tool as an adjunct to your classroom or online teaching environments. For example, what will you do if tech-savvy learners submit video projects that they have created instead of traditional papers?” As Skiba emphasized, “This is not a far-fetched idea” since 57% of “online teens” already create content for the Internet. But Skiba wasn’t simply imagining YouTube as a way to enable students to produce video essays. As she also observed, “It is important to think about how tools like YouTube can be used to create a learning community,” since these new tools also allow students to replace passive learning with active participation.

Read the rest of this essay at

 McLuhan at the CBC in Toronto, January 1966
“Education must always concentrate its resources at the major point of information intake, we merely have to ask, from what sources do growing minds nowadays acquire most factual data? How much critical awareness is conferred at these points?” – McLuhan, M. (1955) “Communications and Communication Arts”, Teacher College Record. 57 (4), 104-110.

Library and Archives Canada building in Ottawa

McLuhan read widely, often recording his thoughts on what he read in the margins and endpapers of his books. He also corresponded with a global intellectual and social network about his reading; sometimes, he would recommend a particular book, or simply mention one in passing.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds McLuhan’s archives, while the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto (UTL) holds his personal research library. Although the two collections are now separate entities held by different institutions, the division between them is artificial: McLuhan originally kept them together in his office at the University of Toronto and his private residence, and they developed in conjunction with each other over the course of his life.

This page virtually reconnects these now physically separate collections.  Showing connections between McLuhan’s letters and annotations in his books provides new insight into the progression of his ideas from notes he wrote hastily as he read, to the polished final products presented in his published works.

Letters and Books

Below are selected pages from books in the McLuhan research library collection showing his handwritten annotations. Alongside these pages are letters from the archives in which he discusses these same books. Reading the letters and annotations together reveals his creative process, and illustrates the interconnected nature of the library and the archives.

James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses

James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses is Frank Budgen’s memoir of the time he spent with Joyce in Zurich while Joyce was writing Ulysses. The insight Budgen provides into Joyce’s use of sound and visual imagery in Ulysses influenced McLuhan’s developing ideas of visual and acoustic space.  In this letter to academic Michael Wolff, McLuhan refers to the value of Budgen’s book for his work on Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting, co-written with artist Harley Parker.

Note: To view images of the actual documents listed in all of the bulleted headings below that were linked between the two archives, go to the source document for this posting at the link at the end below.

  • Correspondence on James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses
  • Notes made in the book James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses

Preface to Plato

McLuhan confided his admiration for classicist Eric Havelock’s book Preface to Plato to Michael Wolff in the same 1964 letter in which he discussed James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses.  Havelock’s interpretation of the clash of oral and written cultures in ancient Athens still resonated with McLuhan when he wrote to the author in 1970.  McLuhan cited Preface to Plato both in the revised edition of Understanding Media and in From Cliché to Archetype.

  • Correspondence on Preface to Plato
  • Notes made in the book Preface to Plato

The Paper Economy

McLuhan recommended that editor and publisher William Jovanovich read social critic David T. Bazelon’s The Paper Economy for a collaborative project they had planned on the future of publishing.  In McLuhan’s interpretation, paper money was the “emperor’s old clothes” and electric circuitry was his “new clothes” (punned in his annotations in the book as old and new “close”).

  • Correspondence on The Paper Economy
  • Notes made in the book The Paper Economy

The Art of Memory

Recommending The Art of Memory by historian of the Renaissance Frances Amelia Yates to Jovanovich in relation to their collaborative project, McLuhan enthused that Yates “reopened some missing vistas in the history of western culture.” In particular, her discussion of Dante’s Inferno as a memory system, or memory theatre, sparked his imagination. The planned collaboration between McLuhan and Jovanovich, which they had provisionally entitled The Future of the Book, never materialized.

  • Correspondence on The Art of Memory
  • Notes made in the book The Art of Memory

Machina ex Deo

In an essay in the collection Machina ex Deo, historian Lynn White explored the spiritual transition of the western world from paganism to Christianity which allowed humanity to move from seeing itself as a part of nature to being able to exploit nature.  In this letter to anthropologist Edward Hall, McLuhan refers to White’s connection of the spread of Christian optimism with the technical innovation of the modern era.  He also drew upon White’s ideas in War and Peace in the Global Village, co-written with Quentin Fiore.

  • Correspondence on Machina ex Deo
  • Notes made in the book Machina ex Deo

The Step to Man

McLuhan recommended The Step to Man, published by the physicist John R. Platt in 1966, to future Nobel-prize winning scientist John Polanyi in 1974, for its insight on the history and philosophy of science. He remarked to Polanyi that he felt his own approach resembled scientific experimentation.

  • Correspondence on The Step to Man
  • Notes made in the book The Step to Man
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

Go to the source document to see images of the linked document:

McLuhan Salon @ DigiFest

Thursday, April 26th, 4:00 PM at Corus Quay

The McLuhan Salons are back!
And we are happy to team up with Toronto DigiFest for a panel on Media Arts and the Creative City, on Thursday, April 26th, 4:00 PM at Corus Quay (25 Dockside Drive, Toronto). 

Prior to 2018 Digifest Digital Pioneer Award, internationally celebrated media artist Norman White; concept designer Alex Mayhew; filmmaker/media artist Nyla Innuksuk and illustrator Guillaumit (France) join moderator Patrick Tobin for a panel discussion on how innovative thinking in media practices today will shape our creative cities tomorrow.

The event is free and open to the public. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Register Now

Premiere board game playtest at DigiFest!

The Medium is a board game inspired by the innovative thinker Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), one of the most charismatic and far-reaching intellectuals of the 20th century.

Presented by Prof. Paolo Granata and his students in Book and Media Studies Program at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, in partnership with the School of Design at George Brown College, this board game illustrates Marshall and Eric McLuhan’s Laws of Media (1988): the four constant rules that govern all human innovations – enhancing, obsolescing, retrieving, and reversal into.

By playing in partners, The Medium stimulates a player’s cooperative, innovative, strategic and creative thinking skills, and it also provides a means to cultivate awareness regarding the implications of media and technology, on both individual and societal levels.

Just wrap yourself up in the McLuhan’s Laws of Media and enjoy being the first to escape the vortex!

 George Gerbner (1919 – 2005)

George Gerbner was a professor of communication and originator of cultivation theory which examines the long-term effects of television, it’s primary proposition being that the images and ideological messages transmitted through popular TV media heavily influence perceptions of the real world.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, he emigrated to the United States in late 1939. He was the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (1964–1989) and presided over the school’s growth and influence in Communication Theory in academia.

Gerbner established the Cultural Indicators Research Project in 1968 to document trends in television content and how these changes affect viewers’ perceptions of the world. He coined the phrase mean world syndrome to describe the fact that people who watch large amounts of television are more likely to perceive the world as a dangerous and frightening place. (Wikipedia, full biography at

Although Gerbner is not mentioned in the biographies of Marshall McLuhan and there are no letters to or from Gerbner in the Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), their mutual interest in the effects of television at a time when television was at the height of its impact and influence probably led them to communicate. There are a few useful documents in this small collection, notably several of the letters, the short biography by University of Toronto President Claude Bissell, a draft of Laws of the Media: Structural and the other documents are not without interest.

The Marshall McLuhan Papers

Located online at )

  • Correspondence 03/14/1960 – 10/04/1977
    George Gerbner, Marshall McLuhan, Edmund Brown, Arthur Hurst, Tom Cooper, Nathan Pletcher, Marrill Pannitt, Susan Schmidt, E.T. Hall.
  • Correspondence
    From: George Gerbner
    To: Sandra Grilikhes, Carolyn Marvin, Merrill Panitt, Larry Gross, Robert Hornik, Klaus Krippendorff, Paul Messaris
    Date: March 22, 1983
  • Biography (1)
    Author unknown.
  • Biography (2)
    Article Title: McLuhan, (Herbert) Marshall
    Journal Title: Current Biography
    Issue Date: 1967
    Pages: 270 – 273
  • Biography (3)
    Article Title: Herbert Marshall McLuhan
    Author: Claude T. Bissell
    Journal Title: Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada
    Issue Number: 19
    Issue Date: 1981
  • Laws of the Media: Structural Approach
    A draft.
    Article Title: Laws of the Media: Structural Approach
    Author: Marshall McLuhan
  • The Gospel According to McLuhan
    Article Title: The Gospel According to McLuhan
    Author: MAM
    Journal Title: The Pennsylvania Gazette
    Issue Date: June 1966
    Pages: 3 – 37
  • The McLuhan Galaxy
    Sent to George Gerbner as correspondence.
    From: Tom Cooper
    To: George Gerbner
    Article Title: The McLuhan Galaxy
    Author: Brian Winston
    Journal Title: Channels

(Click on the above box or any image for an expanded view)

Julia M. Hildebrand (Drexel University) and Barry Vacker (Temple University)


Anthropocene — Mediacene.

Layers of fossils — Layers of media technology.

Ways of living — Ways of seeing.

If we are in the Anthropocene, then how can we not be in the Mediacene? If technological civilization has transformed the eco-systems on its host planet, Earth, then how can mediated civilization have not transformed the ego-systems in its host species, human consciousness? If we have extended visual technologies into the tiniest particles, into our bodies, around the planet, and into deep space, then how can our visions have not been transformed?

Mediacene. Mediaseen. Media(S)cene.

We do not mean “Mediacene” in a strict scientific sense. Rather, we mean it as a techno-philosophical concept related to how media technologies make us see, and in turn, how we can see them. Hence, the playful term “Media(S)cene.” The goal is to creatively combine theory and art. Rather than explain, the goal is to explore, expand, explode.

As such, we are inspired by media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who claims that “Scientists make their discoveries as ‘artists,’ not specialists. Such scientists construct experiments as “works of art” to probe the environment.”[1] With the Media(S)cene, we want to present an imaginative probe into our contemporary media environment. It’s like McLuhan’s approach upgraded for the 21st century — “McLuhan 21.0.”

More concretely, the Media(S)cene is a model for a visual media ecology and a call for art for this media epoch, a project for this seeing, this accelerating media evolution — on Earth, in space, into the Hubble universe of the 21st century. Why? Because it’s the media epoch. We’re in it. There is no exit. We need a fresh understanding. We agree, theory needs art. Now.


1967 saw the publication of McLuhan’s classic art-text, The Medium is the Massage, exploring how media — human-made technologies — “massage” our senses, our ways of feeling, thinking, and being. Its original cover featured a woman wearing a LOVE-dress. Fittingly, that year also saw the release of the Beatles’ classic song, “All You Need is Love” — which was created as Britain’s contribution to Our World, the very first live international satellite television broadcast that literally reached around the globe. A prophetic forerunner to YouTube, Our World featured programming about everyday life in nineteen nations and reached 400–700 million people, the largest television audience ever up-to-that date. The program was broadcast on June 25, during the famed Summer of Love. As an expression of the utopian optimism of the moment, the Beatles performed “All You Need is Love” to close the broadcast.

Five decades later, it seems as if “All You Need is Like” in Our World that has media infrastructures and mobile technologies spanning the globe, further massaging our senses, ways of seeing, moving, doing, being. At the same time, our media technologies have extended deeper into outer space, making Our World seem like an utter speck amid the voids of the Milky Way and the expanding universe. We face the paradox of our civilization’s greatest discovery: The universe is vast and majestic, and our species is insignificant and might be utterly meaningless. We’ve found 2 trillion galaxies, but no aliens, no gods, and no universal meaning for human existence. Zero, nada, zip.

Is that why, every day most of us fill an empty hand with a mobile phone and fill our eyes with an electronic screen roaming that world? McLuhan’s “global village” jam-packed with online tribes vying for more followers, fans, but also feuds? Media massages that help us feel special in an immense universe? Our tech consolation for our cosmic insignificance? Media building, loving, liking, shaming, hating… sensory massaging to fill existential voids?

We are facing voids in the universe, our philosophies, our knowledge, and our everyday. We create theories, technologies, practices, and relationships that help us distract from, close in, or fill those voids. Yet, in the ever-expanding universe, the voids, too, are expanding. More massages, please!

By juxtaposing the LOVE with a VOID dress (and yes, of course, there is a smartphone), we want to zoom in on a macro-media-theory that connects the small with the big, the inner with the outer, the finite with the infinite. How we make that visible and how, in turn, we are affected by those visibilities. Media scenes and Media seen. The idea is to think about contemporary media massages on a larger scale. A big strata.


Our different ways of seeing span eons. Petroglyphs to photographs, movies to TVs, phones to drones, supercolliders to space telescopes — technologies of sight all now made visible on screens, made mobile and global via networks that traverse the planet, made interstellar by leaving the solar system and peering into deep space.

Extending from inside the human body, into society, across and above Earth’s surface and into outer space are layered networks of media technologies — a media strata. The contemporary physical layers are obvious: Fiber optics and phone lines are underground and under the oceans, while mobile phones are above ground and drones are in the air and satellites are in space; the Large Hadron Collider is buried underground, while the Hubble Telescope is orbiting the planet and Voyager has exited the solar system.

Within those media layers are other media layers spanning the planet, permeating our cities, propelling data through our devices. A central infrastructure is the Internet, within which is the World Wide Web, within which are social media. Data centers, data bases, software, code. Layers of tweets, timelines, and status updates. Cell towers and satellite dishes. Street lights, electric lights, and LED signs. There are platform layers, interface layers, address layers, and user layers. “Grids” on the surface, “Clouds” above, housing and being housed by Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, the National Security Agency, and endless other firms and government agencies around the world.[2] Big strata, big data, big brother.

Read the rest of this excellent essay here: