What do Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, media theorist Marshall McLuhan and Canadian popular culture have in common? This is the question that Mark A. McCutcheon seeks to answer in his new book, The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology, published in 2018 by Athabasca University Press. In this unique and penetrating analysis, McCutcheon argues that Shelley’s 1818 novel essentially reinvented the word “technology” for the modern age, establishing its connections with ominous notions of man-made monstrosity. In the twentieth century, this monstrous, Frankensteinian conception of technology was globalized and popularized largely through Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its numerous, diverse adaptations in Canadian popular culture. The Medium is the Monster establishes Frankenstein, and its various adaptations, as the originating intertext for a modern conceptualisation of technology that has manifested with a unique potency in Canadian pop culture, informing works as disparate as David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the fiction of Margaret Atwood, and even electronic dance music. Furthermore, McCutcheon undertakes an incisive of analysis of how Frankensteinian constructions of technology have shaped real-world discussions of science and industry, an intertextual discourse which he sees as most powerfully encapsulated in the rhetoric associated with the Alberta tar sands industry.

Over the course of the interview, McCutcheon provides some fascinating insights into changing cultural attitudes towards technology, the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the novel’s relationship to McLuhan’s media theory, and the surprising scope of Shelley’s cultural impact. (Source: https://goo.gl/w5hWBp)

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 www.academicalism.wordpress.com.

 First Ed. 1818

From Mark McCutcheon’s Review of the Study

The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel, Frankenstein. In the two centuries since its appearance, the book has taken on the mantle of a cultural touchstone, having been adapted, referenced, recapitulated, and retold in an apparently endless succession of books, movies, graphic novels, and other media. Itself loosely based on the Prometheus and Pygmalion myths, Shelley’s novel has become one of the most influential books in the western canon.

It is also a volume capacious enough to encompass a dizzying array of interpretive approaches. The text has been seen variously as a warning about humanity’s hubris in attempting to play God, a cautionary tale about the limits of scientific knowledge, and an early meditation on the nature of technology and industrialization. Literary critic Wendy Steiner writes that Shelley “was clearly horrified by the cold, overreaching adventurism of science, industrialism, colonization. Even art was not immune from dehumanization. … Frankenstein’s monster is a symbol of art as inhumane manufacture.”

Athabasca University professor of literary studies Mark A. McCutcheon extends this investigation – not altogether convincingly – in his new volume, which posits a kind of Venn diagram of influence among Shelley’s novel, the writing of media critic Marshall McLuhan, and Canadian pop culture, most especially in the realm of science fiction movies and literature………..

But his investigation of McLuhan’s influence on postmodernism and our current technology-besotted society is vigorous and provocative. It is also interesting to note the similarities between McLuhan and a current Canadian academic currently making waves in the popular culture. McCutcheon cites W. Terrence Gordon, who suggested that McLuhan was interrogating “the feminization of the North American male” in The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. When McCutcheon later refers to McLuhan’s “cult of personality as a maverick academic” and his status as a “theoretical guru,” it’s almost impossible not to make a comparison with Jordan Peterson. (Read the entire review at https://goo.gl/GPxcFi)

Eric McLuhan at the18th Annual Convention, St. Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA June 22–25, 2017

On Eric McLuhan’s ‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century’

By Andrew McLuhan

[Eric McLuhan’s last speech, ‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century,’ was delivered at El Nogal in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 17th, 2018. He died, suddenly, the following afternoon. The following remarks were written to introduce that speech when it’s published along with the speeches which Lance Strate and Sergio Roncallo-Dow gave that evening.]

ME21 — Introduction

Asked to travel to Bogotá, Colombia, to give an opening address at the Universidad de la Sabana’s launch of their doctorate program in communication, Eric McLuhan used the opportunity to make some comments regarding what he felt needed immediate (and overdue) attention in the area of media ecology, and to offer some advice to people wading into that field of study. He felt that those just starting out, especially as they are in Colombia, removed from what now constitutes a tradition in North America, have a great opportunity to make a fresh start; to avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes; to begin again.

Eric McLuhan was there when the idea of media ecology was born. Indeed, he maintained that he came up with the term while in New York City in 1967–68 helping his father Marshall McLuhan as he taught at Fordham, and that Neil Postman “ran with it.”

In the McLuhan school of media ecology, it is not simply an area of study, but an area of action, and this is what Eric wanted to get across in his speech. We have to be more than observers, we have to be agents of change. It’s been more than 50 years. Enough talk, time to act.

This activist stance, taken seriously — as it is meant to be taken — is not popular. It’s radical. It requires great changes in various cultures’ attitudes and habits, and it means a significant reduction of profits for technology companies and their shareholders. That is some of what we’re up against.

In a letter dated May 6, 1969, Marshall McLuhan wrote to Jacques Maritain:

“There is a deep-seated repugnance in the human breast against understanding the processes in which we are involved. Such understanding involves far too much responsibility for our actions. … Since we are doing these things to ourselves, there is no earthly reason for submitting to them unconsciously or irrationally.”[1]

My father was becoming bold in his statements. A devout and life-long Catholic, he was more willing to speak in public about his faith, especially as it related to his work. He had, in the last year or two since the publication of The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul (BPS Books, 2015) spoken publicly a few times about his ideas for a ‘Catholic theory of communication,’ particularly when we traveled to Saskatoon where he gave the Keenan lecture at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatoon, in November 2017.[2]

I had been traveling with my father for the last ten years or so. Because of his at-times fragile health, he needed someone with him who could assist in an emergency. It was during these trips that I began to get interested in ‘the family business,’ as it were. Hearing him talk, and in our own conversations during travel, I began to get an understanding of what it was all about. Understanding is addictive. My interest was cemented when I spent almost two years documenting and inventorying Marshall McLuhan’s personal library prior to its relocation to the Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.[3]

Because of Eric’s advancing age and increasing difficulty with travel — he was 76 years old, and I had started to wheel him through airports in a wheelchair because he couldn’t walk very long distances — we had decided he would retire from traveling to speak in 2018. We had already committed to two engagements this year, Colombia and Germany[4], and decided to keep them.

In the tragedy and shock of my father’s death On Friday, May 18th while we were in Colombia, there was a surprising amount of beauty.

As Marshall tended to teach at Catholic institutions, so my father seemed to get invited to speak at Catholic institutions. Our last three trips were to St. Mary’s College in California (Keynote address to the Media Ecology Association’s annual conference), St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon (The 29th Michael Keenan Memorial Lecture), and La Universidad de la Sabana in Chia just outside of Bogotá, Colombia.

Eric took the opportunity to pray in the university’s two chapels and had been remarking on an abundance of roses, a sign he related to St. Theresa de Lisieux, who he had a particular fondness for.

It is a comfort to his family that Eric died while in the bosom of his faith; practising it with his characteristic devotion, feeling its real presence around him.

It is fitting that his last public address would be about looking forward to media ecology in the 21st century, entreating us to be bold, have courage, blaze new trails.

He went out with style and grace.

I will miss his presence, his wit, his obsession with all forms of puns, his humour. I will miss his instruction, his patience in answering my every question with their often-obvious answers. The world is poorer for the loss of his knowledge and skill. I will wish I paid closer attention. I will have to be content with what I was able to learn, and trust that it prepared me to go forward. I will treasure it all as well, and I am glad he left behind much on the record, for us all.

‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century’ is more than a wonderful speech; it is a map, a way forward.

The short and emotionally charged conclusion to the speech was written by hand while Eric waited to go on stage. He urges us to be bold, dares us to be radical, fortifies us with courage.

Let’s go — there’s little time to waste.

Andrew McLuhan
June 2, 2018.

[1] The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion, edited by Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek (Stoddart, 1999).

[2] Eric McLuhan’s lecture ‘Catholicism and Communication: The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul’ was recorded and is available on The McLuhan Institute’s YouTube channel.

[3] Marshall McLuhan’s library has recently been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World registry.

[4] Our last trip together was to be in Germany this November (2018) at the Munster School of Design. A conference loosely organized around the 30th anniversary of the publication of Laws of Media: The New Science.

Source: https://goo.gl/KhM12E

Marshall McLuhan & Young Eric McLuhan

transmediale Marshall McLuhan LectureFaisal Devji (left) in conversation with Megan Boler (right) at the 2018 Marshall McLuhan Lecture in Berlin

transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture by Megan Boler

30.01.2018, 18:30 at the Embassy of Canada, Berlin

The 10th-anniversary edition of the transmediale Marshall McLuhan lecture was delivered by Megan Boler, a professor in the Department of Social Justice Education at the University of Ontario. As a highly interdisciplinary scholar, Boler has focused on the social implications of technology, including the relations between media, democracy, and education. In her McLuhan lecture, Truth as Event: The Affective Politics of Belief, she talked about her latest research into how we entered the so-called “post-truth” era, in which “emotions matter more than facts in determining belief.” Boler asked how we arrived here and considered how media and spectatorship—particularly on social media—factor into constituting and producing the emotions that underlie belief and, in turn, constitute “truth.” What is the role of the artist, intellectual, and activist in this challenging political era? The talk provided an overview of the affective politics shaping our contemporary experience and concludes with the question as to how art and satire may function as public pedagogies to provide reality checks on the surreality of our times. The lecture was followed by a conversation with Faisal Devji, a historian whose work has dealt with ethics and violence in a globalized world.

The Marshall McLuhan Salon Exhibition Explorations in Anonymous History by Canadian artist David Clark was be opened after the lecture, at 20:00. (Source: https://goo.gl/9eeDxc)

transmediale logo

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: http://ericmcluhan.com/).

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 https://uoftbookstore.com/

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 https://goo.gl/pwrb2P), 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 – https://goo.gl/1XmrPn
Interview with Eric McLuhan on the Laws of Media – https://goo.gl/S2338P
Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media Applied: Photography Flips into Snapchat – https://goo.gl/EGBA4p
Marshall McLuhan’s 4 Laws of Media Applied to Innovation – https://goo.gl/8wwuj8

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 www.academicalism.wordpress.com and he’s on Twitter as @sonicfiction. (Publisher’s Listing: https://goo.gl/AC34z4)

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: https://goo.gl/ouyJSW.


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 (https://goo.gl/G7Wt2n)

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 https://goo.gl/oh9FQ4

 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: https://goo.gl/RS8SJt