100 Years Later: The McLuhan Program That Could

By Carly Conway

One hundred years ago today [July 21, 2011] one of Canada’s most iconic and controversial academics was born. More than 30 years after his death, Marshall McLuhan is still credited with changing the face of communication studies — even if many have dismissed his famous one-liners as contradictory and superficial (hot media, cool media, anyone?). And, a beloved series of weekly gatherings he began in the 1950s is making a comeback.

Though he was born in Edmonton, grew up in Winnipeg, and was educated in England and the United States [No, he was educated at the University of Manitoba and Cambridge, not in the USA at all!], McLuhan and his family settled in Toronto in 1946. McLuhan became a fixture at the University of Toronto, where he held his famous Communication and Culture seminars on Monday nights; every week, scholars from across all disciplines and non-scholars alike would meet to discuss the role communication technology played in shaping people’s lives. These innovative, multi-disciplinary seminars propelled Canada onto the world stage of communications research, and laid the groundwork for what became the Centre for Culture and Technology in 1963. Tucked away in the Coach House building on the eastern edge of campus, the Centre was essentially McLuhan’s personal research facility, where he was free to investigate the effects of technology as he pleased. He ran the Centre until 1979. Following McLuhan’s death in 1980, however, the future of his Centre, and his research, didn’t seem entirely secure.                          A Monday Night Seminar, April 15, 1973 at the Centre, Photo By Robert Lansdale

“Many people thought he was kind of a flake,” recalled David Olson, who was appointed to resurrect the centre in a different form. Olson became the first director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, and he worked up a program that aimed to turn McLuhan’s clever quips into academically sound research questions. Although it eventually made its way up the administration chain and was approved in 1983, the program met with harsh reservations along the way. Olson remembers one administrator who reminded him, “McLuhan was no genius, you know.”
There were growing pains—largely in the form of severe financial restrictions—along the way, but the young program quickly established itself by sponsoring or co-sponsoring more than a dozen national and international conferences. Philosophers, psychologists, and academics of all sorts got involved in pursuing research related to media and communication arts. But as Olson’s time at the McLuhan program wound down by 1990, he conceded: “The program had good content, but we didn’t have any independence and we didn’t have any money.”

Without independence or stable funding, the program joined up with the Faculty of Information Studies in the 1990s under the direction of McLuhan’s former colleague Derrick de Kerckhove. Again, though students and scholars enthusiastically researched and created new technology, administration remained reluctant to fund the program’s $25,000–$30,000 base budget. As then–Vice Provost Paul Gooch told Canadian Business back in 1995, “The problem is….it’s very difficult to find new money within the university’s own budget for any new ventures these days.”

The McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology has undergone more significant changes in the last several years. In 2008, Dominique Scheffel-Dunand was appointed the program’s new director. And in 2009, the Faculty of Information launched the Coach House Institute, a research unit under which the McLuhan Program operates. The mandate for the renewed program is clear: “to investigate and debate the fundamental issues raised by digital media,” Scheffel-Dunand says.

Though McLuhan is famously known for coining the term “global village,” and the McLuhan Program garnered attention back in the 1980s by hosting international conferences, Scheffel-Dunand is taking a different approach. “We’re doing things locally again,” she told us. “We’re not focused as much on the international. We want to rekindle what Marshall McLuhan did here within the university, and within the community.”

Scheffel-Dunand wants to do that by putting Coach House back on the map. For starters, she helped bring a CONTACT Festival exhibit to Coach House in celebration of McLuhan’s centennial birthday. But perhaps most importantly, the McLuhan Program is re-launching the Monday night seminars that McLuhan himself began about 60 years ago—same night, same building. The University of Toronto has committed to two years of weekly seminars, starting September 12, with a seminar called “Performance, a Critical Path.” The project is called “Edge of Academe,” a name meant to encapsulate the wide range of people across many disciplines the seminars hope to attract.

“What I’m trying to do is to point out that this space is particular,” Scheffel-Dunand says, about using the space in the spirit of McLuhan. She hopes the renewed speaking program will call attention to Coach House and its history and significance, and keep McLuhan’s ideas vibrant in the city in which they first took shape.
Photos from the University of Toronto Archives and Records Services, Lonsdale Fonds.
(Source: https://tinyurl.com/11bf4j60)

Marshall McLuhan at the Coach House on the University of Toronto campus, c 1950s (courtesy Robert Lansdale Photograpahy, University of Toronto Archives)

Towards a Digital Epistemology: Aesthetics and Modes of Thought in Early Modernity and the Present Age

By Jonas Ingvarsson

This book explores the concept of digital epistemology. In this context, the digital will not be understood as merely something that is linked to specific tools and objects, but rather as different modes of thought. For example, the digital within the humanities is not just databases and big data, topic modelling and speculative visualizations; nor are the objects limited to computer games, other electronic works, or to literature and art that explicitly relate to computerization or other digital aspects. In what way do digital tools and expressions in the 1960s differ to the ubiquitous systems of our time? What kind of artistic effects does this generate? Is the present theoretical fascination for materiality an effect or a reaction to a digitization? Above all: how can early modern forms such as the cabinets of curiosity, emblem books and the archival principle of pertinence contribute to the analyses of contemporary digital forms?

Table of Contents

From the Foreword – The Digital Switch: From Causality to Relationships

Today, investments in digital humanities are carried out at many universities all over
the World, and research calls that encourage various forms of multidisciplinary
database projects, preferably with one foot within the natural sciences and
technologically oriented social sciences, are staple goods nowadays. The question
we must ask ourselves is: What does digital media do with the knowledge production
in comparative literature – and in the humanities in general? What new theoretical frameworks do we need to address the digital? What new methods and
methodologies are possible? Or can, and maybe even should, we just continue as
Based on this challenge, Jonas Ingvarsson’s heuristic arguments in Towards a
Digital Epistemology suggest a number of possibilities for the future design of
comparative literature and the humanities. The ambition here seems to be that
through the digital – as a lens and mode of thought, which Ingvarsson
consistently maintains – afford a new understanding of (and for) comparative
literature and the history of the humanities. In short, it is about conceptualizing
the technological situation of which we are always already inevitably a part. With
ease, at times almost with a cocky elegance, Ingvarsson incorporates an impressive
and compelling energy into his argument.
Ingvarsson argues that the consequences of digitization for the humanities are
far-reaching, beyond digital tools and mechanical distant reading techniques. Based
on a combination of posthumanist-oriented philosophies of technology and media
theory, Ingvarsson argues that the digital affords a new paradigm of knowledge: A
digital epistemology. The purpose of the book is to elucidate the far-reaching consequences of this digital epistemology…

  • Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2020 edition (Dec 1 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 140 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 303056424X
  • ISBN-13 : 978-3030564247

Jonas Ingvarsson is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature, Digital Humanities and Editorial Practices at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He is the author of books and articles on posthumanism and culture, media archaeology and digital epistemology. He is currently heading a research project on the history of literary criticism, combining discourse analysis with text mining and big data analysis.
Source: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030564247

McLuhan & Composed Theater

Dr. Richard Cavell is a media theorist and Professor of English at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His work has often examined the ideas of his mentor Marshall McLuhan – the influential Canadian philosopher and media theorist – but from a unique stand point, by considering him as a ’spatial theorist’ that explored how changes in media have altered our understanding of space and time.

Speaking about McLuhan in his talk ’McLuhan and Composed Theatre’ – which took place in 2017 at the Royal Art Academy of The Hague, as part of the symposium ’Feedback #1: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts’ Cavell describes McLuhan’s conversational style in which each sentence would be on a separate topic, a conscious methodology that would break from the restrictions of traditional linearity. Cavell seems to explore a similar approach in his talk, as he moves quickly from one idea to the next in his exploration of McLuhan’s work, and as he complements it with thoughts from contemporary writers and thinkers. It proves a complex and far-reaching overview of many of McLuhan’s ideas, presented in a fascinating presentation that offers a new perspective into the work of the much studied and discussed media theorist.

The jumping off point for Cavell’s conversation is rooted in one of McLuhan’s central observations: McLuhan emphasised the transition from written text and print media, into electronic media, television, and now the internet – which in many ways McLuhan is credited for having anticipated in his writing. His hypothesis was that a text-based world is one that is visually and linearly minded, influenced by the fact that a printed text is static, remains unaltered and is consumed by separate individuals. The rise of electronic media on the other hand creates a society that is aurally minded and non-linear in its thinking – at least relative to the strict linearity of written text. As electronic media is collectively consumed and in constant flux, for McLuhan it leads to what he called the ’global village’: a new type of social organization that is similar in many ways to that of aural traditions that existed before the rise and ubiquity of print media. The question then becomes: how does this affect us and our perception of our surroundings when we exist in an interconnected, all-encompassing and fully immersing aural world?

                  Dr. Richard Cavell                 
My research focus on media theory and Canadian Studies finds common ground in my publications on foundational media theorist Marshall McLuhan. I am the author of McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography (U Toronto P, 2002) and of Remediating McLuhan (Amsterdam UP, 2016), the editor of On the Nature of Media: Essays by Marshall McLuhan(Gingko, 2016), and the curator of spectresofmcluhan.arts.ubc.ca. I have also written the critical performance piece, Marinetti Dines with the High Command (Guernica, 2014), and the architectural study Friedman House (ORO, 2017). Details can be found at https://blogs.ubc.ca/cavell/.

I’m pleased to announce a Feb. 24 Digital Synergies event to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of Herbert Marshall McLuhan in Edmonton.  

The event is open to all and registration information is at the bottom of this email. 
Digital Synergies at the University of Alberta presents
A Playful Mind: Marshall McLuhan’s Life, Legacy, and Laws
Paolo Granata, University of Toronto
February 24 – 12:00-1:00pm (Mountain)
This year marks the 110 anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan, who was born in Edmonton in 1911. In the late 1960s, McLuhan was called the “Oracle of the Electronic Age” as a member of the Toronto School of Communication. He later spawned the field of media ecology studies and was anointed Wired magazine’s patron saint in the 1990s. He is perhaps the most quoted, analyzed, and misunderstood scholar of the last century and many of his probes on the social impact of communications technology endure to this day. He was certainly an unconventional and provocative thinker, and most importantly he was gifted with extraordinary intellectual playfulness.

This webinar will touch on the life and legacy of Marshall McLuhan by playing with his Laws of Media (1988), a critical framework to analyze any medium, technology or human innovation.

In a highly interactive setting, McLuhan Centenary Fellow, Prof. Paolo Granata, will engage the audience to stimulate cooperative, innovative, and creative thinking skills, allowing participants to cultivate awareness and critical understanding of the implications of contemporary digital media platforms, from Twitch to TikTok, from Discord to Clubhouse.

Paolo Granata (University of Toronto) is an innovator, and a cross-disciplinary media scholar. Nurtured by the century-old tradition of the University of Bologna, his research and teaching interests lie broadly in the area of media ecology, semiotics, print culture, and visual studies.
He is the founder and director of the University of Toronto’s Media Ethics Lab, a research hub that studies the ways that digital media practices and emerging technologies are marked by ethical issues and decisive political, societal, and cultural questions.

When: Feb 24, 2021 12:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

You must register in advance for this event:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.


Gordon A. Gow, PhD
Professor, Sociology/Media & Technology Studies
Graduate Coordinator, Communications and Technology Graduate Program (MACT)
Adjunct Professor, Peter Lougheed Leadership College
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

The University of Alberta is located in ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan) on Treaty 6 territory and the territory of the Papaschase and the Métis Nation

Paolo Granata leaning against McLuhan’s Coach House, home for his Centre for Culture v& Technology

© The Estate of Yousuf Karsh. All Rights Reserved

Author and independent McLuhan scholar Bill Kuhns (see https://tinyurl.com/y4haa8gf) and his collaborators are seeking information from the members the McLuhan community of interest and the general public for two research projects that we are engaged in:

1. We know that there are audio and video recordings of Marshall McLuhan that are out there that were formally or informally taken during some of his lectures, both public and academic, that former students, academics, teachers, artists, business-people and/or members of the general public made themselves or acquired. There are also recordings of formal interviews and possibly some informal ones that we are unaware of. We are interested in receiving information about such materials and, if possible, copies of them, whether in analog or digital form, for the purpose of building a comprehensive listing and archive of all of Marshall McLuhan’s lectures, talks and interviews.

2. We are also currently helping to prepare the script for a National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary film about McLuhan’s value for surviving today’s turbulence, so much of it media-provoked. The film is tentatively titled, “Marshall McLuhan’s Roadmap to the 21stCentury.” 

One thread of the film will be short interviews with ex-students and acquaintances who warmly remember specific instances revealing fresh facets of the great man. Or, as he once wrote to Ann Landers, “The anecdote can yield multitudes of diverse insights unsuspected by the narrator of the anecdote.”

Here’s Bill Kuhns’ favorite personal anecdote:

The first time I met Marshall was in his small office at Fordham University, in January of 1968, less than two months after he endured the wide-awake agony of 23-hour open-brain surgery in late November of 1967. He was seated at a desk, writing something with a pencil. The pencil snapped. I offered him a pen. He grinned as if the punchline had already been delivered, then, brushing away the offer, delivered that punchline: “It will change what I’m writing, you know.”  

If you have a warm and treasured recollection of a Marshall episode that you could share with us on camera, we would love to hear from you. Shooting will probably not commence until summer. The interview itself could perhaps be done as unobtrusively as possible, by Zoom or Skype or FaceTime, or, eventually, when the time comes, in person.

Please contact me at kuhns.bill@gmail.com. Include “anecdote” in the header. Or alternatively contact Alex Kuskis at AlexanderKuskis@gmail.com.

Thank you,
Bill Kuhns & Alex Kuskis

The Coach House

Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt

Watch the above video which is 1.5 hours in duration

Q&A Online Video Session (in English) with – ANDREW McLUHAN
and – BARUCH GOTTLIEB (curator “Global Warning”, lecturer, media artist)

Andrew McLuhan is Director of The McLuhan Institute – an organization to preserve and promote McLuhan studies. He, recently emerging as a media scholar in his own right, has been working through the libraries of his grandfather Marshall and his father Eric for many years, examining their references, their reading habits and the role books and publication played in their media theory practice . https://themcluhaninstitute.com/   

On this special occasion Andrew McLuhan will help us explore this vital relation between textual and digital data, between book and screen through a presentation of Marshall McLuhan’s books and the way he interacted with them as part of his process of understanding media.

The discussion will be introduced and moderated by curator of the exhibition Baruch Gottlieb and streamed on the Museum for Communication Frankfurt’s channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/mfkfrankfurt as well as at The McLuhan Institute’s YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPrlXvzfcVk


The above Q & A session is part of –
Special exhibition from October 6, 2020 to January 31, 2021

The exhibition #Feedback 5: Global Warning! is dedicated to an icon of pop culture: Marshall McLuhan. The Canadian technical scientist and literary historian predicted the “global village” back in 1962. From 1964 onwards, public discussion revolved around his famous statement, “The medium is the message.” He was the first to ask the question about the effect of the new media on people and thus achieved a broad response.

After the Second World War, scientists such as Norbert Wiener and Claude Shannon, he is considered the founder of IT and made the computer possible, into a future shaped by technical control. It even seemed possible to automate thinking. What has been realized and how do we experience the digitalization and globalization of our present?

The exhibition #Feedback 5: Global Warning! takes a curatorial selection of predictions by Marshall McLuhan as an opportunity for a confrontation with contemporary art. Darsha Hewitt, Christof Migone, Stephanie Syjuco and Mogens Jacobsen – they all work with new media and penetrate their influence on society with their works of art. The artists reflect on technology experiences, changes in perception and the understanding of our world through media. Is contemporary art an early warning system for society?

With expertise and creativity, McLuhan reached a large audience. He designed his texts artistically in magazines, published newsletters that were sent by letter and, above all, used television to address his media-critical messages. McLuhan has deliberately used its celebrity status to experiment in real time with a nationwide audience. Never before or since has communication science played such a public role in our understanding of technological change.

Marshall McLuhan noted the end of the rational tradition of Enlightenment humanism through the electronic information of simultaneous mass communication around the world. The new age of satellite and television meant the networking of the world into a global village. He saw people trapped in it and, with visionary power, predicted the development of new social and artistic forms. Around 80 years later, it is time to check whether these historical findings have been realized.

#FEEDBACK 5 – Global Warning! : Marshall McLuhan and the Arts, curated by Baruch Gottlieb and sponsored and supported by the Canadian Embassy in Germany and West The Hague, is a look ahead to Canada as the host country at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021.

Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt

Me. You. Us. Them. by ,,

17 August 2020

Have you wondered why the inside of your head feels so strange these days? We think you’re morphing into something else. We call this “The Extreme Self.”

What follows is a sample from our next book. It charts the transformations taking place in individuality and in crowds — emotionally, socially, and spiritually. It’s also a sequel to our previous title, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present. Like that book, The Extreme Self is designed by Daly & Lyon, and the imagery predominantly comes from seventy of the world’s foremost artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, and more. We asked them to send us portraits or self-portraits. Why? Because the “face” has become the basic unit in what Shoshana Zuboff calls the “age of surveillance capitalism.”

The Extreme Self was previewed in a large-scale exhibition we curated at MOCA Toronto, titled “Age of You,” which travels to Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, in 2021. See

Here’s a discussion charting the evolution from “the extreme present” to “the extreme self” in our extremely uncertain times.

Shumon Basar: Flashback to 2017. We were in Hans Ulrich’s office at the Serpentine Galleries in London. There was a palpable whiff of something unsettling in the air. Earlier that year, Trump had been inaugurated as president of the United States. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, right-wing militia, and the Ku Klux Klan had recently marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. Timothy Garton Ash described this geopolitical moment —when nativist politics was taking over, and it seemed like democracy was voting to annul itself — as “like 1989 in reverse.”

Douglas Coupland: It was the point when we knew we’d crossed a border into utterly new cultural territory.

SB: Totally. It was also clear the alt-right could meme way better than the political left. This was one reason they were winning the disinformation wars.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: Then, somehow, the three of us began to discuss our shared love for Eric Hobsbawm’s book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991. Hobsbawm had been a young boy in Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933. This set him on a path of lifelong Marxism, based in London. Eventually, he also became a mentor of mine, and a close friend of the Serpentine Gallery’s.

SB: He really was a titan. And, if I recall, Hans Ulrich — who’s always manically doodling like Robert Walser used to — wrote down some words. “The Extreme Self.” It felt like a eureka moment. We knew this was the direction to explore in a new book and exhibition. Doug, our first book together, The Age of Earthquakes (2015), introduced the “Extreme Present.” How does the extreme self follow on from The Extreme Present?

DC: Well, The Age of Earthquakes articulated how we inhabit a world that has profoundly morphed away from the twentieth century. That book was sort of a birth cry. Much of it was written in 2012–13. My worry has been that the pace of culture might outstrip the book’s perceptions, but its ideas are aging crisply. I think that for older people, The Age of Earthquakes is a guidebook. For younger people it’s like those super obvious rules they post on the walls beside swimming pools.
Fast-forward to now: The Extreme Self explores the mutation of personhood inside the “extreme present.” It’s about our interior worlds more than the exterior world. It asks, “What does being ‘you’ mean right now versus, say, ‘you’ of thirty years ago. And what is a ‘group’ compared to 1990?”

SB: Then COVID-19 came along and pushed us even faster and further into the twenty-first century.

DC: It really did. I do find it remarkable how, with 9/11, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries broke away so cleanly from each other. Even to watch an episode of Friends right now feels like temporal ecotourism, which is probably why it’s so massively successful in streaming format.

HUO: We then decided that we’d take the bone structure of Hobsbawm’s The Age of Extremes and update it for our current world.
Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/y4els6m5

To read about this group’s last book see From The Medium is the Massage (1967) to The Age of Earthquakes (2015) at  https://tinyurl.com/y8wr4wly

On a subway just about all passengers stare at their cellphones.

By Doc Searls  –   Sep 13, 2019

This document was passed on to me by Andrew McLuhan. It looks like a handout to be given to visitors to McLuhan’s Centre from beyond the University of Toronto, as well as from within it. Since it mentions City as Classroom, which was published in 1977, this document must date from that year or 1978. It is useful in showing how McLuhan viewed and promoted the Centre to the world at large.


University of Toronto
Toronto 5, Canada


Marshall McLuhan, Director


The Centre began as a seminar in Culture and Technology in 1952, with Professor E.S. Carpenter (Anthropology, Professor Jacqueline Tyrwhitt (Architecture — associate of Siegfried Giedion), Professor Tom Easterbrook (Political Economy), Professor Carl Williams (Psychology) and Professor Marshall McLuhan (English).The group was interested in the studies of Harold Innis, among others. In 1963 Professor McLuhan was appointed by President Claude Bissell to create a new Centre for Culture and Technology to study the psychic and social consequences of technologies and media

The work of the Centre has been guided by Professor McLuhan, who has been influenced in his work by another eminent Canadian, Harold Innis(also of this university).It is widely acknowledged that Professor McLuhan has opened up significant dimensions of the field for study.

At the present time, the culture of Canada is at a major turning point. The combined pressures of our information technologies–from telephone, radio and television, to satellites, microprocessors, ships, cable–systems, fibreoptics and lasers–are about to swamp the pattern of Western civilization and identity. All previous technological breakthroughs and the ensuing cultural revolutions that we have studied, have operated with relatively extensive time scales when compared to the present one. In our century these time scales have been drastically shortened. The print revolution was enacted over hundreds of years: the television revolution was enacted within one generation. It is crucial that the question of the interaction of culture and technology receive immediate and widespread attention.

In the pursuit of our interests at the Centre, we have been observing the most recent developments. We are interested in using our training and experience to examine the practical questions that our government will be facing with regard to the future of Canadian culture and identity.

Our research team bridges the two ‘cultures’ as defined by C. P. Snow: it Includes both, comprising individuals trained in humanities as well as in the sciences and in the technical aspects of the technologica] hardware. Presently, our ‘core group’ consists of persons trained in Communications, Engineering, English, French, Physics, Biochemistry, Management and the History of Science. In addition, members of the core group have studied (and published on) the politics of Canadian identity and cohesiveness from various standpoints. We are quite conscious of the peculiar nature of the Canadian mosaic, having worked with the French—English interface as well as with native people and multi—cultural communities. Culture means not just the fine arts, but all aspects of the everyday life of the population, resident and transient: it includes hockey and physics as well as ballet and native sculpture.

          The published works of our associates over the years are too well known to require mention here. Our more recent investigations have included the following:

—  a classroom text for training in the study of culture and media (City as                           Classroom)

  a book-length study of the changes in management structures due to electric               media (Take Today:The Executive as Dropout)

  a detailed study of the forging of Western patterns of culture by the phonetic               alphabet. (“Alphabet, Mother of Invention”, Et Cetera, Vol.34, 1977)

— a study of those and other cultural patterns in relation to the hemispheres of the          brain;

— a proposed research project for converting television hardware into a form that            would support (instead of erode) Western sensibility and culture;

a preliminary study of the parameters peculiar to the Canadian pattern of identity;

— a full-scale study of the etymological and verbal character of all human artefacts, which places the study of technologies and their effects on a linguistic and humanistic basis for the first time, and which allows prediction of effects (currently underway, supported in part by a SSHRC grant).

By Publius Audax

Controlling the center of The Center of Everything (“China” in English) makes Xi Jinping the most powerful person on Earth and the world leader of the Mussolini Movement. The danger to us all: Xi has lost his nerve. His panic is the biggest geopolitical crisis since WWII.

Xi’s problem is the Information Cost-Velocity Curve. The ICVC has dominated all human organization since we learned to mumble. On the Curve, information cost is always falling and information velocity is always increasing. Anything that fell off the Curve from the Roman Empire to the first-generation PC and smartphone makers, died.

All organizations, political, social or economic have, for all history, been subsets of the Curve. If the Curve moves, as so famously with the Gutenberg Press of 1440, you either move with it, or you go down. The Gutenberg Press shredded every power structure in Europe. Those countries which resisted paid a fearsome price in people and money. The European Union is to this day divided into two: those countries in its north who adapted and those in its south who didn’t.

McLuhan’s Gutenberg lesson for Xi: The Curve can fast outrun any limitations you place on it. Xi now faces his Gutenberg Moment. And he’s choking.

The Curve’s biggest impact is this: the farther we move out on the Curve, the more power is diffused. Our democracies are a direct function of Gutenberg’s putting the printed word in front of people so that they could make up their own minds about things. The telegraph took the next step, the radio the next and so on through the Internet, the Cloud and social media.

Staying out front on the ICVC is the key to growth and prosperity. Why? Because those companies and nations better able to substitute ever-cheaper information for other factor inputs like land, labor and capital gain market share more quickly than those which cannot. That’s how Walmart and Apple did it.

Naturally, every company wants to put as much distance as possible between itself and its competitors on the Curve. All nations—the smart ones anyway—know that Ricardian comparative advantage comes from information-optimization strategies that get them out on the Curve and keep them there.

Over half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan taught us in his two great books, The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media, that, like gravity, the shape and direction of information governs all structures. Structures cannot defy information gravity and dictate the shape and direction of information.

Xi’s problem: how can The Party defy information gravity and limit the massive shape changers like marginal cost computing on the Cloud that determine outcomes.

McLuhan died 40 years ago this week. He did not live to see the PC age, let alone the Internet or the overwhelming power of marginal cost computing on the Cloud. Nonetheless, in Understanding Media, he said that we would live in a world of “electric-all-at-onceness” (the only way he could express it in 1964) and then laid out logically how we would behave in such a space. He described the world of Facebook and Google perfectly…

Mussolini came from southern Europe, the losing side of the Gutenberg revolution. His pre-Gutenberg policy was Party control of the military, information and selected enterprise, leaving the rest to the market. He believed that the Fascist Party could control information gravity, thereby controlling outcomes. Hitler called Mussolini a “political genius” for this kludge: all the control that Stalin got for a fraction of the cost. Mussolini’s system is widely used all over the world today, most notably in The Center and Russia.

McLuhan would have been happy to tell Xi that we are way too far out on the ICVC today for the Mussolini system to hold.

McLuhan would have pointed to a second, massive danger to Xi: the changing nature of time. He would have explained to Xi that time on the ICVC is measured in the half-life of a microprocessor, where a year is about two months. That, he would have told Xi, changes both the nature of your decision-making and the speed with which you must make decisions. “Electric-all-at-onceness” is no joke…

Thanks to Michael McLuhan for supplying this article.

Read the rest here: https://tinyurl.com/yamyavc2