Nora Young Official CBC photo

The Medium and the Light Award for 2021

The recipient of the tenth Medium and the Light Award, in recognition of the ecumenical dimensions of the life and work of Marshall McLuhan, was presented on Sunday, July 11 online as an integral part of the 22nd Media Ecology Association (MEA) Convention hosted by Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro with the overall theme “Dystopic Futures: Media Ecology in an Algorithm Society”. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the second MEA Convention to be offered completely online.

Nora Young is the recipient of this year’s Award for inviting listeners to join her in probing the many effects of our mediated world on human beings through her broadcast journalism, specifically as the host and creator of CBC Radio’s “Spark” and as author of “The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives are Altering the World Around Us” (2012). Both endeavours recall McLuhan’s own explorations to understand technologies (especially communication media) so that we can still shape them, even as they shape us. Although such technologies may appear ready to swallow us up in a vortex, this is not an inevitability, particularly when we take the time to step back from the media morass to think about its effects. Through her written and broadcast work, Nora Young is among those leading others precisely to think about the effects of these technologies on our lives to determine what is and what is not worth keeping.

The Award is usually given annually by The Marshall McLuhan Initiative that was affiliated for its first decade (2007-2017) with St Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. The University of Manitoba is Marshall McLuhan’s first post-secondary alma mater, where he earned the Gold Medal in Arts for 1933 and an M.A. in English literature (1934).

The award consists of:
• a crystal clear soda glass obelisk (measuring about 2 x 2 x 8 inches and    3 pounds in weight);
• embedding a piece of opalescent dichroic glass;
• on which the logo of the Marshall McLuhan Initiative has been etched.
• This dichroic glass has a very thin multi-metal coating that refracts light     in man different colours.
• Both the award and recipients’ names are etched horizontally on the obelisk’s surface.

The inaugural award, in 2011, was presented to the late Fr. Pierre Babin, omi (1925-2012), in Lyons, France;

The 2012 award was presented to Dr. Thomas W. Cooper, the distinguished professor of communications at Emerson College in Boston;

The 2013 award was presented to none other than Dr. Eric McLuhan (1942-2018), world renowned author, lecturer and prober into all things media ecology;

The 2014 award was presented to Fr. John J. Pungente, S.J. and The Jesuit Communication Project (JCP) which he directs, based at Regis College, in the University of Toronto;

The 2015 award was presented posthumously to the late Richard J. Osicki (1946-2012), journalist, broadcaster, media educator and Founder and first Director of the Marshall McLuhan Initiative in Winnipeg;

The 2016 award was presented to Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D. Min., Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton;

The 2017 award was presented to Fr. Paul Soukup SJ, Professor in, and head of, the Dept. of Communications and Theology at Santa Clara University, media ecologist, scholar, educator, and practitioner;

There was no Medium and the Light Award in 2018, just in time for a well-deserved sabbatical;
This break allowed us to build up for the special 2019 presentation of this award to Rosanna Deerchild, storyteller, author, poet, broadcaster and host of CBC Radio’s “Unreserved”;

The 2020 award was presented to Dr. Derrick de Kerckhove, a former Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto after McLuhan’s passing, McLuhan studies scholar and researcher.


The Medium & Light Award


The title, which has also been turned into a Dubai exhibition, outlines the effects of the web and social media on our identities and societies.

By Alexandra Chaves   –   July 2, 2021

On the internet, you can live for ever. The data you’ve created – the agglomeration of every click, like, bookmark and share – will live on in its virtual home long after you’re gone.

What becomes of this data after you die? What is being done to it now? And does this digital patchwork of preferences constitute another “you”?

The Extreme Self: Age of You – a new book by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans-Ulrich Obrist – tackles these ideas in aphoristic prose paired with visual contributions from more than 70 contemporary artists, filmmakers, photographers, musicians and designers from around the world, including Anne Imhof, Cao Fei, Hito Steyerl and Trevor Paglen, as well as regional names including Raja’a Khalid, Rami Farook, Stephanie Saade, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and the artist collective GCC Group.

Its cover, the result of a collaboration between the authors and design duo Daly & Lyon, features a nesting doll emoji aptly named Matryoshkemoji – a beaming smiley as the exterior, housing an anxious one that finally contains a weeping face.

The authors are not technologists, but rather literary and art figures – Basar is a writer, editor and curator who contributes to several publications and has been leading Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum since 2007. Coupland is an artist and author whose notable novels include Generation X (1991) and JPod (2006). Obrist is a famed curator and an art historian, as well as the artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries in London.

Released last month, The Extreme Self follows the authors’ 2015 book The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, which deals with questions about our future in a world where technology keeps accelerating beyond our means to grasp it.

Both books draw from Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s The Medium is the Massage, published in 1967. The influential bestseller is about the impact the nature of media has on societies, and it also pairs text and images across its pages. Following in McLuhan’s footsteps, the publications are collaborative in nature.

“We were looking for artists who not only document these societal changes, but also show us how we can actually liberate, in a way, the intercultural capacity of such technologies,” Obrist says. “I think we can only address the big topics of our time if we find new forms of collaboration, new alliances, and if we work from all disciplines.”

While The Age of Earthquakes includes more than 20 neologisms that label the changes in our tech-driven world, The Extreme Self centres on defining its title. Across 13 chapters, the book strives to explain how we as individuals have been, and continue to be, reshaped by the dominant technologies of our time, specifically the smartphone and social media. Along the way, it skims the surface of topics such as artificial intelligence, data rights, parasocial relationships, online radicalisation, disinformation and democracy.

The authors have also turned the book into an exhibition, with Obrist primarily in charge of selecting the contributors. Titled Age of You, it is on view at Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre until Saturday, August 14.

Age of You, as Basar describes it, is an “exploded book”, made mostly from vinyl board prints of its pages spread out across two galleries. The show’s highlights are its commissions and video installations, such as Trevor Paglen’s eerie Behold These Glorious Times! (2017), which shows a cascade of machine-learning images fed to computer systems to help them recognise objects and emotions.

There’s also Audio Deepfakes (2020) by Vocal Synthesis, which plays computer-generated audio clips of famous figures reciting popular songs – Bob Dylan singing Britney Spears or Barack Obama quoting The Notorious BIG. Implied in these works is the potential for these technologies to become tools of manipulation.

At the core of the book and the show is the search for what the authors call the “Extreme Self”.

“We needed to describe this thing that individuality is morphing into. You’re now becoming your Extreme Self … The idea of what constitutes you or me has now become so much more than what we thought 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago. If we keep extrapolating five years from now, 10 years from now, it’s just going to get even more extreme,” Basar says.

The authors ultimately don’t reach a precise definition, though who can blame them – the Extreme Self is ever-shifting, existing in virtual and physical space, not so much a character, but a condition. It manifests in a kind of disembodiment, where we export our interior lives to the Cloud and generate new selves online, with the internet reciprocating, wending its way into our psyche.

One of the main symptoms, the book suggests, is a cognitive fuzziness – the heady feeling you get when you emerge from an internet rabbit hole or an unintended hour-long scroll through your social media feeds. This experience, shared by 3.8 billion of us who use smartphones or the nearly five billion with access to the internet, is a unique consequence of our online existence.

“In a loose sense, you could say the Extreme Self is that weird new thing we’ve all become inside our heads that we can’t still put our finger on,” Coupland says. “Anyone older than maybe 25 remembers that their brains once felt very different. The Extreme Self is what we turned into. People under 25 probably think of it as the everyday world.”

This generational gripe is echoed throughout the book, at times revealing a misplaced nostalgia.

“Anyone over 40 knows what classic individuality felt like. Now it’s almost a handicap,” the authors write. In another section, they state: “For a few centuries, smart people – who, being smart – more or less ran the world. The flattening effect of the internet has allowed the world be run by people with an IQ of 100. It is the revenge of the bell curve.”

The book promises to remedy all this. Its tagline states: “If you’re wondering why the inside of your head feels so strange these days, this book has the answers.”

By naming the Extreme Self, we may begin to understand it. The authors, for example, consider how, through data collection and algorithmic marketing, we are not only exploited by tech giants, but leave ourselves vulnerable to deceit.

“For thousands of years, earth’s resources have been extracted by bodies, most of whom were not free. But now, it’s our bodies, and our selves, being extracted. And … mostly we offer it up for free,” they write.

“What is the 21st century’s most valuable resource? That’s you and all your online behaviours, rich data sets, millions of metadata points,” Obrist explains.

This shift in value is a post-internet phenomenon, argues Basar. “I think that the 20th century was largely geopolitically constructed around the power of fossil capitalism, who had the coal, oil, gas … Today, it’s powered by what I would call emotional capitalism,” he says.

“The most valuable resources today are our emotions and how our emotions are coded, encoded and decoded through data. The whole galaxy of ourselves has been multiplied in exponential terms.”

“As McLuhan said, ‘Art can be an early alarm system’. So we clearly hope that the book is a form of an alarm system,” Obrist says.

Read the rest of this essay at tinyurl.com/2ekru3d

The Extreme Self’ is available at the Art Jameel Shop, online and at Jameel Arts Centre as well as Amazon. Age of You is on view at Jameel Arts Centre until Saturday, August 14. More information at jameelartscentre.org



Bruce William Powe, Canadian poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, & teacher

The Media Ecology Association’s Marshall McLuhan Award is bestowed each year for the Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology, the winner selected by a panel of media ecology scholars. It is awarded at the MEA’s Annual Convention. Previous winners include Neil Postman, Douglas Rushkoff, Francis Fukuyama, Elena Lamberti, Tim Wu, Lance Strate, and Tiffany Shlain, among others.

The 2021 winner is B.W. POWE for his remarkably astute delineation of our technocentric world today, with its divisiveness, hostility, truth denial, conspiracy theories, and violence, both linguistic and physical. Street art and graffiti are the appropriate illustrations for this dystopic world in which democracy struggles to contain a rising tide of neo-fascism. Marshall Soules has selected suggestive imagery from his photographic collection of street art to depict aspects of this darkening world.

Future Shock Barcelona 2016

This unique book describes the media maelstrom of our disharmonious over-heated world today in which, despite ubiquitous connectivity, truthful online information and especially news is disputed and false counter-narratives are presented. The author, B.W. Powe has described his latest book thus:-

We´re experiencing the charge in the global membrane… By this I mean immersion in our electrified technological environment. All the puns in charge implied. Marshall McLuhan was one of the first to recognize we´re wired up, transformed, wholly inside borderless, transnational, instantaneous, entangling, speeding, here-there-everywhere-now states, in an always intensifying mutable milieu.

The global village became the global theatre: the theatre has become the global membrane. This phrase adapts what Teilhard de Chardin called “the noosphere,” the subliminal layering of externalized thought and emotions around our planet, in our era of apogees and abysses. The charge is the recognition of the second creation, the second Big Bang: the experience of technological expansion through electrification and the resulting accelerating streams and pulses of data-energy”… (for a fuller description see https://tinyurl.com/yd7y3qzt)

Antenna Head Havana 2016

ABOUT B.W. POWE

B.W. Powe is widely regarded as one of the original and unclassifiable authors in Canadian writing. He is the author of A Climate Charged (1984), The Solitary Outlaw (1987), A Tremendous Canada of Light (1995), Outage (1995), Light Onwords, Light Onwards (2003), The Unsaid Passing (2005), a finalist for the ReLit Prize, These Shadows Remain (2011), and Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, Apocalypse and Alchemy. Pico Iyer said of his work that it represents “a soaring alchemical vision”. Powe writes regularly for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. His work has also been featured in the New York Times and on CBC, CTV, CityTV and Bravo.

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Powe attended York University, where he received a BA in English. He went on to earn a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto, where he worked with the great thinkers Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye. He got his PhD from York University in 2009, and became a tenured professor there in 2010, teaching in the department of English.

SELECT REVIEW COMMENTS…

“B.W. Powe’s Membrane is quite addictive. I read the book (I should say devoured it) in two sittings only interrupted by the need to get some shut eye resuming my read upon awakening the next morning. Once you start this book it is hard to stop.” – Robert K. Logan, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto

“This is a stunning and startling text – one that pulsates insistently in our present moment. And, if “the global membrane is a heart,” as Powe offers, then this text speaks from and to the heart. The Charge functions as an electrical pulse that aims to rouse our digitally-immersed hearts” – Anna Veprinska, author of Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis

“Powe charges us with his innate (and poetic) optimism while warning us that business as usual may exert enough pressure to rupture the membrane.  We believed that technology, trust in the electric pulse, would save us, however are we even closer to an ‘Outage’?” – Andrew Danson Danushevsky

“I love the gentle rhetorical turns, often intimately drawn, as if the reader is flowing with the wave of your own discoveries, and even more deftly and generously, invites the reader to be a kind of cultural soulmate.” – Denis Stokes, poet & teacher



The Global Village Day is back!

Join us for a 12-hour McLuhanesque intellectual marathon, Tuesday JULY 20th, 2021, from Noon to Midnight (EDT Toronto time) live on Facebook and YouTube.

Inspired by the innovative thinking of Marshall McLuhan, academics, artists, designers, raconteurs, innovators, and thinkers, from around the globe, will explore and rethink the mosaic of the metaphoric Global Village in a post-pandemic world.

The event is sponsored by the Estate of Marshall McLuhan, the McLuhan Salons Initiative, The McLuhan Institute, and The McLuhan Foundation.

Hosted by University of Toronto’s Professor Paolo Granata, featuring special guests:
Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwoodvisual storytellers Joan & Ken Steacy, leading media theorist Lev Manovich, media critic Pierre Lévy, Mayor of Toronto John Tory, Anishinaabe writer Riley Yesno, former director of the McLuhan Centre Derrick De KerckhoveSecretary-General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Roda Muse, University of Toronto’s Vice-President International Joseph WongCanadian philosopher Mark Kingwell, award-winning author Jennifer RauchExecutive Director of the Mozilla Foundation Mark Surmanliterary scholar Elena Lamberti, members of the McLuhan’s family Michael and Andrew McLuhan, and more…

Check out the program: www.globalvillageday.ca

The Global Village Day will be live streamed on the Estate of Marshall McLuhan Facebook page.
If you are not on Facebook, you can follow the event live on The McLuhan Institute YouTube channel.

Hope you can join us and get involved on July 20th 2021 for the second Global Village Day!



Maelstrom Digital Art by Vincent Autenrieb
“For McLuhan, the future could be either cataclysmic or transcendent”…

The Canadian professor, philosopher and oracle of 1960s counterculture foresaw humanity’s ‘march backwards into the future’ as we are consumed by our digital landscapes

By Mike Hodgkinson – 23 January, 2021

For much of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted our physical reality, equally dangerous patho­gens surged unchecked through our digital mediascapes. The technologies that promised to bring the world together have ruptured, exposing an unstable, corruptible core where conspiracy and prejudice thrive. It is a far cry from the enlightened digital utopia the internet was thought to be capable of facilitating early on. Instead, the inverse situation seems far more prevalent.

So in 2021, as we attempt to remedy viruses both biological and technological, it could pay to revisit the work of professor and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, the oracle of 1960s counterculture who predicted the dysfunctional state of our current media, despite drawing his last breath in 1980 – a decade before Tim Berners-Lee published the first-ever website.

McLuhan’s work sheds much-needed light on the widespread effects of contemporary media in both the East and the West; reveals a number of fascinating connections to ancient divination text the I Ching (Book of Changes); explains the revival of classical Chinese literature as an effect of our digital world; and opens up startling new perspectives on future communication technologies. And that is just scratching the surface of his legacy.

Now, almost 60 years after his classic works were published, the strait-laced Canadian has left us with as good a road map as any for navigating a 21st century media dominated by Machiavellian algorithms, ram­pant disinformation and metrics-driven emotional manipulation. As McLuhan himself cautioned, his famously coined “global village” would not be “the place to find ideal peace and harmony”.

“Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain,” he wrote about what would have passed for big data in 1962. “And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside.”

As early as 1960 he described the world as “a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and ‘boom boom boom’ go the drums – we all hear about it [ … ] A Hollywood star gets drunk, away go the drums again.”
Sound familiar?

Whether we pull back from our current media immersion, or plough ahead with our algorithm-fed addictions, the die has already been cast. Strict technological determinists would argue that all efforts to resist our media are futile in the long run: our tools will always set a course we are compelled to follow.

For de Kerckhove, McLuhan’s message was clear – lunge for the off-switch: “He said, ‘Turn it off, turn it all off – turn off the TV, turn off the radio, turn off these media because they’re literally swallowing you alive!’ But he said we can’t stop these things. You have to grab that beast by somewhere – it is a transformation, not just of business, but of people, of society, of politics, of everything.”

The man himself may have the best advice of all, delivered in a 1960 report for educational broadcasters: “Instead of scurrying into a corner and wailing about what media are doing to us, one should charge straight ahead,” McLuhan counselled, “and kick them in the electrodes.”
Read the full essay at https://tinyurl.com/p46vht89



By Michael Cuenco   –   April 17, 2021

On January 6, a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Among the most indelible images of that day was of a bare-chested man with bison horns, face paint, and a smattering of strange primal tattoos taking over the Speaker’s podium. Against the classical backdrop, some commentators noted that there could be no more apt image to encapsulate America’s decline and fall.

Beyond the conventional explanations of fascism and white supremacy, many have begun to point to the medium rather than any particular message. One headline claimed that “the internet is a crime scene,” while another asked “can Twitter exist in a democracy?”

Conspicuously missing, however, in this collective agonizing over social media is the guidance of media theorist Marshall McLuhan. After all, McLuhan was a seminal figure in pioneering the whole field of media studies. He defined media broadly as any technology, from the wheel to the woodcut and the washing machine, that might serve as a virtual “extension of ourselves.” He sought to map out or “probe” the totalizing psychological, cultural, and social environments created by any medium.

Alongside the more famous “hot versus cool media” dichotomy, he proposed a division between the “Western” or literate and the “tribal” or non-literate modes of awareness. McLuhan believed that the West was due for a period of “re-tribalization,” but by “tribal” he meant much more than the commonly understood definition.

Yes, there would be polarization: people would by and large become less civil, less rational, touchier, and more defensive about the smallest things. This much, we already know and see every day. But McLuhan went even further in his use of the term, arguing that electronic media—more so than any political ideology—shifts the sensorial basis of Western society away from the visual, the literate, and the abstract and toward the oral, the tactile, and the tribal.

In other words, he saw re-tribalization as a process that will eventually return modern man to the mental and epistemic world of his pre-literate tribal ancestors: the “global village.” Over the long run, this can be quite benign, even sublime: in 1969, McLuhan imagined its endpoint as a society of “mythic integration” where “magic will live again.” Speaking in lofty millenarian terms, he predicted technology would merge humanity “into an inclusive consciousness…a new interpretation of the mystical body of Christ…the ultimate extension of man.”

Such a moment of transcendence, however, is reserved for a distant day. For the time being, there is a more immediate challenge: as the growing oral-tribal segments of society brushes up against the old literate structures that govern them, there will be no end of tension, trauma, and misunderstanding. This is because the electronic tribalism McLuhan described, whatever its positive traits when taken on its own, poses a mortal threat to the values and assumptions of the still-dominant literate, liberal civilization.

It is worth revisiting McLuhan’s insights so as to help ensure that society’s road to any future settlement is as peaceful and orderly as possible. Otherwise, given the risk of violence involved in getting it wrong, there may not be much of a society left standing by retribalization’s end. In place of McLuhan’s prophesied universal consciousness, we could instead find epistemic incoherence, stagnation, and terminal de-civilization.

The Post-Literate Generation

The Return of the Oral World

Citing J.C. Carothers, McLuhan observes in The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) that the literate mind and the typographic print world it inhabited were “surrounded by an abstract explicit visual technology of uniform time and…continuous space in which ‘cause’ is efficient and sequential.” This was the long historical era of the written word in the West: of philosophy and theology; the printing press; the Enlightenment; the individual and the private realm; mechanical segmentation and specialism. This was when the novel, the essay or the treatise were the currencies of public discourse; when concepts of modernity, progress, rationality, and objectivity became the norm.

By contrast, the life of pre-literate tribal man was set in “the implicit, magical world of the resonant oral word.” This was the realm of myth and legend; it was organic and communal as well as simultaneous and holistic; it prized the visceral and immediate over the detached and contemplative. In this world, “thought and behavior depend upon the magic resonance of words and their power to impose their assumptions relentlessly.” McLuhan quotes Carothers’s description of the folkways of the Kikuyu of Kenya, for whom “the correct use of magical words and their proper intonations…uttering these words in their ritual order” was of supreme importance.

Speaking at the height of the TV age, McLuhan believed that the oral world was returning via the electronic media’s influence on the young as it rendered them post-literate: “what is happening to our children is we’re watching them become Third World.” 

A society becomes post-literate when electronic media compresses its experience of literacy to such an extreme degree that the simultaneity of the oral replaces the sequentalism of the typographic as the dominant pattern of thought and sense-making…

Read the rest of this essay at https://tinyurl.com/2rybadys

Michael Cuenco is a writer and policy researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

A primary medium of post-literacy – the TV set – which has subsumed print media & culture

 

 



Publication Due on June 15, 2021

By Alex Kitnick, PhD

Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) is best known as a media theorist—many consider him the founder of media studies—but he was also an important theorist of art. Though a near-household name for decades due to magazine interviews and TV specials, McLuhan remains an underappreciated yet fascinating figure in art history. His connections with the art of his own time were largely unexplored, until now. In Distant Early Warning, art historian Alex Kitnick delves into these rich connections and argues both that McLuhan was influenced by art and artists and, more surprisingly, that McLuhan’s work directly influenced the art and artists of his time.

Kitnick builds the story of McLuhan’s entanglement with artists by carefully drawing out the connections among McLuhan, his theories, and the artists themselves. The story is packed with big names: Marcel Duchamp, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, and others. Kitnick masterfully weaves this history with McLuhan’s own words and his provocative ideas about what art is and what artists should do, revealing McLuhan’s influence on the avant-garde through the confluence of art and theory. The illuminating result sheds light on new aspects of McLuhan, showing him not just as a theorist, or an influencer, but as a richly multifaceted figure who, among his many other accolades, affected multiple generations of artists and their works. The book finishes with Kitnick overlaying McLuhan’s ethos onto the state of contemporary and post-internet art. This final channeling of McLuhan is a swift and beautiful analysis, with a personal touch, of art’s recent transgressions and what its future may hold.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Chapter 1        The Age of Mechanical Production
Chapter 2        What It Means to Be Avant-Garde
Chapter 3        Lights On
Chapter 4        Electronic Opera
Chapter 5        Massage, ca. 1966
Chapter 6        Information Environment
Chapter 7        Culture Was His Business
Postscript: McLuhan’s Art Today
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Published by the University of Chicago Press, 224 pages | 56 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2021 – Source of this information: https://tinyurl.com/3b4mp8wn

Alex Kitnick – Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Culture; faculty, Center for Curatorial Studies
Biography – Alex Kitnick is Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and a frequent contributor to publications including Artforum, Art Journal, and October. He edited October 136 on New Brutalism and a collection of John McHale’s writings, The Expendable Reader: Articles on Art, Architecture, Design, and Media, 1951–1979. His book Distant Early Warning: Marshall McLuhan and the Transformation of the Avant-Garde will be published by University of Chicago Press in 2021. He is the recipient of a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and Whiting, Hyde, and Helena Rubinstein fellowships.
BA, Wesleyan University; MA, PhD, Princeton University. Additional studies in the Whitney Independent Study Program and Getty Research Institute, where he was a postdoctoral fellow. At Bard since 2013.



Janine Marchessault

Janine Marchessault is a professor in Cinema and Media Arts and holds a York University Research Chair in Media Art and Social Engagement. Her research has engaged with four areas: the history of large screen media (from multiscreen to Imax to media as architecture and VR); diverse models of public art, festivals, and site specific curation; 21st century moving-image archives and notions of collective memory/history. She is a founder of the Future Cinema Lab, and the 2014-2016 inaugural Director of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts Research. A Trudeau Fellow, she is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Unfortunately, the embedding code for this TVO Video does not work. Therefore, please follow this link to view the half-hour video:
https://tinyurl.com/5x5j7ym4

This is TVO’s transcript for the presentation, unfortunately with the entire text capitalized. Obviously, they seem unaware that full textual capitalization is DIGITAL SHOUTING!

Janine says I THINK THAT PEOPLE ARE, ARE READING MCLUHAN AGAIN —
BECAUSE THE ROLE OF COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES IS IN MEDIATING AND PRODUCING FUNDAMENTAL SOCIAL CHANGES IS MAYBE MORE OBVIOUS RIGHT NOW THAN IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO.

THERE’S ARGUABLY A MORE PRESSING NEED RIGHT NOW TO UNDERSTAND THE FUNCTION OF TECHNOLOGY. THE CHANGES THAT ARE BEING BROUGHT ABOUT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY IN THE CONTEXT OF
GLOBALIZATION. OR RATHER THERE’S A PRESSING NEED TO UNDERSTAND
GLOBALIZATION IN TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY.

IN TERMS OF NEW COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY AND MCLUHAN’S WORK, I BELIEVE WILL PROVIDE US WITH TOOLS TO DEVISE QUESTIONS FOR THINKING ABOUT THESE CHANGES. FOR THINKING ABOUT WHAT’S BEEN CALLED SPACE, TIME, COMPRESSION. DESPITE THIS SENSE OF MCLUHAN AS A VANGUARD THINKER THOUGH, WE MUST ALSO REMEMBER THAT HE TRAINED AT CAMBRIDGE IN ENGLISH STUDIES AND WAS DEEPLY INFLUENCED BY THE CAMBRIDGE NEW CRITICS, ESPECIALLY F.R. LEVIS, AND I.A. RICHARDS.

SO MCLUHAN IS FIRST AND FOREMOST AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR. A CONSERVATIVE, IF NOT STUBBORNLY, ANTI-MODERN, MENTALITY. HE NEVER DROVE A CAR. HE DID NOT WATCH TELEVISION, A MAN OF LETTERS AND SATIRIST. AND IT’S CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTAND THAT HIS CONCEPT OF THE MEDIA, A TERM HE MADE FAMOUS BEGINS WITH AN AWARENESS OF THE MATERIALITY OF LANGUAGE, WITH LANGUAGE AS TECH NAME.

IT’S THIS PASSION FOR THE BEAUTY AND ORGANIC EXISTENCE OF LANGUAGE BOTH WRITTEN AND ORAL, THAT SETS MCLUHAN’S WRITINGS ON THE MEDIA APART FROM THE MORE, IMPERICALLY DRIVEN APPROACHES THAT CAME TO CHARACTERIZE THE NORTH AMERICAN SOCIAL SCIENCES IN THE 50S AND 60S.

MCLUHAN’S DISTINCTIVE, INTERDISCIPLINARY STYLE OF WRITING ALIGNS HIM WITH THE POST WAR GENERATION OF CULTURAL THEORISTS.
RAYMOND WILLIAMS, AUREL BACHT, UMBERTO ECO AND MOST ESPECIALLY, HAROLD INNIS. WHILE THESE THINKERS HAVE NOT ALWAYS SHARED MCLUHAN’S VIEWS OF THE MEDIA, WILLIAMS AND ECHO WERE SOMETIMES HIS STAUNCHEST CRITICS…

Janine takes a bottle with water from a nearby table.
She continues…

LIKE HIM THEIR THEORIES EXCEED ACADEMICALLY DEFINED NORMS OF WRITING AND DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES. ALL OF THESE WRITERS ADDRESS THE LIBBED CONTEXT OF EVERY DAY CULTURE.

THOSE THINGS THAT MAKE UP ORDINARY PERCEPTIONS AND EXPERIENCES, ALWAYS PLACES THEIR INSIGHTS WITHIN A HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK. IN THEIR WRITINGS, CULTURE IS WHAT IS SO FAMILIAR THAT IS HAS CEASED TO BE NOTICED.

THAT CULTURE IS AN ENVIRONMENT. A WHOLE WAY OF LIFE. A METHOS.

THESE CONCEPTUALIZATIONS HAVE HELPED TO LAY THE FOUNDATIONS
AND DEFINE SOME OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE QUESTIONS FOR MEDIA
STUDIES, AND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF CULTURAL STUDIES IN A VARIETY OF NATIONAL CONTEXTS FROM THE 50S ON.

MCLUHAN’S CAREER ENCOMPASSES THE MULTIPLE MEANINGS OF THE
WORD PROJECT OR PROJECT OR PROJECTION. THE PROCESS OF CREATING. THE PERFORMATIVE ASPECTS OF SPEECH, REFRACTED LIGHT,
PSYCHOLOGICAL TRANSFERENCE, A COURSE OF ACTION, A COMMUNITY
OF MAKING.

I SEE MCLUHAN’S, BOTH HIS WRITINGS AND HIS ORAL COMMUNICATION AS DEEPLY PEDAGOGICAL. HIS PEDAGOGICAL ART AS THE CANADIAN CULTURAL THEORIST, JOHN FECKADAY HAS CALLED IT, IS COMMITTED TO CREATING DIALOGUE AND INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITY, TO CREATING COMMUNITY, TO CREATING COMMUNION.

IT’S A PROFOUNDLY, CATHOLIC PROJECT. MCLUHAN’S PROJECT WAS TO
MATERIALIZE THE WEB OF HUMAN RELATIONS, MINUTE AND LARGE,
INFRASTRUCTURAL AND COTIDIAN IN THE WORLD. THIS CONNECTIVE WEB HE BELIEVED WAS ENHANCED BY ELECTRIC MEDIA. ONE CAN READ HIS COLLAGES AND HIS STIMULATING, SOMETIMES CRAZY, HOMOLOGIES AS MOTIVATED BY A FAITH THAT EVERYTHING IS INTER-RELATED.

THE RESEARCHER’S TASK IS TO DEVISE WAYS OF MATERIALIZING OR
EXCAVATING THESE HIDDEN RELATIONALITIES, AND FOR THIS REASON ARTISTS ARE ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL TO MCLUHAN’S PROJECT.

MCLUHAN’S WORK CANNOT BE DIVORCED FROM HIS IMMERSION IN THE CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL TRADITION, WHICH INCLUDES ARISTOTLE, AUGUSTINE, AND AQUINAS. A TRADITION THAT IN HIS INTERPRETATION, GIVES PRIDE OF PLACE TO THE POETIC PROCESS AND TO ARTISTS.

THERE’S A WHOLE LINE OF ARTISTS THAT INTEREST MCLUHAN IN THIS REGARD. FROM CHAUCER TO HABELERT, AND SHAKESPEARE, POE, COLERIDGE, MALAMET, BAUDELAIRE, AND OF COURSE THE GREATEST WRITER OF THE 20TH CENTURY, JAMES JOYCE. POETRY IS THE PRIVILEGED ART FORM.

FOR CONTEMPORARY POETRY HAS ACCORDING TO MCLUHAN HEALED THE BREECH BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE. AND LANGUAGE IS THE PRIMARY MEDIA, WHICH HE SEES AS A COLLECTIVE WORK OF ART BECAUSE OF ITS CONNECTION TO ORAL CULTURE, TO HUMAN SPEECH AND TO THE TEMPORIAL REALM.

FOR MCLUHAN WHO SECRETLY BELIEVED THAT THE BEST ARTISTS OF THE WESTERN WORLD WERE CATHOLIC, THE ARTIST PROVIDES THIS SOURCE OF GREAT INSIGHT. THE ARTIST IS THE ANTENNA OF THE CULTURE. NOT AS PRIVILEGED HUMAN, BUT BECAUSE ARTISTS TAKE AS THEIR OBJECT HUMAN PERCEPTION AND COGNITION…

Read the rest of the transcript at https://tinyurl.com/c9wacn2n 

Marshall McLuhan: Cosmic Media (2005)



R.H. Thompson as Marshall McLuhan in The Message, at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto (Photo by Cylla Von Teidemann) Click on the image for an expanded view.

When it comes to Canadians who have shaped global culture, there are few peers to Marshall McLuhan. The visionary writer coined the phrases “global village” and “the medium is the message” in the 1960s, when he also pretty much predicted the arrival of the world wide web. Esteemed television and stage actor R.H. Thomson has long studied McLuhan’s ideas, and has even played him in the Tarragon Theatre play The Message. On this week’s episode of The Chesterfield, Thomson sits with our host Ben Rayner to explore the relevance of McLuhan’s work in the digital age, and to ring the alarm about Facebook and Google as the contemporary colonizers of public space that need to be resisted. Watch this 23-minute interview.


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R.H. Thomson stars as Marshall McLuhan in ‘The Message’
In November of 2018

Marshall McLuhan coined the famous phrase, “the medium is the message”. But how does it apply to our current time with social media and smartphones? Playwright Jason Sherman analyzed McLuhan’s work and life in the play ‘The Message’. R.H. Thomson joins Roger and Dina on Breakfast Television in Toronto to discuss its significance and importance (in November, 2018. Click on the link below to watch a 5-minute interview:

https://www.bttoronto.ca/video/iframe/2226196965001/SkX1bBGY/5968933760001

Read a review of The Message stage production here: https://tinyurl.com/6f4kw6ah



Macro Media Literacy

By Andrew McLuhan

“The meaning and effect of a medium is the sum total of all its impact upon psyche and society.” [Marshall McLuhan, letter to Harry Skornia dated July 6, 1964 in ‘Letters of Marshall McLuhan’, 1987 Oxford University Press.]
……….[snip]……….

Read the rest of this article at https://tinyurl.com/f5xt5wh6