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.


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:


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.]

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

Published by Gingko Press – 412 pages, Softcover – 6″ x 9 1/4″ (150 x 235 mm) – 20 individual offprints in a slipcase – English – ISBN: 978-1-58423-051-9

The essay is for exploring; the book, for explaining. Such was McLuhan’s philosophy about these two forms. The essay is the freer form and one better suited to exploration than the longer meditation, the book.
This startling new series puts the reader in the place of colleague and co-researcher. Instead of giving the reader just another collection of articles and interviews, McLuhan Unbound gives you offprints of the original essays. See how the two McLuhans, the literary academic and the public media expert are really one. Some of these articles were written before the subsequent book was envisioned: they are preliminary forays into new territory. Some were written after the book and encapsulate major themes; some set out additional discoveries or matters left out of the book; some present material discovered as a result of writing the book.
The McLuhan Unbound offprints series is not the last word in presenting McLuhan’s ideas and discoveries, but the first. (Source: https://tinyurl.com/5nn7z4zk)
The following quotes above come from #7, “The Humanities in the Electronic Age.” They are typical rich McLuhanesque insights, sprinkled with references to Gibbon, Joyce, A. N. Whitehead, Shakespeare, Poe, Bertrand Russell, Leonardo de Vinci, C. P. Snow, Milton. It’s heady stuff, especially for those of us who are fans of Understanding Media:

— We are in an electronic age “in which we stand as primitives of an underdeveloped and unknown culture.”
— It is said that the main discovery of the nineteenth century was “the discovery of the technique of invention.”
— “The great discovery of the twentieth century is the technique of suspended judgment.”
— The humanist is a Luddite “because he gets a thrill of imagined potential from the fragmentary…”
The humanist is more fascinated by the incomplete Hyperion  of Keats than by the complete Prelude of Wordsworth.
— In mid-twentieth century, AT&T was the largest business in the world “with a gross national product equal to the entire Canadian economy,” and got that way by “doing nothing but move information. No wheels, no shafts, no belts, just the movement of information.”
— “With the computer all move out of the age of number and statistics into the age of the curve and the simultaneous awareness of structures.”
With satellite broadcasting … we move, scientist and humanist alike, into the world of instant and inexpensive access to anything and anybody on the globe.

Individual Essay Titles in the Slipcase
0 – General Introduction to Unbound Project
1 – Printing & Social Change
2 – The Effect of the Printed Book on Language in the 16th Century
3 – The Argument: Causality in the Electric World
4 – The Relation of Environment to Anti-Environment
5 – At the Moment of Sputnik the Planet Became a Global Theater in Which There Are No Spectators But Only Actors
6 – Culture Without Literacy
7 – The Humanities in the Electronic Age
8 – Introduction to The Bias of Communication (Harold Innis, First Edition, 1951)
9 – American Advertising
10 – Inside Blake & Hollywood
11 – G.K. Chesterton: A Practical Mystic
12 – Roles, Masks & Performances
13 – Space, Time & Poetry
14 – New Media as Practical Forms
15 – Notes on the Media as Art Forms
16 – The Media Fit the Battle of Jericho
17 – The Media is the Message
18 – Myth & Mass Media
19 – Laws of the Media


The MediuM

A Marshall McLuhan Board Game
Inspired by legendary Canadian philosopher and innovative media thinker Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), The MediuM is a gaming experience of Laws of Media. The New Science (1988), developed by Marshall McLuhan and his son Eric McLuhan (1942-2018). Also known as “McLuhans’ Tetrad”, the Laws of Media reveal the four constant rules that govern all human innovations, four questions that can be asked in order to understand the implications that will inevitably result from any medium.

An entertaining and educational board game that stimulates players’ cooperative, innovative, and creative thinking skills.

Educational and hilarious for the novice and expert alike, The Medium is fast-paced, engaging and brainy fun that will have young and old laughing… as they learn out loud!

This game is played in teams of two or more players. Each round, one team member tries to get their team to guess the medium on the card. Clues take the form of answers to the four questions of the McLuhans’ Laws of Media. Teams move along the board when a medium is guessed correctly, pulling themselves out of the Maelstrom.

Use The Medium to analyze an artifact or human innovation from the past or present, and enjoy being the first team to escape the media Maelstrom!

  • Troubleshooting

    A thought-provoking experience that encourages us to become aware of the media environment by recognizing its unintended and invisible functions and/or implications.

  • Playable in teams or as individuals

    Ages: 14+, Playing Time: 30+ min. By playing in partners, The Medium stimulates a player’s cooperative, innovative, strategic and creative thinking skills,

  • Fully Documented

    Booklet, online tips, and expansions.
    The game can be used to analyze any medium, technology, innovation or human artifact, from the past or present.

“Break free of linear monopoly and flip into The Medium. No charade, you’ll laugh as you learn!” – Paul Levinson, author of Digital McLuhan (2001)

For more information and/or to order the game, go to https://tinyurl.com/ynw7j3jh

Previously announced here on May 5, 2018: https://tinyurl.com/a55uncdc

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

John McHale (Sr.) with Self-Portrait (Photo: Sam Lambert)

Over the course of the 1950s, the Scottish writer and artist John McHale (1922 – 1978) was committed to exploring the effects of fine art, advertising, and new media on the human experience. He was a prominent member of the Independent Group (IG), which met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1952–1955), and was among the first artists in the group to travel to the USA, returning with a tranche of advertising imagery that became influential for their thinking about the mass media environment. McHale was also an early advocate of Marshall McLuhan’s media ecology theory and responded to it in his own artwork and writing. Focusing on a formative period for McHale, between 1954 and 1960, when he developed his collage practice, undertook a scholarship with Josef Albers at Yale University, and became a leading voice in the IG, the essay considers McHale’s writing and art practice as an evolving response to McLuhan’s media ecology. It identifies McHale’s two-part essay “The Expendable Ikon”, published in Architectural Design in 1959, as a key text for understanding his artwork and writings on the relationship between the fine arts and the mass media during this period.

Introduction: McHale and McLuhan  
In 1959 John McHale, the Scottish artist, writer, and participant in the Independent Group (IG) wrote to the Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan, informing him that: “for some years, since The Mechanical Bride was published, I have looked out for such articles as you have produced and they have been of immense value to myself and others here who are interested in the mass media”.1 An earlier draft of the same letter had put this in more emphatic terms, insisting that for artists in Britain, McLuhan’s work was “of great interest and considerable influence”.1 In the letter sent to McLuhan, McHale cited articles dating back to 1947 and the “Culture and Communications” seminars that McLuhan held at the University of Toronto between 1953 and 1955, revealing an early and sustained engagement with  McLuhan’s work prior to the publication of his best-known book Understanding Media (1964).3 McHale also shared his own developing theories on media ecology, enclosing with his letter a copy of his two-part essay “The Expendable Ikon”, published in Architectural Design in February (Fig. 1) and March 1959 (Fig. 2).4 This confirmed to McLuhan that discussions he was leading in North America about the language of the mass media were also now taking place in Britain. Furthermore, it posited “The Expendable Ikon” as a complement to McLuhan’s “most stimulating and informative text” “Myth and Mass Media”, which had been published in Daedalus a month after McHale’s piece.5 The artist was at pains to emphasise the didactic function of mass culture, stating that “for myself, and others who are interested in the mass media, this interest has been particularly directed to [its] role [in] the education of the artist and designer”.6 McHale’s letter initiated a back and forth with McLuhan that lasted throughout the 1960s and 1970s.7 The letters underscore the importance of McLuhan’s writing for the development of ideas and practices by members of the Independent Group, a radical group of young artists and architects who met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London and were concerned with ways technology and the mass media shaped human experience. Lawrence Alloway later cited McLuhan’s publication The Mechanical Bride (1951) as a key text for the group.8

The Expendable Ikon 1

The essay, “The Expendable Ikon”, which McHale had enclosed in his first letter to McLuhan, examined the communicative function of images and the means by which the mass media conveyed the stereotypical mid-century Western experience. Working on the premise that “the whole range of the sensory spectrum has been extended [such that] man can see more, hear more, travel faster—experience more than ever before” and that “his environment extensions, movie, TV, picture magazine, bring to his awareness an unprecedented scope of visual experience”, the essay made the case that images had to respond in kind and become “loaded” with associations about “man’s total environment”.9 The term “ikon” signalled that the meaning of mass imagery extended beyond the representation of the figure depicted, in much the way that a religious ikon embodied an inconceivable divine entity and sought to induce a spiritual experience through the image of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint. The unusual spelling may have been intentionally used to foster the connection to Eastern Orthodox ikons but more likely is that McHale adopted it from Reyner Banham, who used the same spelling in the catalogue for the exhibition This is Tomorrow in 1956.10

In “The Expendable Ikon” McHale categorised some prevalent trends in ikon-making in contemporary mass media. He cited Marshall McLuhan as an important source, describing The Mechanical Bride (1951) as a “classic of its kind”, while at the same time distancing himself from McLuhan’s “moralising” tone.11 Although McHale initially subscribed to McLuhan’s warnings about the potentially corrupting nature of the mass media, by the end of the decade, he was more circumspect. Their ambitions were aligned but not quite the same—McLuhan’s purpose being to understand the social and cultural implications of mass media, where McHale was equally interested in the question of where this expanded visual environment left fine art. By working through McLuhan’s ideas over the course of a decade, McHale came to understand the potential dangers of the mass media but also—as indicated in his initial letter to McLuhan—to appreciate what the fine arts could learn from its advanced methods of persuasion.12 The distinction he made between the two was based on their longevity or lack-thereof. The fine arts—the traditional preserve of ikon-making—stood the test of time, while mass media was characterised by rapid and continual change, its ikons only ever as relevant as the last photo-shoot, movie, or song released. This expendability, McHale argued, gave a more accurate picture of the cultural environment of the mid-century but it also represented a challenge to those artists who acknowledged its didactic potential as they grappled with the question of fine art’s function in a mass media age. The Independent Group, whose first series of seminars (1952–1953) had focused on technology, turned their attention to the relationship between fine art and mass media for their second series (1955–1956), and explored it through exhibitions, including Parallel of Life and Art (1953), curated by Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison Smithson, and Peter Smithson at the ICA; Collages and Objects (1954), curated by Lawrence Alloway at the ICA; and This is Tomorrow, coordinated by Theo Crosby at the Whitechapel Gallery (1956).13

In “The Expendable Ikon”, McHale focused on popular ikons like the pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley that pervaded popular magazines. Elsewhere, however, he also applied the term to his own artworks, writing in the catalogue for the exhibition Three Collagists (1958) that his works were “in the nature of ikons” because they captured the human image in the “extended environs” of the mass media.14 A photograph of McHale posing alongside his Self Portrait (1955), taken for the journal Uppercase, reflects this through its mirrored composition, the subject split between McHale’s exterior appearance and his symbolic representation of self as a television-shaped head covered with advertisements (Fig. 3).15 The exaggerated sensory features of Self Portrait—its enlarged eye, mouth, and outstretched tongue—emphasised the sensory overload of this new media environment, not merely a new visual education but a titillating sensorium. The work disregards formal likeness and instead seeks to capture the impact of the 1950s on the artist’s sense of self. Depicted as a generic receptacle filled with vivid advertising imagery, Self Portrait presents McHale as a product of his environment, his identity forged by the consumer boom he experienced while living in the USA in 1955.16 As this essay will show, collaged ikons such as these served as tools for analysing new media languages and their impact on human experience, a task McHale carried out in parallel and crossover with McLuhan. In this regard, they are not only the products of this expanded visual environment, but they are also a form of research that contributed to the burgeoning field of media ecology.17

Read the rest of this essay at https://tinyurl.com/2sn42tc2

Telemath VI 1957 by John McHale 


  1. Letter, John McHale to Marshall McLuhan, 1959, John McHale papers, Buffalo NY (uncatalogued).
  2. Letter, John McHale to Marshall McLuhan, 1959, John McHale papers, Buffalo NY (uncatalogued).
  3. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). Marshall McLuhan set up the “Culture and Communications” seminars with Edmund Carpenter at the University of Toronto in 1953. The seminars, which ran for two years, brought together academics and graduate students from Anthropology, Economics, English, Psychology, and Town Planning to explore how the methods used in each discipline codified reality. The findings were published in the journal founded by McLuhan Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication.
  4. John McHale, “The Expendable Ikon 1”, Architectural Design 22 (February 1959): 82–83.
  5. Letter, John McHale to Marshall McLuhan, 1959; Marshall McLuhan, “Myth and Mass Media”, Daedalus 88, no. 2 (1959): 339–348.
  6. Letter, John McHale to Marshall McLuhan, 1959.
  7. Marshall McLuhan’s archive contains fourteen correspondences between McHale and McLuhan dating between 1959 and 1979: Marshall McLuhan papers, Library and Archives Canada, MG 31, D 156, Vol. 31, file 34; McLuhan and McHale also met in person when McLuhan visited him and Buckminster Fuller at Carbondale, Illinois, where they had established the World Resources Inventory Office.
  8. Lawrence Alloway, “The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty”, in David Robbins (ed.), The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty (Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press, 1990), catalogue of an exhibition at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College [et. al.], 1–18 February 1990, 59. According to the art critic and historian Irving Sandler, McLuhan only became influential among American artists after the publication of Understanding Media in 1964: Irving Sandler, American Art of the 1960s (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 79.
  9. McHale, “The Expendable Ikon I”, in John McHale, The Expendable Reader: Articles on Art, Architecture, Design, and Media (1951–79), edited by Alex Kitnick (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 49.
  10. Lawrence Alloway, Reyner Banham, David Lewis et. al., This is Tomorrow (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1956), catalogue of an exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, 9 August–9 September, 1956.
  11. McHale, “The Expendable Ikon I”, in Kitnick (ed.), The Expendable Reader, 51.
  12. Letter, John McHale to Marshall McLuhan, 1959.
  13. The Independent Group programme for 1955 is reprinted in Anne Massey, The Independent Group: Modernism and Mass Culture in Britain, 1945–1959 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 142–144; Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison Smithson, and Peter Smithson (eds), Parallel of Life and Art (London: The Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1953), catalogue of an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 30 November–4 December 1953; Lawrence Alloway (ed.) Collages and Objects (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1954), catalogue of an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 13 October–20 November 1954; Theo Crosby (ed.), This is Tomorrow (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1956), catalogue of an exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery, 9 August–9 September 1956.
  14. Lawrence Alloway (ed.), 3 Collagists: New Work by E.L.T. Mesens, John McHale and Gwyther Irwin (London: Cambridge Contemporary Art Trust, 1958), catalogue of an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 3–29 November 1958, unpaginated.
  15. Theo Crosby (ed.), “John McHale”, Uppercase, 1 (London, Whitefriars Press, 1958), unpaginated.
  16. McHale spent a year in the USA studying at Yale in 1955–1956.
  17. Alex Kitnick lays the groundwork for this study in his discussion of McHale and McLuhan in Alex Kitnick, “Hip-Artificer”, in The Expendable Reader: Articles on Art, Architecture, Design, and Media (1951–79), edited by Alex Kitnick (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 12–30…

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)

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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