I’m glad she qualified the title with “Feminine Extensions”…

Subjects
Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s StudiesMedia Studies > Media TechnologiesCultural Studies

The contributors to Re-Understanding Media advance a feminist version of Marshall McLuhan’s key text, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, repurposing his insight that “the medium is the message” for feminist ends. They argue that while McLuhan’s theory provides a falsely universalizing conception of the technological as a structuring form of power, feminist critics can take it up to show how technologies alter and determine the social experience of race, gender, class, and sexuality. This volume showcases essays, experimental writings, and interviews from media studies scholars, artists, activists, and those who work with and create technology. Among other topics, the contributors extend McLuhan’s discussion of transportation technology to the attics and cargo boxes that moved Black women through the Underground Railroad, apply McLuhan’s concept of media as extensions of humans to analyze Tupperware as media of containment, and take up 3D printing as a feminist and decolonial practice. The volume demonstrates how power dynamics are built into technological media and how media can be harnessed for radical purposes.

Duke University Press – Pages: 280 – Illustrations: 39 – Publication: June 2022
Praise
“This brilliant collection thrillingly updates and interrogates Marshall McLuhan’s work, with abundant insights from feminist and critical race studies. Starting from the insight that ‘the medium is the message,’ Re-Understanding Media refuses the idea of technology as a mere tool, instead showing how it is a structuring form of power—from incubators to platform heels to facial recognition scanners. A challenging and important book.” — Rosalind Gill, City, University of London

“From wires, sidewalks, platforms, and records of Black escape to technologies of containment, fabrication, and incubation, the essays and conversations in this innovative collection bring new insight and crucial analysis to Marshall McLuhan’s media theory. Re-Understanding Media is rich with feminist methods of extending, troubling, and undoing disciplinary modes of knowledge production at the McLuhan Coach House, within media studies or elsewhere.” — Simone Browne, author of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
The Editors:
Sarah Sharma is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She was the director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology from 2017–2022. Sharma is author of In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics, also published by Duke University Press.
Rianka Singh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at York University, Toronto.Source: tinyurl.com/t37ujr28


The internet age has done a hell of a job burnishing the reputation of Marshall McLuhan.

After all, the famously cerebral Toronto media theorist more or less foretold the world wide web back in 1978, when he said that “a computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.” [But this quote did not appear in print until The  Global Village (1989) by Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Powers, p. 143].

Marshall McLuhan, the noted writer, educator and communications theorist who coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message,’ is seen in this 1977 photo. (CP)

One of the reasons McLuhan had such a vast perspective on emerging media is that he didn’t limit himself to august sources like books and radio.

He took in the whole media landscape, which inevitably included television, as well as comics, billboards, magazines, even fashion.

Before McLuhan, few people paused to consider the subtle messages being conveyed in such low-brow art forms. To him, they were more than just consumer prompts or escapist entertainment — they were expressions of the zeitgeist.

In writing about them, McLuhan legitimized popular culture. 

Dissecting Dagwood and Blondie

One of McLuhan’s early fascinations was with the syndicated comic strip Blondie (created in 1930 and still running), which stars Blondie, a model of domestic decorum, and her dunderheaded husband, Dagwood.

McLuhan viewed Dagwood as an emasculated male, undone by the daily grind of work and Blondie’s recriminations at home. The analogy is perhaps unfair, not to mention sexist; at the time, McLuhan had recently become a parent, and was likely discomfited by his own domesticity.

Whether you agree with it or not, his take on Blondie showed a willingness to consider comics as more than just a source of fleeting amusement.

He offered more candid interpretations in The Mechanical Bride (1951), a wide-ranging collection of essays that tartly deconstructs comics, movie posters, magazine covers and well-known ads of the day.

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.– Marshall McLuhan

McLuhan called out Superman for his “strong-armed totalitarian methods” and “immature and barbaric mind,” characterized Reader’s Digest as “Pollyanna Digest,” and argued that the appeal of western movies was that they illuminated “the primordial image of the lonely entrepreneur.”

1960s Superman

McLuhan was particularly concerned with the evolving tactics of advertisers. The book’s title was largely a reference to the postwar passion for the automobile, but it also captured his broader conviction that mass media was inciting an almost sexual obsession with new technology.

In his 2010 McLuhan biography, Douglas Coupland called him “arguably the first person on earth to be a metacritic” — that is, the first person compelled to examine the form and meaning of modern media.

Arguably McLuhan’s most important book, Understanding Media (1964) synthesized all of his major themes, which can be distilled in the axiom “the medium is the message.” It essentially holds that every new communication technology alters our perception of the world — or, to use another McLuhanism, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

MAD theories

Understanding Media raised our awareness of the cumulative effects of modern communications. It also made a rousing case for the importance of MAD magazine.

McLuhan wasn’t being flip. Television, with its mesmerizing flurry of images, had diminished the storytelling impact of comic strips like Blondie and Lil’ Abner, which depicted “a pastoral world of primal innocence from which young America has clearly graduated.”

What makes Understanding Media vital is not that McLuhan was always right, but that he was engaged enough to seek meaning in seemingly ephemeral art.

The new comic paradigm, according to McLuhan, was MAD magazine, which employed the visual vocabulary of TV and advertising to spoof all facets of American culture, from politics to psychoanalysis, drug culture to Disney cartoons. In McLuhan’s words, it was “a kind of newspaper mosaic of the ad as entertainment, and entertainment as a form of madness.”

 

Understanding Media is a heady text, filled with insights that remain startlingly on-point more than 40 years later. But the book also contains its share of overripe prose, and at times even seems to contradict itself. (Perhaps as a hedge against his critics, McLuhan once quipped, “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.”)

What makes Understanding Media vital is not that McLuhan was always right, but that he was engaged enough to seek meaning in seemingly ephemeral art.

Without his lead, it’s quite unlikely that serious journalists nowadays would write book-length volumes on the history of comic books or dissect the political resonance of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.

McLuhan showed a keen interest in pop culture, and pop culture gamely returned the favour, finding ways to name-check the fusty-looking academic. His very name became a poetic refrain on the U.S. sketch show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (“Marshall McLuhan / what are you doin’?”), and he made an unforgettable cameo as himself in the 1976 Woody Allen film Annie Hall.

Several years ago, McLuhan received one of the highest compliments in contemporary pop culture, earning a mention in an episode of the Emmy-awarding cable drama Mad Men, a suave examination of the ad world in the 1960s. In addition to being clever, the scene was written with a knowing wink — Mad Men, for one, would be inconceivable were it not for McLuhan’s penetrating look at pop culture more than half a century ago.
(Source: https://tinyurl.com/2p2kj4rr)



Editor Robert Logan reports that he has already begun work on  New Explorations 3 (1) due out in early 2022. Because of Covid, Volume 2 will have only one issue but it is packed with 22 items. We are planning two issues for Volume 3 in 2022. Here is the call for papers:

New Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication 3 (1)
Deadline for Submissions: February 28, 2022
Submit articles to the editor Bob Logan at logan@physics.utoronto.ca

**********

TABLE OF CONTENTS For the current issue 2(1)
Access the current issue at https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/nexj/index

ARTICLES

Nethnography: An ecological approach to digital interactions
By Adriana Braga –  PDF

Introducing Adriana Braga’s Video-Article, Howie and the Outsiders
By Robert K. Logan PDF

Howie & The Outsiders: The Video-Article
By Adriana Braga –  PDF

Photography and Symbolic Interactionism: How Foundations in Media Ecology, Particularly, Mead, Barthes, Sontag, and Langer, Helped Me Become a Photographer
By Daliza K. Crane – 
 PDF

Understanding digital discrimination: analysing Marshall McLuhan’s work through a human rights lense
By Tetyana Kruply – 
 PDF

Tetrads and Chiasmus: A Reclamation of the Tetrad Wheel
By Paul Levinson – 
 PDF

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Social Media: Should Social Media Apps Be Regulated?
By Robert K. Logan  PDF

Marshall McLuhan’s General Theory of Media (GtoM), His Laws of Media; Comparing Three Kinds of Law
By Robert K. Logan
 PDF

Thinking society and cultural practices in the (digital) hybrid age: Notes and queries on Media Ecology Research
By Juan Camilo Mansilla 
 PDF

Written Matter Excerpted for New Explorations Journal
By Andrew McLuhan 
 PDF

Words Without MeaningsWords Without Meanings
By Patrick O’Neill PDF

Technological Society as Mediatized Society: An Introduction to Bernard Charbonneau’s Media Critique in its Bordeaux School
By Christian Roy 
 PDF

An Introduction to Marshall Soules’ Two Contributions: “Play Attention” and “McLuhan and Carpenter: Tricksters at the Margins, A Postscript to Play Attention”
By Robert K. Logan 
 PDF

Play Attention
By Marshall Soules 
 PDF

McLuhan and Carpenter: Tricksters at the Margins: A Postscript to Play Attention
By Marshall Soules 
 PDF

REVIEWS

A Review of Doing the Right Thing
By Ulya Aviral 
 PDF

A Review of Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis by Anna Veprinska
By Jerry Harp 
 PDF

Stitched Into the Matrix: A Review of A Glitch in the Matrix
By Clinton Ignatov 
 PDF

A Review of Andrey Mir’s Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers
By Paul Levinson 
 PDF

A Review of written matter, a book of poetry and photos by Andrew McLuhan
By Robert K. Logan 
 PDF

A Review of McLuhan in Reverse by Robert K. Logan
By Anne-Marie Maclouglin 
 PDF

A Review of written matter, a book of poetry and photos by Andrew McLuhan
By Edna Pasher 
 PDF

New Explorations journal is a revival of the journal Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication, created in 1953 by Marshall McLuhan and Ted Carpenter.

New Explorations reaffirms and continues the theoretical perspectives of Explorations, which so profoundly influenced the Toronto School of Communication and media studies worldwide.

Just as the first Explorations probed the emergent media technologies of  McLuhan’s “electric age” in the latter 20th century; New Explorations continues that voyage of discovery into the digital age of our new millennium.


The original 8 issues of Explorations (1953 – 1959)


Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews

By Marshall McLuhan

Edited by Stephanie McLuhan & David Staines

Previously unpublished lectures and interviews by the modern age’s preeminent media seer—informal, accessible, provocative.

In the last twenty years of his life, Marshall McLuhan published a series of books that established his reputation as a world-renowned communications theorist and the pre-eminent seer of the modern age. It was McLuhan who made the distinction between “hot” and “cool” media. And it was he who coined the phrases “the medium is the message” and “the global village” and popularized other memorable terms including “feedback” and “iconic.”

Canadian Edition published by McClelland & Stewart (2003); MIT Press Edition (2004)

McLuhan was far more than a pithy phrasemaker, however. He foresaw the development of personal computers at a time when computers were huge, unwieldy machines available only to institutions. He anticipated the wide-ranging effects of the Internet. And he understood, better than any of his contemporaries, the transformations that would be wrought by digital technology—in particular, the globalization of communications and the instantaneous-simultaneous nature of the new, electric world. In many ways, we’re still catching up to him—forty years after the publication of Understanding Media.

In Understanding Me, Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines have brought together nineteen previously unpublished lectures and interviews either by or with Marshall McLuhan. They have in common the informality and accessibility of the spoken word. In every case, the text has been transcribed from the original audio, film, or videotape of McLuhan’s actual appearances. This is not what McLuhan wrote but what he said—the spoken words of a surprisingly accessible public man. He comes across as outrageous, funny, perplexing, stimulating, and provocative. McLuhan will never seem quite the same again.

The foreword by Tom Wolfe provides a twenty-first century perspective on McLuhan’s life and work, and co-editor David Staines’s insightful afterword offers a personal account of McLuhan as teacher and friend.

Lectures and Interviews Electronic Revolution: Revolutionary Effects of New Media (1959) •Popular/Mass Culture: American Perspectives (1960) • Technology, the Media, and Culture • The Communications Revolution • Cybernetics and Human Culture (1964) • The Future of Man in the Electric Age (1965) • The Medium Is the Massage (1966) • Predicting Communication via the Internet (1966) • The Marfleet Lectures (1967) • Canada, the Borderline Case • Towards an Inclusive Consciousness • Fordham University: First Lecture (1967) • Open-Mind Surgery (1967) • TV News as a New Mythic Form (1970) • The Future of the Book (1972) • The End of the Work Ethic (1972) • Art as Survival in the Electric Age (1973) • Living at the Speed of Light (1974) • What TV Does Best (1976) • TV as a Debating Medium (1976) • Violence as a Quest for Identity (1977) • Man and Media (1979) Source: https://tinyurl.com/4makj2cz

For academic biographical information on Junichi Miyazawa see https://tinyurl.com/chr4psab

Japanese edition pages 303 & 302 – Photo is of McLuhan & David Staines


Bob Logan & Eric McLuhan, photo by Salome Victoriano

By Robert K. Logan

Eric McLuhan
B.Sc.—Communications, Wisconsin State University, 1972
M.A., Ph.D.—English Lit., University of Dallas, 1980, 1982
L.L.D. of Sacred Letters. University of St. Michael’s College. University of Toronto, 2011

Eric McLuhan, a Canadian scholar, public intellectual and a much sought-after speaker, was born on 19 January 1942 and passed away on 18 May 2018 in Bogota, Columbia, the day after he gave a commencement address at the Universidad de la Sabana. A funeral was held in Bogota on 19 May and a memorial mass was held at St. Gregory the Great, Roman Catholic Church, Picton, Ontario on 25 May.

Eric will be deeply missed by his wife Sabina, and his three children Emily, Anna and Andrew. He will also be missed by the entire media ecology community that was inspired by his deep insights into the effects of media. Eric was a prolific writer having written 18 books and over 100 articles. He was a close collaborator of (his father) Marshall McLuhan.

Dr. Eric McLuhan receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Letters from St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, 2011

His accomplishments as a scholar were manifold, but here I concentrate on four of them:

  • First, there was the collaboration with his father including his co-authorship with Marshall McLuhan and Kathryn Hutchon (later Kawasaki) of City as Classroom.
  • Secondly, there was the way he rescued the work of his father after Marshall’s passing in 1980. He did this by mining the archives of his father’s papers and co-authoring with his father (posthumously) the following four books:
    • Laws of Media: The New Science
    • The Lost Tetrads of Marshall McLuhan
    • Media and Formal Cause
    • Theories of Communication.

I believe that without Eric’s contribution to the first two books published after his father’s death that the laws of media (LOM) tool, that is so essential to the study of media ecology today, would not have become part of the canon of this field. The importance of the third book is that, as a result of its publication, the prominence of formal cause in the field of media ecology has been secured and is actively discussed. The fourth book provides the historic arc of communication theories including Marshall McLuhan’s own description of his theory of communication.

  • third key contribution to the field of media ecology is that Eric actually coined the term ‘media ecology’ by which the field, started by his father, came to be known by. He did this while visiting Fordham University in New York City with his father in 1967. The term was picked up shortly thereafter by Neil Postman, who started the media ecology program at New York University. The term was also incorporated in the title of the Media Ecology Association in which Eric was very active, often as a key note speaker.
  • Finally, the fourth key contribution of Eric’s were the many new areas of study that he opened up on his own with his publication of the following books that he authored, co-authored or edited:
  • The Sensus Communis–Synesthesia, and the Soul – a study of common sense, the five bodily senses and mimesis,
  • Cynic Satire – a study of Menippean satire,
  • The Human Equation – a series of five books co-authored with Wayne Constantineau that deals with body’s role in perception and understanding,
  • The Role of Thunder in Finnegan’s Wake – an analysis of the ten thunder words in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake,
  • Electric Language: Understanding the Presentan analysis of how digital media of the personal computer, the tablet, and the Internet are changing the nature of communications as well as spoken and written language,
  • Essential McLuhan edited with F. Zingrone – a collection of the writings of Marshall McLuhan,
  • Who Was Marshall McLuhan? edited with F. Zingrone and W. Constantineau and authored by Barrington Nevitt, aided by Maurice McLuhan – a collection of the impressions of people who knew and/or worked with Marshall McLuhan including yours truly,
  • The Medium and the Light: Writings on Religion by Marshall McLuhan, edited with Jacek Schlarek – a collection of the religious writings and reflections of Marshall McLuhan,
  • The Book of Probes edited with W. Kuhns – a collection of Marshall McLuhan’s probes, aphorisms and one-liners),
  • McLuhan Unbound edited with Terrence Gordon – a collection of 20 essays by Marshall McLuhan.

Allow me to end this obituary with a personal note: I will miss Eric, a true friend, who was a very special person, always of good cheer, generous and kind who lived his faith—respectfully and reverently.

© 2018 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


Eric’s Library & work space


McLuhan in Reverse

His General Theory of Media (GToM)

Series: Understanding Media Ecology

Robert K. Logan

McLuhan in Reverse proposes two new and startling theses about Marshall McLuhan’s body of work. The first argues that despite McLuhan’s claim that he did not work from a theory, his body of work in fact constitutes a theory that Robert K. Logan calls his General Theory of Media (GToM). The second thesis is that McLuhan’s GToM is characterized by a number of reversals, including his reversals of figure and ground, cause and effect, percepts and concepts; and the medium and its content as described in his famous one-liner “the medium is the message.” 

While McLuhan’s famous Laws of Media are part of his GToM, Logan has identified nine other elements of the GToM. They are his use of probes; figure/ground analysis; the idea that the medium is the message; the subliminal nature of ground or environment revealed only by the creation of an anti-environment; the reversal of cause and effect; the importance of percept over concept and hence a focus on the human sensorium and media as extensions of man; the division of communication into the oral, written, and electric ages along with the notions of acoustic and visual space; the notion of the global village; and finally, media as environments and hence media ecology.
(Source: https://tinyurl.com/3uxtxv22)

From Robert Logan’s Preface:-

I have, concluded that McLuhan’s body of work constitutes what I have called his General Theory of Media (GToM) and that the underlying theme of this theory is his use of reversals. This is the thesis that will be explored in this book. While McLuhan’s famous Laws of Media are part of his GToM there are nine other elements of the GToM that I have identified. They are 1. his use of probes; 2. figure/ground analysis; 3. the idea that the medium is the message; 4. the subliminal nature of ground or environment revealed only by the creation of an anti-environment; 5. the reversal of cause and effect; 6. the importance of percept over concept and hence a focus on the human sensorium and media as extensions of man; 7. the division of communication into the oral, written, and electric ages along with the notions of acoustic and visual space; 8. the notion of the global village and finally, 9. media as environments and hence media ecology.

Table of Contents
Preface
Chapter One: McLuhan’s General Theory of Media (GToM) and the Role of Reversals
Chapter Two: The Ten Elements of McLuhan’s General Theory of Media
Chapter Three: Applying McLuhan’s General Theory of Media to the Flowering of the Digital Age
Chapter Four: Understanding Humans: The Extensions of Digital Media
Chapter Five: General System Thinking and Marshall McLuhan’s General Theory of Media
Chapter Six: Cataloguing McLuhan Reversals

About the Author
Robert K. Logan (PhD, MIT, 1965) is an emeritus professor of physics, fellow of St. Michael’s College, and member of the School of Environmental Studies, all at the University of Toronto. He is also Chief Scientist of the sLab (OCAD University) and a recipient of the Walter J. Ong Award for Career Achievement in Scholarship by the Media Ecology Association.



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!