“The essential guide to how media shape our lives. By the creator of the most talked about political ad in television history.”

The Responsive Chord outlines the way our ways of thinking and communicating have been shaped for centuries by written language and by the difficulty of transmitting information over long distances… and how those habits have been outmoded by instant communications such as television, radio and telephone. Schwartz explores in depth the failure of techniques in advertising and education that are based on the old methods and explains how we must understand the new media, as well as how best to make use of them, giving numerous examples.


  • Foreword by John Carey, Professor of Communications and Media Management at Fordham University. Carey worked for Tony Schwartz in the late 60s and early 70s, including the time when he wrote The Responsive Chord. He is intimately familiar with the book and with Tony Schwartz, so the foreword contains both analysis from a current-day perspective and a number of inside anecdotes (see excerpt below)
  • Updated design, several new illustrative figures.


  • Election 2016 and President Trump: We are constantly bombarded with media, and never more so than in an election year. The book focuses on how media work on us to drive our actions, with special emphasis given to political media. The book has been especially relevant this political season given Trump’s highly unconventional relationship with the media.
  • Fake News & Truthiness: So many people have been sent reeling by the extent to which truth itself has been damaged since the 2016 election—from the egregiously untrue statements made by candidates and government officials to the proliferation of “fake news.” The Responsive Chord gives us an alternate understanding of the media according to which our notions of truth and falsity are not even relevant. It shows how, even back when we had seemingly much higher, shared standards for truth (think Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley), the most effective processes of communication completely bypassed truth/falsehood… and the book explains how those processes continue to operate.
  • Election 2016 (Daisy ad): There have been regular mentions throughout the news media of the 1964 Daisy Ad, both because of the parallels between the 2016 election and the 1964 election, and because of the regular talk of creating a similar ad for use today. Schwartz was the creator of the Daisy ad (see below), and The Responsive Chord presents and discusses the ad (pp. 89-92).
  • “DAISY” Play. Tony Schwartz and his ideas are the subject of a play by Sean Devine that premiered at Seattle’s ACT Theatre in July-Aug, 2016, to nightly standing ovations. The play is about the creation of the “DAISY” ad (see ABOUT below). Discussions are underway for it to be staged in NY and Chicago, as well as several Canadian locations.


  • Tony Schwartz is equally famous, in different circles, for (1) his pioneering work recording music and documenting the audio life of New York City in the 1950s and 60s, (2) his advertising work, including the Daisy commercial and (3) his theories of media and communication.
  • Creator of the Daisy ad—the most talked about political ad in television history, despite having aired only once. He was hired as a consultant by the DDB agency and created the concept of the ad for them, based on an anti-nuclear ad he made for the U.N. in 1962.
  • Winner of multiple Academy Awards and Toni Awards. Four-time first place winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Created over a dozen commercial recordings, one of which was among the first 100 recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry.
  • Taught media studies at Harvard, Columbia, Fordham and New York University. Lectured around the world by telephone and satellite.
  • Created commercials for over four hundred corporations, including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Chrysler and Kodak. Created the first anti-smoking commercial (1963, for the American Cancer Society.)
  • Produced television and radio commercials for the campaigns of two U.S. Presidents, as well as hundreds of U.S. candidates at all levels of government.
  • His collected works were acquired by the Library of Congress in 2007, just before his death. Transporting all the audio & video recordings & papers from NYC to DC required three trucks. See
  • Created and hosted a weekly radio show on WNYC for over 30 years (1945-1976)


“The Responsive Chord certainly gets a big response from me…. I enjoyed it enormously. This is a totally untouched field and Tony Schwartz has a monopoly in this area.” — Marshall McLuhan (1973)

“Tony Schwartz was a genius when it came to understanding the communications revolution of the 20th century. My interview with him was one of my favorites and one of the most important of my own long career in broadcast journalism.” – Bill Moyers

“I read The Responsive Chord as a freshman in college and it affected everything I’ve ever made since. Its message is practical and deep. I’d recommend it to anyone.” — Ira Glass, Creator & Host of NPR’s This American Life

“Tony Schwartz was not only an original theorist but a master persuader whose must-read book is brimming with indispensable insight about how humans construct meaning through media.” — Prof. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center ( is one of their many projects)

Obama Team. In the foreword, John Carey relates, “I was told by a senior member of the Obama campaigns for the presidency that The Responsive Chord was a must read for all senior members of their communications team.” Unfortunately, he has lost contact with the person. I have been working to corroborate that claim and get one of the Obama team on record.

See a more extensive list of quotes at


As a communication professor who teaches about new media and a researcher who has studied new media technologies for companies such as Google, Comcast NBC Universal and the New York Times, why do I rely so heavily on a book written decades ago? It’s because The Responsive Chord describes with great clarity how media affect our lives and gives us practical guidelines that are just as relevant today as when the book was first published.

The Responsive Chord analyzes how and why our modern media environment works on us and in us. For example, why do some video bloggers who talk about things of little importance to anyone attract millions of followers? Tony Schwartz explains, “People are more likely to choose programming on the basis of some personal function it serves, rather than for specific content. In many instances, it does not matter what a program is about.” (p. 51) As Sam Roberts of the New York Times writes, “Mr. Schwartz presciently anticipated camcorders and also cellphones, iPods and other [modern] electronic devices.” Insights from the book also help us understand current media phenomena such as viral media, social media, virtual reality, and mobile media.


John Carey, Professor of Communications and Media Management at Fordham University, was a student at Fordham in the late 60s, when Marshall McLuhan lectured there as the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities. He subsequently worked for Tony during a time that included the writing of The Responsive Chord. He went on to work in the media industry for many years, with clients including Google, American Express, AT&T, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Primedia, A&E Television Networks, Digitas, The Online Publishers Association, PBS, Cablevision, Rainbow Media, Scholastic and XM Satellite Radio. Carey has served on the advisory boards of the Adult Literacy Media Alliance, the Annenberg School for Communications and Fordham’s Donald McGannon Communication Research Center.

See also On Tony Schwartz on this blog: 

More About Tony Schwartz, Media Pioneer & Audio Documentarian (1923-2008): 


Tony Schwartz in his media lab, New York City, 1982


This book brings together a number of prominent scholars to explore a relatively under-studied area of Marshall McLuhan’s thought: his idea of formal cause and the role that formal cause plays in the emergence of new technologies and in structuring societal relations. Aiming to open a new way of understanding McLuhan’s thought in this area, and to provide methodological grounding for future media ecology research, the book runs the gamut, from contributions that directly support McLuhan’s arguments to those that see in them the germs of future developments in emergent dynamics and complexity theory.

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Robert K. Logan is Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Toronto and Chief Scientist at the sLab OCAD University. Lance Strate is Professor of Communication and mMdia Studies at Fordham University in New York.

“Very good essays on a crucial intellectual topic. I’m hopeful that this anthology will help kick off another McLuhan movement rooted in McLuhan’s place in the great tradition of philosophies of causation”.  – Graham Harman, American University in Cairo
Available Now   –   Price £70, US $100   –   Purchase this book   –   ISBN 9781783206940   –   Paperback 292 pages   –   Imprint: Intellect Books


The forthcoming publication of Remediating McLuhan by Richard Cavell was announced on this blog on October 3, 2016. See .

From Richard Cavell’s Introduction (pp. 9-12):

The McLuhan remediated in the following pages is the one who had become a cliché when Donald Theall wrote these words that presaged what eventually became a twenty-year decline in McLuhan’s reputation. Theall’s McLuhan was defined by the parameters of literary modernism, communications biases, hot and cool media and technological determinism. The publication of McLuhan’s Letters in 1987, and Philip Marchand’s biography in 1989, heralded a renaissance of interest in McLuhan that has continued unabated to the centennial conferences and confabulations of 2011 and beyond. While this current scholarly interest has assured McLuhan’s foundational status as media theorist—affirmed by Friedrich Kittler no less — it has by no means exhausted the import of his writings, in large part because his written body of work as a whole is rarely revisited, and because ‘media’ retains a largely communicational bias in much of what has been written about him.

An Overview of the Book’s Chapters

Section One – Re: Mediation

1.Beyond McLuhanism (pp. 19-26): The remediation of McLuhan—after a twenty year hiatus in which he was infrequently cited, often as ‘the infamous’—began in the wake of the publication of his Letters(1987) and Philip Marchand’s biography (1989). What these works suggested was that the ‘McLuhanism’ that had characterised critiques of the media theorist for the previous twenty years had failed to account for a thinker whose complexities extended beyond the remit of media triumphalism, utopian technologism, crypto-Catholic redemption, the ‘return’ to orality, naive globalism and, ultimately, techno-determinism. While these critiques reflected their moment, ‘McLuhanism’ also owed a great deal to McLuhan himself….

2.McLuhan and the Question of the Book (pp. 27-38): McLuhan’s reputation in the 1960s hinged to a considerable extent on his pronouncements about the book, which was considered the prime bulwark against the threat posed by television, and, more broadly, ‘the media’, a concept to which McLuhan was ineluctably connected. McLuhan’s comments about ‘the end of book culture’ (Counterblast[1969], p. 48) were thus not well-received, and he was excoriated by critics for his ‘assault’ on the book. Dame Rebecca West, in her 1967 presidential address to the English Institute in London, asserted that The Medium is the Massage was designed ‘to cheer illiterates on their way, and this…

Section Two – Embodiment as Incorporation

3. McLuhan and the Body as Medium (pp. 41-48): Contemporary media studies are said to be in crisis. The advent of the ‘new’ media has provoked the question of how the new media differ from the ‘old’, mass media. Some, such as Bernhard Siegert, have responded that there are no mass media.¹ Siegert’s argument is that what was massified in mediation were material objects, such as television sets, whereas mediation has more to do with transmission. Others, such as Eva Horn, push Siegert’s argument further, stating that ‘[t]here are no media’ (‘Introduction’, p. 1), and argue that a fixed concept of media has been superseded by the new media,…

4. McLuhan, Tactility, and the Digital (pp. 49-56): In 1967, Marshall McLuhan published one of the defining books of his career: The Medium is the Massage A classic example of remediation, this book not only played on one of McLuhan’s most famous utterances, ‘the medium is the message’, but also inverted the linear, sequential ‘rationality’ and causal determinism deriving from the book as medium. In The Medium is the Massage there are more illustrations than there is print, the book can be read in any order, and McLuhan de-authorises his own relationship to this book by producing it collaboratively. As a result, it can be argued that the…

5. Mechanical Brides and Vampire Squids (pp. 57-64): While there is much that divides Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991), the confluence afforded by the prospect of discussing them together allows us to consider what I suggest is a central strand of connection, namely their tendency to understand media as embodied, which is to say, as having a relationship with bios.¹ This is a paradoxical dimension of their work, however, because the element of embodiment is configured according to a principle of alienation, such that the closer our relationship to media becomes, the further we get from the classic notion of the sovereign self. McLuhan had expressed…

Section Three – Empathic Media 

6. McLuhan: Motion: e-Motion Towards a Soft Ontology of Media (pp. 67-78): While media theorists would agree on few fundamentals intrinsic to their field of study—starting with the definition of ‘media’—they would no doubt concur that media have an epistemological dimension. Whether it be McLuhan’s notion of the media ‘environment’ (‘Educational Effects’, p. 402) or Kittler’s concept of a ‘discourse network’, it can be argued that the effects of media are cognate with the Foucauldian episteme: they ‘determine’² our situation because they function in a Heideggerian manner as the pre-condition of what we can know and say (die Sprache spricht, nicht der Mensch³) and they ‘are’ our situation (as Mitchell…

7. Re-Mediating the Medium (pp. 79-88): It is entirely appropriate to be considering Marshall McLuhan’s work at the Moderna Museet¹ in the context of the ‘post-medium condition’ since this museum has an intimate connection to one of McLuhan’s most provocative comments about the nature of art. Writing inThe Medium is the Massage(1967), McLuhan (with Quentin Fiore and Jerome Agel) superimposed his notion that ‘art is anything you can get away with’ over an image of Nikki de Saint Phalle’s monumental She: A Cathedral, photographed in its Moderna Museet installation of 1966. This 82 foot / 28 metre-long sculpture contained music rooms, a cinema and…

Section Four – Determining Technology

8. McLuhan, Turing, and the Question of Determinism (pp. 91-96): Marshall McLuhan arrived at Cambridge University in the fall of 1934. He enrolled at Trinity Hall (Marchand, Marshall McLuhan, p. 38) and remained there until the summer of 1936, when he received his Bachelor’s degree, having ‘set the foundations for almost all of his subsequent intellectual work’ (Marchand, p. 41). By extraordinary coincidence, Alan Turing, then a Fellow of King’s College, was at the same time ‘supplement[ing] his fellowship by supervising undergraduates in next-door Trinity Hall’ (Hodges, Alan Turing, p.5). Their paths quite possibly crossed, although John Polanyi, who knew them both, states that McLuhan, ‘sadly’, never spoke of Turing.²…

9. Angels and Robots (pp. 97-106): In the mid-1970s, Marshall McLuhan proposed to revisit his foundational text, Understanding Media, in order to address the generation that had experienced the transition from visual space to acoustic space—from the space produced by print media to the space produced by electronic media. Whereas visual space was abstracting, monological and eye-bound, argued McLuhan, acoustic space was involving, dialogical and multi-sensual. What, asked McLuhan, were the implications of this massive shift? The question is no less pertinent now that the move into the electronic regime has advanced so considerably, with the spatial element having become crucial to an understanding of…

Section Five – Being Mediated

10. Marshall McLuhan’s Echo-Criticism (pp. 109-114): ‘Environment’ was the term employed by McLuhan in his elaboration of the way in which media attained epistemic status, becoming, in effect, the frame of reference for a given historical period. Although environmental groups such as Greenpeace (Dale, McLuhan’s Children) take McLuhan as their progenitor, insofar as he provided them with a paradigm for the mediatics of environmentalism, McLuhan’s ‘environment’ differed radically from theirs in that he rejected their notion of ‘nature’.¹ Media had become the new environment in his argument, and media would be the only way out, through the creation of anti-environments. The gestalt dynamic of environment and…

11. McLuhan and the Technology of Being (pp. 115-124): As the terms ‘Facebook’ and ‘YouTube’ suggest, we are increasingly experiencing our being via technologies of mediation; if Facebook implies an extension of corporeality, YouTube more complicatedly points towards an extension of our conscious self. Brian Rotman has expressed this phenomenon as a process of ‘becoming beside ourselves’, which suggests the displacement of fixed notions of being by processual notions of becoming, and the way in which these processes are taking us beyond defined notions of selfhood—from the self to the ‘selfie’. McLuhan’s media theory pertains directly to this increasingly relational sense of being emerging from the mediascape through…

12. The Tragedy of Media: Nietzsche, McLuhan, Kittler (pp. 127-148): Friedrich Kittler asserts provocatively in Gramophone Film Typewriter that Nietzsche heralds media philosophy in his statement “[o]ur writing tools are also working on our thoughts” (quoted p. 200). This reference to Nietzsche opens a significant historical and critical avenue onto media philosophy as practiced not only by Kittler but also by McLuhan, despite the fact that McLuhan’s media philosophy emerged from a rhetorical tradition that was only partly related to the philosophical tradition in which Kittler saw himself to be the mediatic heir of Nietzsche.² Yet this philosophical tradition is key to the emergence of media philosophy as a discourse…

Coda: On the 50th Anniversary of Understanding Media (pp. 149-152): The 26 chapters that comprise the second half of Understanding Media proclaim for media a cultural impact equal to that of the alphabet, while suggesting that to understand the alphabet as a medium asserts a claim to a new philosophical paradigm—amedia philosophy. The seven opening chapters of the book propose media as the trivium and quadrivium of a post-humanistic epistemology.¹ Behind the alphabetic quotient hovers the digital as a universal mode of translation. And the subtitle places mediation in complex relationship to the bios.

Published by: Amsterdam University Press   –   ISBN: 9789089649508   –   Release date: 15-10-2016   –   Edition: Hardback   –   Pages: 202   –   Series: Recursions   (Source: )

See for Richard Cavell’s biography.

richard-cavell Richard Cavell

This year’s transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture was delivered by Sarah Sharma, Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology at the University of Toronto, who focuses on the intersectional politics of time, class, gender, and race in her research. For the lecture, Sharma spoke under the title “Exit and the Extensions of Man”, which extends from her ongoing research on the male fantasy of exit as it manifests itself in a set of seemingly disparate sites: nationalist movements, robots designed to provide loving care, and the leftist refusal of work paradigm. While taking stock of this masculinist penchant for exit and paying particular attention to the «message» and extensions of our new machines, Sharma considered whether a door has opened for a feminist exit movement. In her talk, Sharma wondered who will pick up the pieces when the robots leave and there is nowhere left to go?

A video of her lecture will be posted here when it becomes available online. These photographs have been made available by transmediale in Berlin and additional photos can be viewed at .

transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture 2017: Exit & the Extensions of Man

(Click on photos for an expanded view.)


The Audience


Kristoffer Gansing introducing the Marshall McLuhan Lecture 2017


Dr. Sarah Sharma presenting the lecture: “Exit and the Extensions of Man”



Baruch Gottlieb (left) in conversation with Dr. Sarah Sharma (right)


Read about Dr. Sarah Sharma, Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology at the University of Toronto here .


Primo Conti, Profughe alla stazione (Refugees at the Station)

By Patrick Roesle

While McLuhan was the person who coined the term “global village” to characterize of our new wired world, today we often load the phrase with idyllic or utopian connotations that McLuhan did not intend. Quite the contrary. During a 1977 interview on TV Ontario’s The Education of Mike McManus (incidentally McLuhan’s final television appearance), the host asks: “Way back in the early fifties, you predicted that the world was becoming a global village. We’d have global consciousness. And I’m wondering now, do you think it’s happening?”

After getting a couple of cryptic answers from McLuhan, McManus tries to bring his guest to terra firma.

McManus: But it seems, Dr. McLuhan, that this tribal world is not friendly.

McLuhan: Oh no, tribal people, one of their main kinds of sport is butchering each other. It’s a full-time sport in tribal societies.

McManus: But I had some idea that as we got global and tribal we were going to try to——

The closer you get together, the more you like each other? There’s no evidence of that in any situation that we’ve ever heard of. When people get close together, they get more and more savage, impatient with each together….The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.

Central to McLuhan’s scheme are “tribal” and “literate” social modes. Preliterate cultures were tribal: they inhabited a sensual, dynamic, nonlinear world—the “implicit, magical world of the resonant oral word, [encountering] not efficient causes but formal causes of configurational field.” Reality was taken in through all five senses (with emphasis on oral communication), and concepts such as individualism and privacy were not merely foreign, they were inconceivable.

But then the phonetic alphabet and the printing press detribalized Western culture, imposing linear thought, a reliance on sight at the expense of the other (more interactive) senses, individualism (and its corollary, isolation), and a kind of emotional anesthetic upon “civilized” humanity—creatures “crude and numb in their perceptions, compared with the hyperesthesia of oral and auditory cultures.” Over the centuries, “tribal man” became “Western man.”

Electronic media, McLuhan argued, were having a retribalizing effect on culture. From the Playboy interview:

The electronically induced technological extensions of our central nervous systems, which I spoke of earlier, are immersing us in a world-pool of information movement and are thus enabling man to incorporate within himself the whole of mankind. The aloof and dissociated role of the literate man of the Western world is succumbing to the new, intense depth participation engendered by the electronic media and bringing us back in touch with ourselves as well as with one another. But the instant nature of electric-information movement is decentralizing——rather than enlarging——the family of man into a new state of multitudinous tribal existences. Particularly in countries where literate values are deeply institutionalized, this is a highly traumatic process, since the clash of the old segmented visual culture and the new integral electronic culture creates a crisis of identity, a vacuum of the self, which generates tremendous violence——violence that is simply an identity quest, private or corporate, social or commercial….

McLuhan was saying this twenty years before the invention of the world wide web. And he pretty much nailed it. “Western man” is metamorphosizing into “electronic man.”

When a person finds herself alone in a strange town or a new city, she will be drawn towards places that interest her, to people she finds amicable or fascinating. We do this in most any scenario. We know it practically a priori. But this tendency takes on a new social dimension once we eliminate distance as a factor.

A “community” once necessarily had to refer to a group of people living in (reasonably) close proximity to each other. Today any group of people, regardless of geographic dispersion, with a shared interest and a spot in cyberspace where they can relay and receive messages can become a community. Thus, a hundred people, with a mean distance of 250 miles between them and a mutual interest in, say, artisanal dental floss or the cartoon BraveStarr can now become the “artisanal dental floss community” and the “BraveStarr fandom.” (Fans have been around for decades. The advent of the fandom, however, was contingent upon the internet.) Read the rest of this article at .

“Identity Is Always Accompanied by Violence” — Marshall McLuhan on Globalism and Tribalism



Allen Ginsberg was one of several high-profile guests at a controversial conference on LSD held at the University of Toronto in 1967.  (DON DUTTON)  

Panelists largely supported LSD use, saying it boosted human creativity to previously-unseen levels.

“The use of these drugs, I think, has a very positive effect on writers. They are used by almost all the avant-garde,” Ginsberg said during an on-stage interview.

Even McLuhan, who attended the conference with his wife, chatted up Ginsberg and other panelists (and, according to student paper Excalibur, wore a psychedelic ‘third eye’ the whole time).

Star columnist Sidney Katz, however, bemoaned youth using it as a sort of psychological instant gratification.

“The very people who should not be taking LSD are the ones using it; people take it because they feel they are not where the action is,” Katz said.

Perception ’67, according to the Star, ended with an ear-thrashing courtesy of The Fugs—a hairy, psychedelic rock collective from New York:

“Suddenly, the whole audience of 2,000 heard the Fugs screaming words that are only an echo today—they probably won’t be heard again.” (Source: )


Marshall McLuhan in his Coach House study with a picture of Allen Ginsburg over his books

See also Timothy Leary, Marshall McLuhan & Electronic Media –

See also Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan, turned on and tuned in –

“Electric technology, by virtue of its immediate relation to our nervous system, is itself a sort of inner trip, with drugs playing the role of sub-plot or alternative mode. It may well appear a few years hence that the panic about psychedelic drugs relates less to the chemistry than to the hidden terrors which people feel in the presence of electric technology.” –Marshall McLuhan, June 1974

New Coach Hose

Monday Night Seminar

Poetry: The Still Point of the Turning World

LOCATION: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, 39A Queens Park Crescent                       East off 121 St. Joseph St., Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

Monday Night Seminar: Monday, February 13th, 6:00 – 8:00 PM 

Description: Join Toronto’s poet laureate Anne Michaels and her guests Joseph Kertes and Moez Surani for an evening of probing poetry and discourse. This evening will explore the importance of poetry: an ancient form of civic engagement which continues to speak in our rapidly changing world of digital media and data. Moderated by David Nostbakken, McLuhan Centenary Fellow.

NB: Participants are welcome to bring a favourite poem – any poem that is meaningful to them by a poet they admire – which could be read aloud and contribute to the discussion.

ANNE MICHAELS is an internationally acclaimed novelist and poet. Her books are translated and published in over forty-five countries and have won dozens of international awards, including the Orange Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, and the Lannan Award for Fiction. She has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize (twice), the Governor-General’s Award, and long-listed for the IMPAC Award (twice). Her novel FUGITIVE PIECES was adapted as a feature film. Her latest book of poetry, CORRESPONDENCES, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2014. She is Toronto’s Poet Laureate.”

JOSEPH KERTES is a critically acclaimed novelist whose most recent book, The Afterlife of Stars, has just been released in the U.S. and was chosen by the New York Times for their “10 New Books We Recommend This Week”. Kertes has received the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour as well as the Canadian Jewish Book Award and the U.S. Jewish Book Award for Fiction. He is the founder of the widely respected creative writing and comedy programs at Humber College, where he served for many years as Dean of Creative and Performing Arts. As a student at the University of Toronto, he was encouraged in his writing by Marshall McLuhan.

MOEZ SURANI has published three books of poems – Reticent Bodies, Floating Life, and Operation. His poems have appeared in The Walrus, Harper’s Magazine, and was anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry in both 2013 and 2014. He has received a Chalmers Fellowship and was awarded the Kingston Literary prize, as well as Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron Poetry Prize.



Anne Michaels


(November 5, 1894 – November 8, 1952)

Dear Innis,

Thanks for the lecture re-print. This makes an opportunity for me to mention my interest in the work you are doing in communication study in general. I think there are lines appearing in Empire and Communications, for example, which suggest the possibility of organizing an entire school of studies. Many of the ancient language theories of the Logos type which you cite for their bearings on government and society have recurred and amalgamated themselves today under the auspices of anthropology and social psychology. Working concepts of “collective consciousness” in advertising agencies have in turn given salience and practical effectiveness to these “magical” notions of language.

But it was most of all the esthetic discoveries of the symbolists since Rimbaud and Mallarmé (developed in English by Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Lewis and Yeats) which have served to recreate in contemporary consciousness an awareness of the potencies of language such as the Western world has not experienced in 1800 years..

Mallarmé saw the modern press as a magical institution born of technology. The discontinuous juxtaposition of unrelated items made necessary by the influx of news stories from every quarter of the world, created, he saw, a symbolic landscape of great power and importance. (He used the word “symbol” in the strict Greek sense sym-ballein, to pitch together, physically and musically). He saw at once that the modern press was not a rational form but a magical one so far as communication was concerned. Its very technological form was bound to be efficacious far beyond any informative purpose. Politics were becoming musical, jazzy, magical.

The same symbolist perception applied to cinema showed that the montage of images was basically a return via technology to age-old picture language. S. Eisenstein’s Film Forum and Film Technique explore the relations between modern developments in the arts and Chinese ideogram, pointing to the common basis of ideogram in modern art, science and technology.

One major discovery of the symbolists which had the greatest importance for subsequent investigation was their notion of the learning process as a labyrinth of the senses and faculties whose retracing provided the key to all arts and sciences (basis of myth of Daedalus, basic for the dreams and schemes of Francis Bacon, and, when transferred by Vico to philology and history of culture, it also forms the basis of modern historiography, archaeology, psychology and artistic procedures alike.) Retracing becomes in modern historical scholarship the technique of reconstruction. The technique which Edgar Poe first put to work in his detective stories. In the arts this discovery has had all those astonishing results which have seemed to separate the ordinary public from what it regards as esoteric magic. From the point of view of the artist however the business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertizing, or in the high arts is toward participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts. And this major revolution, intimately linked to technology, is one whose consequences have not begun to be studied although they have begun to be felt.

Read the rest at

This letter is especially memorable for its anticipation of what McLuhan in paragraph one calls “an entire school of studies”, which later became known as the Toronto School of Communication and was foundational for the nascent field of Communication Studies. He offers more detail about this future “school” in the second last paragraph, which you can read in context by following the above link. The later Toronto School turned out not to be a bricks-and-mortar place-based school, but rather a conceptual school about how to study media. Here is that second last paragraph:-

It seems obvious to me that Bloor St. is the one point in this University where one might establish a focus of the arts and sciences. And the organizing concept would naturally be “Communication Theory and practice.” A simultaneous focus of current and historic forms. Relevance to be given to selection of areas of study by dominant artistic and scientific modes of the particular period. Arts here used as providing criteria, techniques of observation, and bodies of recorded, achieved, experience. Points of departure but also return. 

The full letter with explanatory footnotes can be found in: Molinaro, M., McLuhan, C. &, Toye, W. (Eds.). (1987). Letters of Marshall   McLuhan. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 220-223.




Technology, Spirituality, Ecology

Saint Mary’s College Of California

JUNE 22-25, 2017

Responding to a large number of requests, the deadline for proposal submissions for the 18th annual convention of the Media Ecology Association (MEA) has been extended to February 28, 2017.

Saint Mary’s College of California is proud to host the 18th annual convention of the Media Ecology Association (MEA). Founded in 1863, Saint Mary’s is one of the oldest colleges in the western U.S. with the original location in San Francisco and now located on a 420-acre campus in the Moraga Valley, 20 miles east of San Francisco. The convention will be held from June 22 through 25, 2017.

Media Ecology is a wide tent whose history, perspectives and scholarly interests incorporate a broad array of academic and professional disciplines focusing on “the study of media environments and the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs” (Lance Strate, 1999). This interdisciplinary approach towards the exploration of media as environments fosters a rich discourse of investigation, and each MEA convention provides a unique opportunity for academics and professionals to come together in a relaxed, convivial and intimate environment that encourages deep conversations alongside activities that encourage friendship and fun.

The theme for the 18th annual MEA Convention is Technology, Spirituality, Ecology. This tri-part theme provides a confluence of topics that represent major global concerns in the contemporary age. This is probably best articulated in the papal encyclical from Pope Francis, Laudato Si, when he stated that “when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and a generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature” (para. 47).

With this as context, we invite paper and panel proposals that address one or more of the three core themes. Although we encourage submissions that touch upon or align with, the convention theme, papers, abstracts, and panel proposal, submissions from all areas of Media Ecology are welcome. A maximum of two submissions per author will be accepted. Authors who wish their papers to be considered for the Top Paper or Top Student Paper award must indicate this on their submission(s). The top papers will be published in Explorations in Media Ecology, the journal of the MEA. All submissions will be acknowledged. The language of the convention is English.

Please note that paper and panel proposals need not be related to the overall conference theme.

Please submit all papers, panels, and proposals to the convention coordinator, Lori Erokan at < >. 

Extended submission deadline: February 28, 2017

Questions can be sent to the Convention Chair, Ed Tywoniak at <>.

Guidelines for Submission

For manuscripts eligible for MEA award submissions:

  1. Manuscripts should be 4,000-6,000 words (approximately 15 to 25 double-spaced pages)
  2. Include a cover page (or e-submission page) with your academic or professional affiliation and other contact information.
  3. Include a 150 words abstract, with the title. Use APA, MLA or Chicago style.
  4. Papers should be written in English.

For Paper and Panel Proposals:

  1. Include title, 250 words abstract, and contact information with your proposal
  2. Outline, as relevant, how your paper or panel will fit with the convention theme
  3. Presenters should be prepared to deliver their papers in English.
  4. Authors with papers submitted as part of a panel proposal or as a paper proposal that wish to be considered for Top Paper or Top Student Paper must send completed paper to the convention planner by June 1, 2017.

Note that campus housing will be available at reasonable rates, along with a variety of off-campus lodging options. Specific information on housing, transportation, places of interest and other logistics will be available shortly on the convention website and the official MEA website.

For more on the Media Ecology Association, visit



This year’s transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture will be delivered by Sarah Sharma, Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology at the University of Toronto, who has focused on the intersectional politics of time, class, gender, and race in her research. For the lecture, Sharma will speak under the title “Exit and the Extensions of Man”, which extends from her ongoing research on the male fantasy of exit as it manifests itself in a set of seemingly disparate sites: nationalist movements, robots designed to provide loving care, and the leftist refusal of work paradigm. While taking stock of this masculinist penchant for exit and paying particular attention to the «message» and extensions of our new machines, Sharma considers whether a door has opened for a feminist exit movement. In her talk, Sharma wonders who will pick up the pieces when the robots leave and there is nowhere left to go?

Free admission   –   Please present a valid photo-ID at the door and allow sufficient time for Embassy security. Doors open 18:00 / start 18:30

The transmediale Marshall McLuhan lecture is realized in cooperation with the Embassy of Canada to Germany and its Marshall McLuhan Salon, which holds one of the most significant collections of audio-visual material by and about the Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, as well as a large number of his publications. (Source: )

sarah-sharma Dr. Sarah Sharma

“My research focuses on the relationship between technology and culture with a particular focus on social inequalities. One key strand of my research has focused on time as a site of social difference in a culture that is imagined to be technologically speeding up. I am currently at work on a new project that engages medium theory and feminist approaches to technology on such sites as     algorithmic culture, the “sharing” economy, and the changing structures of care labour”.        

Read more about Sarah Sharma here .


transmediale Marshall McLuhan Salon exhibition

Ben Bogart: «Watching (Blade Runner)»
Following the transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture by Sarah Sharma, an installation by Vancouver based artist Ben Bogart opens in the Marshall McLuhan Salon of the Embassy of Canada. The work «Watching (Blade Runner)» (2016) is the latest installment of the series “Watching and Dreaming.” Initiated in 2014, this series of works are the result of statistically oriented machine learning and computer vision algorithms attempting to understand popular cinematic depictions of Artificial Intelligence by breaking apart and reconstructing them. The machines’ understanding is manifest in their ability to recognize, and eventually predict, the structure of the films they watch. The images produced are the result of both the system’s projection of imaginary structure, and the structure of the films themselves. What is watching? What are the mechanisms that allow recognize patterns and regularity in the noise and complexity of observable reality? How do we integrate the continuous flow of information into a cohesive world-view? These are among the questions at the centre of Ben Bogart’s artistic inquiry.
Opening: 31 January 2017, 20:00
1–5 February 2017, 14:00–18:00

transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture and transmediale Marshall McLuhan Salon Exhibition is a cooperation between transmediale — festival for art and digital culture berlin and the Embassy of Canada in Berlin.