By Nicholas Carr   –   April 21, 2017

Nicholas Carr is the author of “Utopia Is Creepy,” “The Shallows,” and other books.  See http://www.nicholascarr.com/

WELCOME TO the global village. It’s a nasty place.

On Easter Sunday, a man in Cleveland filmed himself murdering a random 74-year-old and posted the video on Facebook. The social network took the grisly clip down within two or three hours, but not before users shared it on other websites — where people around the world can still view it.

Surely incidents like this aren’t what Mark Zuckerberg had in mind. In 2012, as his company was preparing to go public, the Facebook founder wrote an earnest letter to would-be shareholders explaining that his company was more than just a business. It was pursuing a “social mission” to make the world a better place by encouraging self-expression and conversation. “People sharing more,” the young entrepreneur wrote, “creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others.”

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg penned another public letter, expressing even grander ambitions. Facebook, he announced, is expanding its mission from “connecting friends and family” to building “a global community that works for everyone.” The ultimate goal is to turn the already vast social network into a sort of supranational state “spanning cultures, nations and regions.”

But the murder in Cleveland, and any similar incidents that inevitably follow, reveal the hollowness of Silicon Valley’s promise that digital networks would bring us together in a more harmonious world.

Whether he knows it or not, Zuckerberg is part of a long tradition in Western thought. Ever since the building of the telegraph system in the 19th century, people have believed that advances in communication technology would promote social harmony. The more we learned about each other, the more we would recognize that we’re all one. In an 1899 article celebrating the laying of transatlantic Western Union cables, a New York Times columnist expressed the popular assumption well: “Nothing so fosters and promotes a mutual understanding and a community of sentiment and interests as cheap, speedy, and convenient communication.”

The great networks of the 20th century — radio, telephone, TV — reinforced this sunny notion. Spanning borders and erasing distances, they shrank the planet. Guglielmo Marconi declared in 1912 that his invention of radio would “make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.” AT&T’s top engineer, J.J. Carty, predicted in a 1923 interview that the telephone system would “join all the peoples of the earth in one brotherhood.” In his 1962 book “The Gutenberg Galaxy,” the media theorist Marshall McLuhan gave us the memorable term “global village” to describe the world’s “new electronic interdependence.” Most people took the phrase optimistically, as a prophecy of inevitable social progress. What, after all, could be nicer than a village? IF OUR assumption that communication brings people together were true, we should today be seeing a planetary outbreak of peace, love, and understanding. Thanks to the Internet and cellular networks, humanity is more connected than ever. Of the world’s 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to a mobile phone — a billion and a half more, the United Nations reports, than have access to a working toilet. Nearly 2 billion are on Facebook, more than a billion upload and download YouTube videos, and billions more converse through messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. With smartphone in hand, everyone becomes a media hub, transmitting and receiving ceaselessly.

Yet we live in a fractious time, defined not by concord but by conflict. Xenophobia is on the rise. Political and social fissures are widening. From the White House down, public discourse is characterized by vitriol and insult. We probably shouldn’t be surprised.

For years now, psychological and sociological studies have been casting doubt on the idea that communication dissolves differences. The research suggests that the opposite is true: free-flowing information makes personal and cultural differences more salient, turning people against one another instead of bringing them together. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is one of the gloomiest of proverbs. It is also, the evidence indicates, one of the truest.

In a series of experiments reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, Harvard psychologist Michael Norton and two colleagues found that, contrary to our instincts, the more we learn about someone else, the more we tend to dislike that person. “Although people believe that knowing leads to liking,” the researchers wrote, “knowing more means liking less.” Worse yet, they found evidence of “dissimilarity cascades.” As we get additional information about others, we place greater stress on the ways those people differ from us than on the ways they resemble us, and this inclination to emphasize dissimilarities over similarities strengthens as the amount of information accumulates. On average, we like strangers best when we know the least about them.

An earlier study, published in 1976, revealed a similar pattern in communities. Three professors from the University of California at San Diego studied a condominium development near Los Angeles, charting relationships among neighbors. They discovered that as people live more closely together, the likelihood that they’ll become friends goes up, but the likelihood that they’ll become enemies goes up even more. The scholars traced the phenomenon to what they called “environmental spoiling.” The nearer we get to others, the harder it becomes to avoid evidence of their irritating habits. Proximity makes differences stand out.

The effect intensifies in the virtual world, where everyone is in everyone else’s business. Social networks like Facebook and messaging apps like Snapchat encourage constant self-disclosure. Because status is measured quantitatively online, in numbers of followers, friends, and likes, people are rewarded for broadcasting endless details about their lives and thoughts through messages and photographs. To shut up, even briefly, is to disappear. One study found that people share four times as much information about themselves when they converse through computers as when they talk in person.

BEING EXPOSED to this superabundance of personal information can create an oppressive sense of “digital crowding,” a group of British scholars wrote in a 2011 paper, and that in turn can breed stress and provoke antisocial reactions. “With the advent of social media,” they concluded, “it is inevitable that we will end up knowing more about people, and also more likely that we end up disliking them because of it.”

If social media brings out the misanthrope in us, it can also unleash darker impulses. In a 2014 article in Personality and Individual Differences, three Canadian psychologists reported on research that found that people with sadistic tendencies tend to be among the most active commenters in online forums. Like other sadists, so-called trolls are motivated by the anticipation of pleasure, the study revealed; they take joy in inflicting psychic pain on others. Although it’s not clear whether the Internet breeds cruelty or just encourages it, the findings “add to accumulating evidence linking excessive technology use to antisociality,” the researchers wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun . . . and the Internet is their playground!”

Despite his occasional utopian rhetoric, Marshall McLuhan himself harbored few illusions about life in a global village. He saw villages as inherently tribal, marked by mistrust and friction and prone to viciousness and violence. “When people get close together, they get more and more savage and impatient with each other,” he said in a 1977 television interview. “The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.” That’s a pretty good description of where we find ourselves today.

Still, the yearning to see communications technology as a remedy for social ills remains strong, as Zuckerberg’s February missive underscores. Despite Facebook’s well-publicized recent struggle to control hate speech, propaganda, and fake news, Zuckerberg seems more confident than ever that a “global community” can be constructed out of software. The centerpiece of his new project is a computerized “social infrastructure” that will use artificial-intelligence routines to manage information flows in a way that makes everyone happy. The system will promote universal self-expression while at the same time shielding individuals from “objectionable content.”

The problem with such geeky grandiosity goes beyond its denial of human nature. It reinforces the idea, long prevalent in American culture, that technological progress is sufficient to ensure social progress. If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It’s a pleasant thought, but it’s a fantasy. Progress toward a more amicable world will require not technological magic but concrete, painstaking, and altogether human measures: negotiation and compromise, a renewed emphasis on civics and reasoned debate, a citizenry able to appreciate contrary perspectives. At a personal level, we may need less self-expression and more self-examination.

Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst.

What it doesn’t do is make us better people. That’s a job we can’t offload on machines. Source: https://goo.gl/A7VX5i

See also – The “Global Village” is Never Harmonious, According to Marshall McLuhanhttps://goo.gl/x9NcMk


Marshall McLuhan’s influence has reverberated through all of the arts, but especially visual arts, literature and music to some degree. The following is an academic article analyzing the staging of the Multi-media Alt-Rock Opera  The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, Music by Baffin Island Party, Script by Michael Charrois, first staged April 27, 2000 in Edmonton, Alberta. The video of one of the performances follows immediately below:-

Robin C. Whittaker, University of Ottawa
Abstract

Creatively commingling the life and theories of Canadian media icon Marshall McLuhan may yield robust material for negotiating and staging postmodern performance. This article considers certain of McLuhan’s theories that have parallels to influential postmodern theoretical constructions and the ways in which these parallels are ripe for performance. It considers the uneasy relationship between dramaturgies and dialectics, and deals with frequent criticisms leveled at postmodern thought, including a hectic rejoicing over consumerism, a cacophony of signs, and the dangers of incorporating into performance the mixed-media environments inherent to McLuhanism and postmodernism alike. Finally, the article considers the potential for mixed-media performance to engage with social objectives linked to producing alternative theatre. But it begins and ends by asking the question: Do artists who attempt to stage theory risk allowing the theory to distract from and overwhelm the performance? In order to probe these effects, the sprawling Edmonton science-fiction “Alt-Rock Opera,” The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, is offered as a case study.

Just two paragraphs of the essay are reproduced below, specifically the 3rd and 5th. Read the full article at https://goo.gl/R6qWts .

3 It is the intention of this paper to “probe” the display of inherent theatrical elements behind the theories of Canada’s eminent media icon, Marshall McLuhan, with special attention to post-modern and mixed-media production aesthetics.4 Michael Charrois and The Baffin Island Party Band’s”Alt-Rock Opera,”The Illumination of Marshall McLuhan, provides a test case for the display of theory and performance. It is my contention that in drawing from relations between McLuhan’s theories and theories of postmodernism as they relate to issues of “human performance” and “mediatized performance,” an improved understanding will arise with respect to how postmodern theatre presences (and absences) its own conceptions, performances and receptions; that is, how postmodern theatre displays. By way of conclusion, co-op and “low budget” mixed-media performance in the postmodern context are considered as potential forms of material protest against the theatre”establishment.” Illumination serves as a particularly apt test case for exploring “McLuhan” in performance because it represents him biographically and through his theories, both in the play’s dramaturgical structure and in the production’s mise en scène.

Character: “McLuhan” and His Potential for and in Postmodern Performance5

5 McLuhan’s work had, for some time, fallen off the map of “legitimate” scholarship. During much of the 1970s and even into the 1980s, many scholars shunned McLuhan’s writing as trivial, misguided and worse.6 But as poststructuralist criticism gained greater prominence, some scholars began to see McLuhan—in the rear-view mirror—as one who, as Glenn Willmott vigorously attests,“provides a precedent” to the “more performative, subjective, and textual-poetic critical practices”of postmodern scholarship, with his “ongoing critique of abstraction or generalization from particularity” (xii). In situating McLuhan as (the) one who is “valuable to critical ideology today as an unprecedented and unrepeated experiment—a self-experiment—in the postmodern powers of criticism, and the search for a historically adequate form or medium for those powers” (xv), Willmott argues that McLuhan was not only a pre-postmodern critic, but in fact was the postmodern experiment personified. Theory was more than an abstract structuring principle in his life: theory was embodied in the lived life of the man himself.


He was the original Mansplainer, one who believed his insights had “well, a great deal of validity.”

The unnamed blowhard in 1977’s Annie Hall prattles on so endlessly about director Federico Fellini and media philosopher Marshall McLuhan that Woody Allen can barely focus on his own squabble with Diane Keaton.

Eventually the loudmouth chases Allen’s narrator through the fourth wall to join him in addressing the audience, only to up face to face with the real McLuhan, who demolishes him with a snorted: “You know nothing of my work.”

Now, the “Man in Theater Line” gets to tell his side of the story, and he reveals that one of the most perfect scenes in movie history was a disaster to shoot. 

Meet Russell Horton

“Part of the reason the scene works is because I am such an a–hole and I actually believe what I’m doing, you know?” says Russell Horton, now 75, a lifelong character actor who is actually nothing like his insufferable Annie Hall character.

He’s boisterous for sure, but also fun and sweet — a laid-back grandfather of four kids, one a newborn less than a month old. The other three call him “GrandDude.”

Horton is married to actress Diana Kirkwood and has two daughters. “The older one is a good-guy lawyer at legal aid, who helps abused children,” he says. “And I’ve got a younger daughter who’s in the acting business named Olivia Horton. She had a really nice part as a possessed girl in a movie called Deliver Us from Evil.”

Watching Annie Hall is a right of passage for any movie fan as they grow up, but anyone who was a kid over the past three decades also knows him from another major role.

“You probably grew up with me,” says Horton, who has voiced the Trix Rabbit in breakfast cereal commercials for 35 years. “Trix are for kids…,” he says wistfully. “That’s a gig that put my kids through college, I’ll tell you.”

Back in the 1970s, when Allen’s casting director, Juliet Taylor, selected Horton as the Man in the Theater Line, he was in his mid-30s and a Los Angeles transplant to New York City. “I’m your basic workaday actor. I was doing a lot of TV. I was doing Broadway shows,” he says. “You know, the big problem about being the kind of actor I am, you’re sort of stuck with the way you look, and so I’m always playing professors or nerds.”

He wasn’t sure he got the part until a strange, abrupt encounter with Allen.

“I got a call and they just said, ‘Go meet Mr. Allen,’ and they were shooting on a street in New York,” Horton recalls. “The assistant director brought him over, and he looked at me, up and down, he said, ‘Man in the movie line?’ and the AD said yes, and he walked away. I said, ‘What was that?’ The AD said, ‘Well, that was it. He just wanted to check you out.’ He apparently had great confidence in Juliet Taylor.”

That faith has never wavered – the filmmaker and Taylor are still working together, most recently on last year’s Café Society.

“Now the second thing that’s very strange about him is, at that period, I don’t know if it’s true now, but he never let anybody see the whole script,” Horton says. “I got the scene, but I had no idea where it fit in or how it related to anything that was going on. I didn’t even have the ending.”

As fond of analysis as Allen may be in real life, there was none on set. No deep discussions about the scene, no scraps of background information about the Man in Theater Line’s motivation. Instead, Allen expected the actors to just sort of grasp it intuitively. “He gives you very little direction. He just said, ‘You know what’s going on?’” Horton recalls. “I said, ‘I think so.’ And he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Horton tried to evoke a little sympathy for the Man in Theater Line (whom he named “David,” even if the script never identifies him). He felt this night out was David’s first date after a long dry spell. He’s trying hard. Too hard. And getting desperate now that his date’s eyes are rolling up like the reels on a slot machine.

‘The Medium is the, uh… Line, Please?’

The person who wasn’t trying at all: McLuhan. “I guess he didn’t take it terribly seriously because he couldn’t remember his line,” Horton says. “He had one line and he kept blowing it. It was a two-and-a-half-minute take. It was one of the longest, uncut, comedy sequences, up to that time, and Woody wanted it that way because when he pulled [McLuhan] out, he wanted it to be a total shock.”

It wasn’t an easy scene to perform. Horton’s character isn’t supposed to be aware of Alvy and Annie’s conversation as he rambles, but the actor had to be acutely aware of it, getting quieter for their lines and filling the quiet spaces with his own improvised bloviating.

“Some of the stuff I came up with on my own, like there was the word weltanschauung, you know, which means a worldview,” Horton says. “That wasn’t in the script, but they had stopped talking. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do something,’ so I said, ‘It’s a weltanschauung!”

Online versions of the script, which attempt to transcribe the dialogue, never get that line right.

It got to be demoralizing as they did a dozen takes of this complicated verbal dance, only to have it ruined at the end by an ill-prepared McLuhan. “Woody would pull him out and he’d say something like, ‘Well you’re wrong, young man.’ Or, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t know what to say.’”

Even when McLuhan finally got it right … he really didn’t. “We did like 17 or 18 takes, and if you look at it carefully in the movie, McLuhan says, ‘You mean my whole fallacy is wrong,’” Horton says, starting to laugh. “Which makes no sense. How can you have your fallacy wrong?”

They did a few more tries after that, but it never got any better.

Blame Fellini

In the late academic’s defense, he was actually the understudy for that role. Most of the Man in Theater Line’s dialogue is about the director Federico Fellini, who had agreed to play himself as the icon who emerges from nowhere to stifle this stranger’s pomposity.

When the Italian filmmaker dropped out a few days before shooting, McLuhan was recruited in a scramble. “If you look at the scene, [my dialogue] is essentially all about Fellini, and there’s only one last thing about McLuhan because they suddenly had him,” Horton says….

He is seldom recognized for his role in Annie Hall, retaining his anonymity despite being a key component in a scene known to pretty much every film fan.

The pompous and pathetic Man in Theater Line, getting his comeuppance, has endured for a simple reason.

“It’s very human,” Horton says. “There really are people like that.”

Source: https://goo.gl/daHyPP


Elisha Otis free-fall safety demonstration in 1853

Posted to the MEA listserv on March 23, 2017 by Robert Logan:-

“Here is an item that appeared in this morning’s Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada: 
‘MOMENT IN TIME

The first elevator installed

March 23, 1857: Like most entrepreneurial inventors, Elisha Otis was a bit of a showman, too. Otis had invented an automatic safety device – a wagon spring, really – to keep an elevator from falling if its cable broke. With few orders, he took his “safety hoist” to New York’s Crystal Palace in May, 1854, and rode a platform high into the air – then ordered the rope cut. As people gasped, his assistant swung an axe, the hoisting line was severed, the spring snapped into place and grabbed the rails on either side – and the platform came to a sudden stop. His first safety elevator for passengers was for a building just five storeys high, the E.V. Haughwout & Co. store in New York. But his invention would make the skyscraper possible, transforming skylines around the world. – Massimo Commanducci’   (From the Toronto Globe & Mail at https://goo.gl/8yFsjx )                   – Bob

I share it because it illustrates McLuhan’s idea of the reversal of cause and effect. The effect of the Otis safety elevator was the cause of the skyscraper”.

New York City skyscrapers, 1883

 Paul Levinson replied later the same day, March 23, 2017, with the following related observation:-

“Great example – and it’s also an example of soft determinism, or necessary conditions.  The elevator was a necessary (not sufficient) condition of the skyscraper – part of the skyscraper’s ground.  Media determinism is a soft determinism, or a determinism of necessary conditions.  (Without radio there would have been no Hitler [Understanding Media] – without Twitter, no Trump [McLuhan in an Age of Social Media].)” – Paul

Otis Elevator Passenger Car, 1850s

Marshall McLuhan discusses this reversal of cause and effect idea in Chapter 1 of Understanding Media (The Medium is the Message):-

 Such economists as Robert Theobald, W. W. Rostow, and John Kenneth Galbraith have been explaining for years how it is that “classical economics” cannot explain change or growth. And the paradox of mechanization is that although it is itself the cause of maximal growth and change, the principle of mechanization excludes the very possibility of growth or the understanding of change. For mechanization is achieved by fragmentation of any
process and by putting the fragmented parts in a series. Yet, as David Hume showed in the eighteenth century, there is no principle of causality in a mere sequence. That one thing follows another accounts for nothing. Nothing follows from following, except change. So the greatest of all reversals occurred with electricity, that ended sequence by making things instant. With instant speed the causes of things began to emerge to awareness again, as they had not done with things in sequence and in concatenation accordingly. Instead of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it suddenly seemed that a chicken was an egg’s idea for getting more eggs”. (pp. 11-12)


Tuesday, 18 April, 2017 at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

George Brown College, Waterfront Campus 

Learning Landscapes Auditorium, 51 Dockside Drive (Corus Quay E), Toronto, ON

In collaboration with Centre for Arts, Design & Information Technology at George Brown College and DigiFest.

Over the 2000s, Toronto initiated and instituted a process of cultivating itself as a creative city. This new focus gave Toronto the chance establish itself as a center for innovation, which strengthened urban cultural capital and helped promote the strategic agenda of becoming a competitor in the creative economy sector. Investment in research and creative city strategic planning, coupled with the allocation of financial and human capital resources across a variety of industries, served to encourage creativity, promote culture and competitiveness, and drive economic development. As a part of the McLuhan Salons series, this event will explore the cutting edge of Toronto as a Creative City. It will commence with moderated probative discussion within a panel of top leaders and thinkers, and will engage the audience. Operators in the field of creative industries, culture and arts are invited to join in.

Speakers: (Click on image for expanded view)

Shoshanah Goldberg-Miller, Ohio State University, author of Planning for a City of Culture. Creative Urbanism in Toronto and New York;
Joe Mihevc, Toronto City Councillor Ward 21;
Luigi Ferrara, Centre for Arts & Design Dean and Director Institute without Boundaries, George Brown College;
Shawn Micallef, Columnist and writer, author of Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness;
Geoffrey James, Toronto photo laureate, author of Toronto (with Mark Kingwell).

Moderator: Paolo Granata, McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology, University of Toronto

Click here to reserve seat: https://goo.gl/BXMtQ1

George Brown College, Waterfront Campus


The Great McLuhan- Frye Debate

An academic debate is an educational practicum requiring students to employ rhetoric, histrionic abilities and knowledge of the assigned topic to debate a given proposition or question with the goal of influencing the opinions of observers and/or the judge(s). 

This debate will answer the question: Who best – Marshall McLuhan or Northrop Frye – provides us with a strategy, or vision, for comprehending our present conditions?

The debate participants will be students in Professor B.W. Powe’s English 4004 class (Fall/Winter) at York University in north Toronto. The Fall term of the course focused on Marshall McLuhan with Northrop Frye covered in the spring term. The students have been divided into 2 teams representing Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye and have been meeting before the event to develop their case for each.

The selection of the winner (a tie is possible) will depend upon which side is the most persuasive. The judge will be Professor Paolo Granata of the University of Bologna and McLuhan Centenary Fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology.

The Proceedings will unfold as each side presents the case for their visionary, starting with the McLuhan side (already decided by a coin toss), then the Frye side, followed by rebuttals from both. After a short break, each side will summarize what it presented and its position followed again by rebuttals from both sides. After another break, there will be a summary of each position, followed by the judge’s adjudication and declaration of the winner.

Professor Powe and his students have extended an invitation to interested parties to attend. Bring your lunch if you wish, as the event will start at noon.

Date & Time: Thursday, April 6th, 2017 – 12 pm until 3 pm

Location: McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology,

39A Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C3

Course Description

This course examines and explores the point-counterpoint Canadian theoretical tradition of Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye. This is a course devoted to exploring the perceptions and thoughts, the provocative and inspiring works, of these two seminal and influential thinkers. It is also a course that explores the influence of their work on other seminal writers and artists; and how literary works reflect and evoke their imaginative and prophetic propositions.

In the first term we will be concentrating on Marshall McLuhan. Our primary text will be The Book of Probes. We will be examining his most influential and well-known aphorisms, his tetrads, and the essential explorations he made into the media realm. In McLuhan’s final works he wrote—or dictated (most of his last books were collaborations, often conducted through conversation and discussion, with colleagues)—in aphorisms, elliptical epigrams, fragments, mixed modes, all what he chose to call probes.

McLuhan was searching for laws, or codes, that operated through the effects of the electronic media. He saw electronic media as a new text of nature—a second creation. His work in these stages took on poetic density and allusiveness. Can he be understood, then, as the first great poet-theorist of media? The so-called “media guru”, however, began as a literary person, studying the Renaissance trivium and quadrivium at Cambridge, under F.R. Leavis and I.A. Richards; and continued his literary studies as a professor of Symbolist Literature in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. His first published works were essays on James Joyce, G.K. Chesterton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wyndham Lewis. How did a thinker steeped in the traditions of western literature become the avatar of the electronic cosmos, and the patron saint of the magazine called Wired? His non-systematic approaches anticipate post-modern and contemporary discourse. He denied he had a theory, calling his work “ground…and percept”.

We will examine McLuhan’s terminology and articulations, in his attempt to frame an understanding of the new circumstances that electricity and its technologies—television, radio, computers—brought to people. We will focus on his last powerful utterances and their prophetic attempts to awaken media users.

The second term is devoted to examining the works of Northrop Frye. His studies and literary publications began in the work of William Blake, in the canon-changing book, Fearful Symmetry. In that work Frye begins to approach the concept that there could be a deep underlying structure to all of literature. We will explore how spiritual knowledge burst through to him, so he argued, in his final works, beginning especially with The Great Code. Frye sought unity behind chaos, and attempted to present to his readers “a new system” of thought and awareness through a radical revision of what we mean by text. Frye thought cosmos could be comprehended through the code buried inside the metaphors of certain great works, primarily The Bible. Thus we will be concentrating on The Great Code, with examinations of his more synoptic works, The Educated Imagination and his last major essay, The Double Vision. We will also be looking at fragments from his late Notebooks. In these works the literary critic and theorist—the author of Anatomy of Criticism—enlarged his vision to encompass theology. He became a visionary contrarian—highly controversial in his understanding of The Bible, and his presentation of “counter-history” and the nature of mythic consciousness.

We will examine their conflicting rhetorical strategies: McLuhan, the wily prankster and punster, the prophet of new media and the subliminal environments of electricity; Frye, the seemingly detached scholar, whose heretical thinking and sublime visionary intentions were often masked in a careful prose.
Both must be regarded as much more than critics; they were creators of new imaginative and perceptive methodologies.

Moreover, these two Canadians knew one another, and often debated the other through their writings, sometimes expressing vehement disagreements. What were these disagreements? What are their areas of harmony? Both began as academic literary critics and ended up becoming influential beyond academia. Both were fascinated by popular culture and by extra-literary expressions. Both were visionaries, seeking the pattern behind the patterns, who shrouded their errant quests, often erratic—one in the masks of satire, and the other in the nuanced arguments of theory. McLuhan and Frye have had their periods when they were highly valued, then their periods when they were dismissed or disavowed by literary establishments. Both were obsessed with the meaning of the word, “apocalypse”. What do their visions, their provocations, their observations, their pursuits of codes and laws have to say to us now?

Note: The course will be offered again in the next academic year on Fridays, 11:30 am until 2:30 pm.

“In the double vision of a spiritual and a physical world simultaneously present, every moment we have lived through we have also died out of into another order.”
– Frye, The Double Vision

Academic Disputation

McLuhan Interview with Pierre Babin, 1977:
“The electric world, which is acoustic, intuitive, holistic…invites [us] into total immersion, and it doesn’t lean towards goals or objectives but focuses only on a certain quality of life.
Babin: Could we call this a return to mysticism?
McLuhan: I think so. Gutenberg emphasized the process of outering and Marconi marked the start of its ebb.”
– The Medium and the Light


Neil Andersen and Carol Arcus of the [Toronto-based] Association for Media Literacy are proud to have been the guest editors of the Agency issue of The Journal of Media Literacy.

We chose Agency as the issue’s theme because there is ongoing debate over how users can exercise agency within environments comprised of big data, multinational media corporations and invisible pervasive surveillance.

We were very lucky to engage the cooperation of a range of international scholars  (see the Table of Contents below) who have shared their experiences and perceptions to produce a valuable exploration of Agency in the 21st century.

[Alex Kuskis note: This issue includes my essay on Marshall McLuhan on Agency in Education & Technology Use, pp. 50 – 56]

Click JMLVo.64No.1&2 2017 to download the issue.

Source: The Association for Media Literacy http://www.aml.ca/journal-media-literacy-agency/


 

“The true masterwork of Marshall McLuhan.” —Douglas Rushkoff

Marshall McLuhan was the visionary theorist best known for coining the phrase “The medium is the message.” His work prefigures and underlies the themes of writers and artists as disparate and essential as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Neil Postman, Seth Godin, Barbara Kruger, and Douglas Rushkoff, among countless others.

Shortly before his death, together with his media scholar son Eric, McLuhan worked on a new literary/visual code–almost a cross between hieroglyphics and poetry–that he called “the tetrads.” This was the ultimate theoretical framework for analyzing any new medium, a koan-like poetics that transcends traditional means of discourse. Some of the tetrads were published, but only a few. Now Eric McLuhan has recovered all the “lost” tetrads that he and his father developed, and accompanies them here with accessible explanations of how they function.

270 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-682190-96-8 • E-book 978-1-682190-97-5

Reduced pre-shipment prices available at https://goo.gl/7bPRqe 

About the Authors

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was an internationally-renowned media theorist and perhaps the first genuinely “modern” philosopher of communications. In the 1950s, he introduced the concept of the “global village,” a vast global “technological mind” that today would be called the Internet. Using humor and scholarship, he spoke of the interconnectedness of visual and written media—and nowhere do his theories achieve a more finished level than in the tetrads, as important visually as they are syntactically.

eric mcluhan author photo

Photo © Michael McLuhan
Besides co-writing Laws of Media in 1988 and working closely for many years with his father, Dr. Eric McLuhan has been deeply involved in exploring media ecology and communications. He is the author of more than a dozen books on media, perception, and literature. His website is at ericmcluhan.com .


Monday Night Seminar

Showcasing Undergrad ICCIT Student Work

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

Monday Night Seminar: Monday, March 27th, 6:00 – 8:00 PM 

Description

This Monday Night Seminar showcases the work of undergraduate ICCIT (Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology) students taking a course (Technologies of Time and Space in Toronto) at the McLuhan Centre this semester with Professor Sarah Sharma (new Director of the McLuhan Centre). They began the course with seminal readings of McLuhan and other Toronto School theorists and have ended their semester thinking through the mediated politics of time and space in the city of Toronto! Join us on Monday, March 27th as they share their imaginative projects on the soundscapes at Yonge and Dundas Square, stampede in the Path, the gender politics of TTC ridership, gentrification at Moss Park, issues related to perspectival landscapes and vertical living, ride-sharing apps, and waste/information collection.

REGISTER NOW at https://goo.gl/NzvzFI

Read about ICCIT at University of Toronto at Mississauga here https://goo.gl/XqRIJD


In the age of Trump, McLuhan’s 50-year-old ideas seem prophetic. Here’s a primer. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a Canadian academic whose work on electronic media in the 60s has come to resonate in the digital age. This video is narrated by Alex Chow, one of the leaders of the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella movement whose mass street occupation was mobilized and reported via social media.

An Animated Guide To Marshall McLuhan And “The Medium Is The Message”

By Katharine Schwab   –   March 16, 2017

The work of Canadian philosopher and writer Marshall McLuhan is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s when McLuhan coined the phrase, “the medium is the message.” Now the animator Daniel Savage has created a simple, black-and-white animation for Al Jazeera that illuminates why this axiom resonates in 2017.

In his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan wrote about how media affects daily life. But instead of focusing on the content–today, the tweets, Facebook posts, and news articles that many of us regularly consume–he was interested in how the form of the content, that platform that delivers it to you, can impact your psychology in insidious ways.

As the Hong Kong social activist Alex Chow narrates, Savage’s animation shows a figure reading a book inside of a square, which transforms into a figure listening to a radio inside of a circle, which morphs to a figure watching television inside another square, which, finally, changes into the figure typing into a computer inside of a triangle. The shifting geometric shapes act as a visual metaphor for how each progressive type of media affects the shape of the world in which people dwell, even if they don’t realize it. “The fact that our insane president can have a hissy fit and send it to the world with the tap of a screen really says something,” Savage tells It’s Nice That.

“McLuhan wasn’t saying that content is inconsequential,” Chow says in the animation. “He was saying that when we pay too much attention to it, we ignore the power of form in shaping our experience. So, if you don’t understand the medium, you don’t fully understand the message.”

“Another strange effect of this electric environment is the total absence of secrecy,” a recording of McLuhan narrates as pixels of light bombard the human figure in the animation. “With the end of secrecy goes the end of the monopolies of knowledge. Everything happens at once. There’s no continuity, there’s not connection, there’s no follow-through. It’s just all now.” That sure sounds like Twitter on a Wednesday. (Source: https://goo.gl/ckAPgT )

Critique of the Above Article & Video: But “the medium is the message is NOT just about elevating the importance of medium or “form” relative to content. It is about the transformative effect of the entirely new environment that is created by any new medium, the entire service industry that supports a medium, which could not continue to exist without it. The medium is just the figure in a much bigger environmental ground. McLuhan explains this best in a 1974 lecture titled “Living at the Speed of Light”, delivered at the University of South Florida:

“The car has lost its place in the heart of the people. That doesn’t mean it’s going to disappear overnight. Not at all. All it means is the effects of the car are disappearing. And privacy and service environment are part of the effects. When I say the medium is the message, I’m saying that the motor car is not a medium. The medium is the highway, the factories, and the oil companies. That is the medium. In other words, the medium of the car is the effects of the car. When you pull the effects away, the meaning of the car is gone. The car as an engineering object has nothing to do with these effects. The car is a figure in a ground of services. It’s when you change the ground that you change the car. The car does not operate as the medium, but rather as one of the major effects of the medium. So ‘the medium is the message’ is not a simple remark, and I’ve always hesitated to explain it. It really means a hidden environment of services created by an innovation. And the hidden environment of services is the thing that changes people. It is the environment that changes people, not the technology.” – McLuhan, M. (1974). ‘Living at the Speed of Light’, a lecture delivered at the University of South Florida, can be found in David Staines & Stephanie McLuhan (Eds.). Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003). Boston: MIT Press, 241-2.

Another criticism is that the video equates the word “medium” with the word “form” and they are not equivalent. The Google dictionary defines form as “the visible shape or configuration of something” and medium as “an agency or means of doing something”. These are two different things entirely.