Derrick de Kerckhove

This interview was published on a CD-ROM in 1996 titled Understanding McLuhan published by The Voyager Company. I have a copy of it but have lost the ability to look at it, as it requires Windows 3.11 or 95 neither of which I have any more in this era of Windows 10. Fortunately, the enterprising Clinton Ignatov does and posted the entire interview with Derrick de Kerckhove on his website (see https://tinyurl.com/yxlbpd3s). Thank you, Clinton.

Q: What influence has McLuhan had on you? Was there a flash when you realized the importance this man would have in your life or in the work that you would do?

A: Yes, the influence of McLuhan on me, and I am saying on me, not just my work, was pretty radical. Very strong, and very continuous. And it happened in stages, deepening stages. The first time was just coming into his room for the first class and being astounded at the completely different sound I was hearing here; the completely different kind of teaching I was getting here. Teaching—I am not even sure if the word applied. I didn’t have any clue about gurus or the ’60s. I didn’t come from the ’60s and I didn’t go through the ’60s revolution like an American would. I came from Europe. And though I met McLuhan in ’68, at the time when Europe was going through a revolutionary stage “mai soixante-huit,” and all that, I wasn’t prepared for that at all. Because I was not in the fermentation period in Europe and I was not in the fermentation period in North America.

So, coming on McLuhan after having listened to Frye and to Robertson Davies and to French professors in the French department, was a radical departure. This man was a complete surprise. He was saying things which had an authority in them that carried some kind of persuasive power. And I was just very flabbergasted when I first heard him talk. I didn’t understand anything. I didn’t understand his method. All I knew was what he was talking about was worth paying attention to, and was worth working for—trying to understand what he had to say was really worthwhile. That’s what I found in my first class.

I bungled along. I was one of his worst students. I got a C- in his class. I don’t think he paid a whole lot of attention to me. Except that one day, a year after the first year. I came back for more, because I didn’t understand anything in my first year. When I came back, I was one day standing here next to this table. And he had a paper in his hand from Le MondeLe Monde Diplomatique—it was an issue. A special issue of Le Monde of Paris and there was an article of an interview of him, or something that had been translated about education. And he asked me—he had this very kind of autocratic way—he had inspirations and he would just, without considering anything else, would simply say “What if I would just follow up on my inspiration? Here is a French-speaking person who knows a bit of my work. Well let’s see if this paper is well-translated.” I mean, he could have very well had not done it, but he gave me this and said “Hey, you are—you speak French. You tell me what you think this is worth.”

So I took it. And I must tell you that at that time I was really not at all cocksure about anything. So I would say, in fear and trembling, but I took the paper, I sat down and I began to read it and I found that there was lots of stuff in it that didn’t seem to jive with what I understood. With what I was beginning to understand, because I can’t claim I understood anything, really. But I pointed out three different areas in that paper which I didn’t think were very well-translated and I said so to him.

He was sitting on that side of the table and he looked at me with genuine surprise. McLuhan never personalized his contact with anybody. Very few times do I remember when he actually noticed me as me. I was just another student. But he did look at me at that time and he said “Wow, you know my stuff!” And I said “Oh, I don’t claim that at all, you know. Can I suggest an alternative for this, this is what I am saying.”

He had a regal, another regal gesture. He turned to his collaborator on the book at that time, Barry Nevitt, and he said to Barry, “From now on de Kerckhove will be our translator.” It was like being knighted, literally. It felt like the flat of a sword was hitting my shoulders. This didn’t make me friends with his previous translator, who didn’t like it one bit. We had even a discussion about whether, you know, one should translate the spirit of the letter. The man was a letter translator and I was a spirit translator. But that actually helped a lot. Translating McLuhan was an education to McLuhan that no other way could have given me… (Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/yxlbpd3s).

Details of the content of the Understanding McLuhan CD-ROM are here: https://tinyurl.com/y52llhy2 



Click on the Image for an Expanded Readable View

The New Surrealism: Radio Art and the Poetics of Electricity

A public talk by R. Bruce Elder

As part of the 2019 – 2020 Faculty Lecture Series
October 3, 2019 at 6:30pm in IMA 307, School of Image Arts, Ryerson University, 122 Bond Street, Toronto
(Note: R. Bruce Elder will also be presenting his retirement lecture on November 14) 

Marshall McLuhan claimed that electrotechnics—the human use of electromagnetic phenomena to intervene in nature—inaugurated a new era in cultural history. It gave rise to a new conceptual regime that transformed how we think about nature, the environment, the order of the cosmos, social relations, beauty and goodness. Art itself was transformed, as it adopted electromorphic forms: artists began talking about being guided in their artmaking by energies that course through the cosmos. The poets Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, and Robert Duncan began speaking of radio and television as transmitting energies, steering minds towards good or evil. The writer Jack Spicer staked the claim that his poems were transmitted to him on radio signals from Mars, while the collage artist and filmmaker Wallace Berman produced a series of Verifax collages, centred on images of a hand holding a transistor radio and inspired by one of his favourite books, Henry Smith Williams’s Radio-mastery of the Ether. The filmmaker Stan Brakhage spoke of his desire to convey to viewers equivalents to the electrical discharges at the synapses that constitute the primal activity underlying all sensation.

The new art of the electric age sought to convey energy, events and processes, rather than the appearance of objects in space. The first—the urgent—task of the new art became that of developing new forms—often abstract forms—that could convey this new sense of reality.  Because this new art sought to convey processes, not the appearance of things, it would have to be both kinetic and active—it would have to transmit the actual energies of the cosmos/reality to us, and stir us.

 R. Bruce Elder

R. Bruce Elder’s recent book, Cubism and Futurism: Spiritual Machines and the Cinematic Effect (WLU Press, 2018), outlines the electromorphic features of Cubist and Futurist painting, poetry, collage, and film. In the lecture, he will track the development of electromorphic art into the visual and media art of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Special attention will be given to the influence the radio had on visual aesthetics.


October 25, 2019

8:30 am – 5:00 pm

University of Windsor
School of Creative Arts (SoCA)
Alan Wildeman Centre for Creative Arts
Multimedia Studio, 360 Freedom Way
Windsor, On, N9A 3A7

CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS:

Pascale Chapdelaine, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Michael Darroch, Associate Dean, School of Creative Arts, University of Windsor
Vincent Manzerolle, Assistant Professor, Communication, Media & Film, University of Windsor
Philip Morais, JD candidate 2021, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor


SYNOPSIS

This conference brings together scholars from various disciplines including but not limited to law, communication, media, the arts, geography studies, and political science, to reflect on the challenges posed by the regulation of digital media platforms as liminal spaces that undermine clear distinctions between public and private. Topics include social media, big data, and smart cities, personal data sovereignty, algorithmic discrimination, cybersecurity, freedom of expression, and ubiquitous state and corporate surveillance. To address these disparate topics, our conference asks participants to address how the work of Marshall McLuhan on media and space —physical, virtual, public, private, borders, boundaries, environments and anti-environment— may be a point of departure and/or arrival to inform current and future regulatory/legal frameworks addressing digital media? What approaches to media and space help explain contradictions between contemporary globalization (of economies, cultures, technologies) and reassertion of national sovereignty and border controls? What is the relationship between changing media ecosystems and legal systems? Does Canada afford a unique geopolitical vantage point to explore these issues?


AGENDA

8:30-9:00 am – Registration and Breakfast

9:00 am – Opening Remarks

Dr. Christopher Waters, Dean, Windsor Law
Dr. Vincent Georgie, Director, School of Creative Arts
Dr. Pascale Chapdelaine, Associate Professor, Windsor Law

9:15-10:45 am – Panel 1: Keynote Speakers- McLuhan in Space, Local and Global

Andrew McLuhan, Director, The McLuhan Institute, “Snake Oil + Silicon, Big Pharma + Big Tech: human trials and innovation, a modest case for regulation.”

Dr. Elaine Kahn, Author, “Resonate Space: McLuhan and Trudeau, the global village and Canada.”   

Michael Darroch, Associate Professor, SOCA & Associate Dean, Partnership Development & Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Windsor, “Border Environments:  Theorising Media and Culture in the Windsor-Detroit Borderlands, 1943-1946.”

10:45- 11:00 am – Break

11:00 am-12:30 pm – Panel 2: Law Without Walls

Dr. Jeffrey Meyers, Lecturer, Thomson Rivers University, Faculty of Law, “Without Walls: A Possible History of the Present.

Dr. Tetyana (Tanya) Krupiy, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tilburg University, “Social Injustices in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Use of Artificial Intelligence Decision-Making Processes as an Act of Social Engineering.”

Matthew Marinett, SJD Candidate, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, “Comity’s Double Edge: Reciprocity and Cooperation in Global Internet Takedown Orders.”

12:30-1:45 pm – Lunch

Keynote speaker, David GoodisAssistant Commissioner (Policy & Corporate Services) Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, “’Womb to Tomb’ Surveillance Concerns with Smart Cities.” 

1:45-3:20 pm – Panel 3: Understanding Media Ecology Spaces

Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers, Dept. Chair, University of Winnipeg, ESP: What if McLuhan was . . . . ?–The Human Computer Interface and Language Transformations.”

Andrey Miroshnichenko, PhD Candidate, York University, “The Question of Zuckerberg’s Guilt: Instrumental vs. Environmental Views of Media.”

Adam Pugen, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto, Faculty of Information, “From the Electric Tribe to the Digital Polis: Exploding the ‘Doctrine of Logos’ Online.”

Dr. Robert Logan, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, “McLuhan’s General Theory of Media (GTOM) and the Role of Reversals: Figure/Ground; Concept/Percept; Cause/Effect and Visual/Acoustic Space.”

3:20-3:35 pm – Break

3:35-4:50 pm – Panel 4: Postmodern Picnic in Space

Vincent Manzerolle, Assistant Professor, Communication, Media & Film, University of Windsor. “Cloudy Streams: Grounding the Environment in Digital Media Infrastructure.”

Dr. Nathan Rambukkana, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, Wilfred Laurier University, “Towards Platform Archaeology.”

Gemma Richardson,  Professor, Humber College, “Blurring Boundaries: Viewing Context Collapse and Surveillance Capitalism on Social Media through the Work of McLuhan.”

4:50-5:00 pm – Concluding Remarks

5:00 pm – Conference Ends

Event Location: University of Windsor, School of Creative Arts (SoCA), Alan Wildeman Centre for Creative Arts, Multimedia Studio, 360 Freedom Way, Windsor, Ontario, N9A 3A7

School of Creative Arts

Prose Percepts, Lyric Responses by B.W. Powe, in collaboration with Marshall Soules, on NEW MEDIA, EMPATHY, IDENTITY, REFUGEES, NATIONALISM, THE DONALD TRUMP PHENOMENON, JUSTIN TRUDEAU, A-LITERACY, THE WILD INTERNET, PARANOIA, POETRY AND INTIMACY, BOB DYLAN, PATTI SMITH…

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)

Join us at the Book Launch for B.W. Powe’s new book, “The Charge in the Global Membrane” at York University

Date & Time: Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 4 to 6 PM
Location: The York University Bookstore, York Lanes, Keele Campus, North York
(which is close by the York University TTC Station).

If you’re unfamiliar with the Keele Campus of York University, you can download and print a campus map from here http://acmaps.info.yorku.ca/campus-maps/  
York Lanes is clearly indicated just steps from the York TTC Station. It takes approximately half an hour to travel from the St. George TTC Station to the York University Station.

Enthusiastic Reviews for The Charge…

“The Charge in the Global Membrane is an original, mind-stimulating, heart-expanding book and a work of great hybridity. It’s a book of epigraphs (Emily Dickinson contributes two), poems, prayers, mini-biographies (on David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen), a handwritten diary, a long letter to the Net generation (Net-gens), mini-essays, memos, proclamations, manifestoes, quotations, questions. A presence ever-powerful and lucid throughout Powe’s pages is the philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, an indispensable Elder of the Tribe”… – By J.S. Porter in Hamilton Arts & Letters
(Read the full review at https://tinyurl.com/y5yb3wvz)

“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. There are no chapters, no sections, not even page numbers. No preface. No footnotes. No index. One page flows into the next in a non-stop flow of ideas, words, insights, and images. The book itself is a highly charged global membrane.
As the book comes to a close, Powe pens a poignant letter to the Net Gens, the digital natives describing their challenges and what digital media are doing to their brains and their spirits. He offers them his advice for what it is worth”… –
By Robert K. Logan
(Read the full review at https://tinyurl.com/y5cjudsq)


The street art illustrations were selected by Marshall Soules from his collection

Canadian embassy’s political & public affairs counselor Warren Mucci with Patricia Evangelista

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rappler multimedia journalist Patricia Evangelista was named Marshall McLuhan Fellow on Thursday, August 29.

The Marshall McLuhan Award is presented annually by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines to a Filipino journalist who has exhibited excellent work in the preceding year.

Evangelista was lauded by the Canadian embassy for producing “the most difficult and even the most unpopular stories.”

In her Impunity Series, Evangelista unveiled how drug suspects were summarily executed by vigilantes, which, in some cases, were identified by the families of the victims as cops. Her investigation continued with the Murder in Manila series, where she found strong indications that the killings of drug suspects were outsourced by local police to vigilantes.

The award was presented during the 2019 Jaime V. Ongpin Journalism Seminar (JVOJS), which gathered 7 journalists “chosen on the basis of the quality of their reports in print, television and online.”

In presenting the award, Warren Mucci, the Canadian embassy’s political and public affairs counsellor, cited Evangelista’s professional qualities: “an inspiring motivation to communicate the issues of the day, an admirable creativity in adapting to the evolving platforms of the industry, and the indomitable courage to write and produce the most difficult and even the most unpopular stories.

He also lauded Ms. Evangelista’s “passion for the craft (that) transcends various media platforms, and whose skillful proficiency brings the voices of some of the most marginalized to the mainstream.

Broadcast journalist Christian Esguerra received the award of distinction from CMFR.

Esguerra earned praise for his explanatory journalism as a writer for ABS-CBN online and as the host of ABS-CBN News Channel’s Early Edition.

During the panel discussion, the journalists lamented the deterioration of press freedom and discourse under the Duterte administration, notably how it had restricted the access of critical journalists and how it had become submissive to China in its claim over the West Philippine Sea.

The journalists also noted attacks against journalists, both online and offline, as threats to press freedom.

The Marshall McLuhan Fellowship was first awarded in 1997. Twenty-one journalists have been named as fellows, including Sheila S. Coronel (Columbia Journalism School and Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism), Yvonne T. Chua (VERA Files), Ed Lingao (TV5), Carolyn O. Arguillas (MindaNews), Cheche Lazaro (ProbeTV), and Rappler editors Glenda M. Gloria and Miriam Grace A. Go.  (Source: https://tinyurl.com/y37mrevt)

 


I meant to bring this book to your attention last year, but for various reasons that intention failed to be realized … until now. It is written by my friend and colleague, Norm Friesen, a Canadian who teaches Educational Technology at Boise State University. There are plenty of McLuhan and Postman references in the book, as well as Dewey, Illich, , Eisenstein, Dewey, Vygotsky, as well as other education and media thinkers…….AlexK
**********

Why are the fundamentals of education apparently so little changed in our era of digital technology? Is their obstinate persistence evidence of resilience or obsolescence? Such questions can best be answered not by imagining an uncertain high-tech future, but by examining a well-documented past—a history of instruction and media that extends from Gilgamesh to Google. Norm Friesen looks to the combination and reconfiguration of oral, textual, and more recent media forms to understand the longevity of so many educational arrangements and practices.

Friesen examines the interrelationship of reading, writing, and pedagogy in the case of the lecture and the textbook—from their premodern to their postmodern incarnations. Over hundreds of years, these two forms have integrated textual, oral, and (more recently) digital media and connected them with changing pedagogical and cultural priorities. The Textbook and the Lecture opens new possibilities for understanding not only mediated pedagogical practices and their reform but also gradual changes in our conceptions of the knowing subject and of knowledge itself.

Drawing on wide-ranging scholarship in fields as diverse as media ecology and German-language media studies, Foucauldian historiography, and even archaeological research, The Textbook and the Lecture is a fascinating investigation of educational media. (Source: John Hopkins University Press: https://tinyurl.com/y54ol2yw)

See this review from the London School of Economics Review:-

“Friesen’s review of more than 4000 years of educational continuity is meant to reframe current accusations of ‘inertia’ in education. Critics of educational traditionalism are usually the proponents of novel methods and technologies that should bring education up to our current needs. But can we explain this educational continuity over thousands of years by calling it inertia? Could humanity have been so foolish as to maintain useless forms of education while it changed everything, from religion to political systems and social structures?

By using insights from neurology, Friesen proposes the hypothesis that the practices of reading and writing demand a rewiring of neurons in the brain. The commitment to the same educational forms for millennia has not been a commitment to tradition or to fixed values. Culturally speaking, reading and writing have served remarkably different purposes throughout history: for the small scribal class of ancient Sumer, reading and writing was related to book-keeping, advancing commerce and the first markets. Nowadays, reading and writing fulfil multiple purposes, keeping alive a culture and a form of life, cultivating imaginations and allowing for critical thinking. Yet pupils today learn to read and write with methods remarkably similar to those in ancient Sumer: repetitive exercises, dictations, rote memorisation, artificial problems and examples. Thus, the reformist demand to drop a certain medium from educational practices will understandably be met with scepticism… Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/y6ffwmuy 

About the Author:

Dr. Friesen has been developing and studying Web technologies in educational contexts since 1995, and is the author of several editions of guidebooks on the effective use of online instructional software and the implementation of technical standards for educational resources. Dr. Friesen is also the author of Re-Thinking E-Learning Research: Foundations, Methods and Practices (2009), and The Place of the Classroom and the Space of the Screen: Relational Pedagogy and Internet Technology (2011). His articles have appeared in AERA’s Educational Research, the British Journal of Educational Technology, the Journal of Curriculum Studies as well as C-Theory…


Eric McLuhan in Columbia

This is the recording of Eric McLuhan’s last speech, delivered May 17th 2018, the night before he died. The speech was delivered at El Nogal, Bogotá, Colombia, on the occasion of the launch of La Universidad de la Sabana’s doctoral program in Communication and Media studies.

‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century.’ ©Eric McLuhan

We are grateful to the Universidad de la Sabana for making this recording available., for their assistance during a very difficult time, and for supporting and honouring Eric McLuhan’s work.

Andrew McLuhan, The McLuhan Institute

The Context of Eric McLuhan’s Last Lecture (Click on image for expanded view)

It’s a book,
No – it’s a poem,
No – it’s a diary,
No – it’s an art book
No – it’s a searing analysis of today’s politics,
No – it’s an indictment of the misuse of digital media seen through the lens of media ecology,
No – it’s a review of poetry and song lyrics.

Actually, it is B. W.’s meditations distilled into, words, colors, and fonts along with images by Marshall Soules and a masterful job of typesetting and page layout by NeoPoiesis Press.

Here is B. W.’s description of the Membrane in his own words because only B. W.’s words could describe this totally revolutionary way of writing a book, a poem, a diary, a political analysis, a critique and a literary review all in one:

Here’s  /
a seizing of moments  /
a venturing into the vibrations  /
a poetry collage essay  /  a journal diary
a gathering of aphorisms  /
a thought experiment that’s an attempt  /
to put my finger  /
on the pulse  /
the passion
Again  /  journeying on the waves  /  cycling back  /
Into the current  /
Yes  /  I admit  /
To following my fascinations  /  my obsessions  /

The Charge in the Global Membrane places you in Marshall McLuhan’s global village located on Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere contemplating Lama Anagarika Govinda’s mystery of electricity and the way it manifests itself as life, consciousness and communication. Here B. W. muses about and meditates on the global membrane including xenophobia, the refugee crises, pilgrims both physical and digital, Trump and other authoritarian despots, cult leaders, shock jocks, trolls, hackers, the loss of privacy in the “web whorl”, the misuse and sale of our data, the disappointment of the digital environment to meet our basic needs of connection and community, information overload, fake news, our misuse of the environment, global warming, climate change, the compromise if not the loss of literacy, the loss of intimacy. He touches on many other topics ranging from the “me too” movement and the obsessions with selfies to tattoos, graffiti, yoga, headphones, smartphones, iPhones, search engines, Google, Alexa, Facebook, robots, AI, virtual reality, blogs, podcasts, never-ending upgrades and all the other trappings of the 21st Century. In vivid detail, Powe reveals the dystopia of digital-based and screen-based life, with its endless flow of banal data “signifying nothing”.

While not providing remedies and solutions for the shortcomings of our global membrane, Powe through his searing analysis of all the woes that beset us at least identifies their stark reality, which is the first step in the amelioration of those woes. He also reveals their interconnections making another important contribution.

Powe’s communications’ analysis of Trumpism and the harm it does do society is connected to his media ecology analysis of the digital environment that makes Trump’s form of authoritarianism so compelling to so many. Powe shows how Trump uses twitter and TV sound bites to mesmerize his base. Powe also analyzes the way in which print media, television, and Twitter, as well as other social media, impact political dialogue and politics itself.

Powe combines the literary criticism tradition of his mentor and professor, Northrop Frye, with the media ecology tradition of his other mentor and professor, Marshall McLuhan. He interweaves the two traditions in a fascinating analysis of our brave new world of digital media and the new literary forms of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Like McLuhan, he critiques education, classrooms and reading styles. He references an endless stream of poets and writers: Emily Brontë, Blake, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dante, Simone Weil, Emily Dickinson, Coleridge, Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, Elena Ferrante, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Carson, Marilynne Robinson, Sylvia Plath, Sam Shepard, and Allan Ginsberg.

He reflects on pop culture, rock, and Woodstock and connects the lyrics of the songwriters Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, David Bowie, and Joni Mitchell, to the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

Given Powe’s fascinating style, the reader should not expect a linear narrative. Rather B. W. creates a mosaic structure more in the style of mentor McLuhan rather than that of mentor Frye. But, I would suggest that B. W.’s writing style while somewhat similar to that of McLuhan’s that in a certain sense it is post-McLuhan in the way so many different streams of thought are juxtaposed challenging the reader to see the connections that animate B. W.’s vision of today’s digitalized reality. There is another major difference in the writing styles of McLuhan and Powe which is the beauty in the way B. W. expresses himself in a text that is highly poetic. As I said at the beginning of this review: “No – it’s a poem.”

Powe jumps from one theme to another often tracking back to a former topic and then pushing on in a never-ending flow of ideas moving forward again in a spiral whorl and whirling spiral of reflections and observations. By juxtaposing different currents of contemporary culture new insights emerge.

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. There are no chapters, no sections, not even page numbers. No preface. No footnotes. No index. One page flows into the next in a non-stop flow of ideas, words, insights, and images. The book itself is a highly charged global membrane.

As the book comes to a close, Powe pens a poignant letter to the Net Gens, the digital natives describing their challenges and what digital media are doing to their brains and their spirits. He offers them his advice for what it is worth.

Powe then closes with his hopes for the future setting a religious tone that runs throughout the Membrane. His diary entries, for example, correspond to various religious festivals and special days of the calendar with a spiritual dimension to them: Ash Wednesday, International Women’s Day, Daylight Savings, the clocks change, The First Day of Spring, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, a day of rest for some cultures, Easter Monday, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Ramadan, World Environment Day. Then there are the references to the sacred books, Genesis, Book of Proverbs, Book of Job, Isaiah, and the Kabbalah.

Maintaining this focus on things spiritual he writes as the Membrane comes to a close:

When cries and moans become prayers and calls for grace… “Greetings
/ Blessings / I hope / for / the approach of hope / sparks / for / sparks/ of
hope / hope/”

And I close my review with my hope – hope you too enjoy B. W. Powe’s The Charge in the Global Membrane. It is well worth the read and the ensuing reflections that are sure to follow.

And I must say I have never written a review like this one because I never read a book like this one either.


The title of this posting is Marshall McLuhan’s title for his Introduction to Wilson Bryan Key’s “Sublimination Seduction: Ad Media’s Manipulation of a Not So Innocent America” (1973). It is in this essay that you will find such well-known McLuhan quotes as “Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance”

Here is the full-text of McLuhan’s essay which you can download as a PDF from the link at the bottom.

Media Ad-vice: An Introduction
by Marshall McLuhan,
Director, Centre for Culture and Technology University of Toronto

Customer in antique shop: “What’s new?”

Professor Key has helped to show how the deceits of subliminal advertising can be a means of revealing unexpected truth: the childlike faith of the ad agencies in four-letter words points to our obsession with infantile bathroom images as the chemical bond between commercial society and the universal archetypes.

The old journalism had aimed at objectivity by giving “both sides at once,” as it were, the pro and con, the light and shade in full perspective. The “new journalism,” on the other hand, eagerly seeks subjectivity and involvement in a resonant environment of events: Norman Mailer at the Chicago Convention, or Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood.

In the same way, the old history—as Michael Foucault explains in The Archeology of Knowledge (Pantheon Books, New York, 1972)–sought to show “how a single pattern is formed and preserved, how for so many different successive minds there is a single horizon.” But now the problem of the “new history” is “no longer one of tradition, of tracing a line, but one of division, of limits. It is no longer one of lasting foundations, but one of transformations that serve as new foundations….”

The study of advertising as contemporary cultural history, of history on the hop and in the hopper, of history as process rather than as a product, such is the investigation of Pro¬fessor Key. Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance. But environments as such have a way of being inaccessible to inspection. Environments by reason of their total character are mostly subliminal to ordinary experience. Indeed, the amount of any situation, private or social, verbal or geographic, that can be raised and held to the conscious level of attention is almost insignificant. Yet ads demand a lot of attention in our environmental lives. Ads are focal points for the entire range of twentieth-century knowledge, skills, and technologies. Psychologists and anthropologists toil for the agencies. So, Professor Key has drawn our attention to the use made in many ads of the highly developed arts of camouflage.

T.S. Eliot long ago pointed out that the camouflage function of “meaning” in a poem was like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the house-dog of the mind so that the poem could do its work. Professor Key explains that the proclaimed purpose of the ad may, at one level, be just such a decoy so that the ad may do its work at another level of consciousness.

Secrets Within Banality
Today many people feel uneasy when serious attention is paid to objects and subjects that they are accustomed to classify as “trash.” They feel that the base commercial operation of ads is beneath any claim to their awareness or analysis.

Such people, on the one hand, have little heeded the lessons of history and archaeology which reveal how the midden-heaps of the ages provide the wisdom and riches of the present. And yet, on the other hand, they know how their snobbish “freeze” (or surrender) in the presence of the horrid vulgarities of commerce is exactly what is needed to render them the cooperative puppets of ad manipulation. The ad as camouflage often uses the blatant appeal to hide more subtle and powerful motivations than appear on the surface.

Shakespeare’s oft misquoted remark about “one touch of nature” that “makes the whole world kin” really concerns the eagerness of men to swallow a flattering bait. He is not suggesting that natural beauty is a social bond!”…

Read or download the entire essay at https://tinyurl.com/y5qu5r2q


Marshall McLuhan in 1926 Kelvin Technical High School yearbook

“Marshall McLuhan was born in 1911 and died in 1980. By the time of his death, he had been dismissed by respectable academicians, and he was known in the popular press as an eccentric intellectual whose day in the media spotlight had come and gone. By 1980, the transformation of human life catalyzed by television was taken for granted, and it no longer seemed interesting to ask where the electronic media were taking us. But in recent years, the explosion of new media – particularly the Web – has caused new anxieties. Or to put a more McLuhanesque spin on it, the advent of new digital media has brought the conditions of the old technologies into sharper relief, and made us suddenly conscious of our media environment. In the confusion of the digital revolution, McLuhan is relevant again”. 

– From  Wired 4.01: The Wisdom of Saint Marshall, the Holy Foolhttps://tinyurl.com/bxb59e

Timeline: Herbert Marshall McLuhan – 1911-1980

1911 born July 21st in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
1932 B.A., University of Manitoba.
1934 M.A., University of Manitoba.
1936 B.A., Cambridge University.
1936-1937 Taught at the University of Wisconsin.
1937-1944 Taught at Saint Louis Louis
1939 M.A., Cambridge University.
1939 Married Corinne Lewis of Fort Worth, Texas.
1943 Ph.D., Cambridge University.
1944-1946 Taught at Assumption College, Windsor, Ontario.
1946-1979 Taught in the English Department at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.
1951 The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man published.
1952 Full Professor.
1953-1955 Chairman of Ford Foundation Seminar on Culture and Communication.
1953-1959 Associate editor of the journal “Explorations” edited by Edmund S. Carpenter.
1959-1960 Director of Project in Understanding New-Media for National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB), and Office of Education, U.S.A.
1962 The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man
won the Governor General’s Award for Canadian Non-fiction for that year.
1963-1979 Appointment by the President of The University of Toronto to direct a new Centre for Culture and Technology (to study the psychic and social consequences of technologies and media).
1964 Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man published.
1965 Honorary degree from University of Windsor, D.Litt.
1966 Honorary degree from Assumption University, D.Litt. Outstanding lecture at the Second Annual A.V.B Geoghegan Lecture, University of Pennsylvania.
1967 – Marfleet Lectures, The University of Toronto.
– Purves Memorial Lecture, American Institute of Architects, New York.
– The Medium is The Massage with visual design by Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel, published.
– Honorary degree from The University of Manitoba, D.Litt.
– Honorary degree from Simon Fraser University, LL.D.
– Honorary degree from Grinnell University, Iowa, D.Litt.
– Recieved Honorary Award in Culture and Communications from Niagara University, New York. Molson Award for outstanding achievement in the Social Sciences.
– War and Peace in the Global Village, with visual design by Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel, published.
1968 Appointment to the Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities, Fordham University, New York.
1968 Relocated Centre for Culture and Technology to the Coach House at University of Toronto.
1969 Honorary degree from St. John Fischer College, Lit. Hum.
1970 Received the Institute of Public Relations President’s Award, Great Britain.
Appointment as a Champion of the Order of Canada.
Outstanding lectures at:
– Congressional Breakfast, Washington, D.C.
– Gillet Lecture Series, University of Western Ontario.
– Mary C. Richardson Lecture, State University College of Arts and Science, Genesco, New York.
1971 Honorary degree from The University of Alberta, LL.D. Received the Christian Culture Award, Assumption University, Windsor, Ontario Gold Medal Award from the President of the Italian Republic at Rimini, Italy, in recognition of original work as philosopher of the mass media.
1972 Honorary degree from The University of Western Ontario, D.Litt. Outstanding lecture, McAuley, St. Joseph College, West Hartford, Connecticut. President’s Cabinet Award, University of Detroit.
1973 Vatican appointment as consultor of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications.
1980 Passed away peacefully in his sleep on the last day of 1980.

From http://www.mcluhan.org/timeline.html