Marshall McLuhan: Advice for Universities of the Future

15Jun11

Source: Marshall McLuhan, January 21, 1967, photograph by Yousuf Karsh

Thanks to McLuhan100 and the McLuhan Legacy Network, we were able to play this clip of Marshall McLuhan from 1971 during our discussion, On the Edge of Academe at Net Change Week. It is terrific to share this with you now.

Credits:
Producers: Donald J. Gillies & Darryl Williams [deceased]; Director: Christopher Davies at the studios of Ryerson Community Television [defunct]; 1971.

‘RCTV’, Ryerson Community Televison is now defunct, but it has been re-born as “RUtv”, Ryerson University Television.

Watch this not before publically seen video at http://vimeo.com/25146678 .

The Edge of Academe

As historians recognize, the university is a conservative institution, product of a material history that is rapidly eroding beneath its feet. To focus on the “Future of the University” is to assume that the institution will survive, and to conceive the task as one of reshaping and reconfiguring it, preserving its historical legacy, and striving to effect change from within.

McLuhan would have been more radical. In his spirit, let’s set aside a priori commitment to institutional form, and imagine where intellectuals, (re)searchers, artists, practitioners and cultural activists can convene to explore the possibilities of inquiry, investigation, and debate. What would it be to recognize the far-flung forms of intense intellectual dialogues—from edgy seminars to off-beat journals to intense conversations in coffee-houses and parks? How can we exploit our familiarity with digital media and harness the technologies of change to unleash a vibrant future for profound, discontinuous, soul-redefining encounters?

More concretely: McLuhan’s celebrated Coach House existed on the boundary of the university—physically, intellectually, organizationally. How can we renew the space on the edge—and explore the boundaries where monoliths fracture and fusion happens? How can we increase the seepage between our transformed public and private spaces? How can we intensify the points of contact among digitally-assembled learning communities?

In true McLuhanesque fashion, The Edge of Academe invites you to look askance so as to penetrate the cracks of change, and imagine a future worth fighting for.

To learn more about the program of events on The Edge of Academe mounted by the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, join us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @McLuhan100.

While Peppino Ortoleva couldn’t join the discussion in person, he contributed these thoughts via video: http://vimeo.com/25076932 .

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