The McLuhan Project – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)


Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has put up a terrific McLuhan Centenary website focusing on videos of his TV appearances when he visited Australia in 1977 at: .

Welcome to the McLuhan Project

Words by McKenzie Wark, RN McLuhan thinker-in-residence.

This July 21 marks the 100th birthday of the late Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan caused a sensation in the ’60s with his provocative aphorisms on media and spawned a whole school of thought on the study of media forms. “The medium is the message,” as he famously put it.

While McLuhan himself has been consigned to the box marked “those crazy ’60s people,” the questions he probed remain with us. How do media come together into a seamless environment? How does immersion in this environment affect the ways we perceive, think and feel? How does a given media form (radio, for example) shape the kind of social life we can lead? Our political institutions? Our relation to the past?

McLuhan’s birthday is a great opportunity to think about these questions from a contemporary perspective, but also to revisit McLuhan himself. He turns out to be not quite the crazy ’60s guy he remains in popular imagination. He turns out to be a whole lot more interesting.

Read the McLuhan Project schedule to see when feature programming is broadcasting on ABC Radio National.

Video from the ABC Archives

Marshall McLuhan

You must go to the ABC website to view all videos:

In June 1977 Marshall McLuhan visited Australia and was a guest on Monday Conference, a live ABC television show hosted by the unflappable Robert Moore. The ABC has recently unearthed this footage, which remained in the archives for 34 years . As you’ll see, many of the ideas debated are just as relevant and contentious today.
Watch the whole interview and other exclusive footage

Timeline Editor

ABC Pool Project

To get involved with the McLuhan project, ABC Pool, a creative, collaborative platform for creating and sharing media, has hunted down some rare never-before-released ABC Archival footage of Marshall McLuhan from his 1977 visit to Australia, and has published it under a Creative Commons license, ready for your eyes! You can find out a bit about McLuhan in this special video released as the McLuhan celebrations kick off on ABC Radio – and what’s more is that the video is available for download and remix!

ABC Pool is also hosting the Modern McLuhan project, centring around McLuhan’s visionary ideas, and they want you to contribute! Watch the video and see what you think. Is McLuhan still as visionary as he was 30 years ago? Get involved in the project.

Radio National McLuhan Project programming

The Science Show
12pm Saturday 16 July

Repeated 7pm Monday 18 July

James Gleick has been described as one of the best science writers ever and his latest work The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood is no exception. In it he looks to Marshall McLuhan and his 1962 description of the electric age as one of transition and transformation to understand the mixed blessings of advances in information technology.

The Philosopher’s Zone
1.30pm Saturday 16 July

Repeated 1.30pm Monday 18 July

Since the 1960s, McLuhan famously avoided taking what he called a ‘moralistic’ stance on the goodness or badness of electric media. But close readers of his major writings are in for a surprise. What emerges is distinctively conservative: tribalistic, stringently moralistic and opposed to the liberal, modernist, individualist age of modernity. This week, The Philosopher’s Zone investigates McLuhan the right-wing moralist.

7am Sunday 17 July

Repeated 7pm Wednesday 20 July

As an ardent Catholic, how did his religion influence Marshall McLuhan’s ideas? A debate is underway between those who say McLuhan’s Catholicism was irrelevant to his insights about the role of the media in our lives, and those who say its values are implicit in his work. Margaret Coffey investigates in ‘Marshall McLuhan, man of faith’.

2pm Sunday 17 July

Repeated 1pm Thursday 18 July

This Hindsight program, ‘Marshall McLuhan, what are you doin’?’, by Catherine Gough-Brady explores Marshall McLuhan’s life and ideas through the eyes of his groovy son, Eric, his cool biographer, Terry Gordon, and hip fellow Canadian philosopher, John Ralston Saul.

Big Ideas
5pm Sunday 17 July

Repeated 12am Monday 18 July

When Marshall McLuhan visited Australia in 1977, he appeared as a guest on ABC Television’s live interview program Monday Conference. One of those watching was a 16-year-old McKenzie Wark, now living in New York where he is Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The New School. As ABC Radio National’s ‘McLuhan Thinker in Residence’, he returns to that 34-year-old TV program, recently unearthed from the archives, to see if McLuhan’s message stands the test of time.

The Night Air
8.30pm Sunday 17 July

Repeated 9.30pm Friday 22 July

Marshall McLuhan was the media guru of the 20th century, pronouncing on everything from advertising as a form of folk art, to one-liner jokes and Richard Nixon’s beard. But it’s his remarkable performance mash-up of his seminal poetic work The Medium is the Massage that will enthral you. Marshall in his own words.

Late Night Live
10pm Tuesday 19 July
Repeated 4pm Wednesday 20 July

How much does technology determine human behaviour? And how are machines becoming more like us? Marshall McLuhan often stated his concern about our vulnerability in the electronic age, but was he misguided? Phillip Adams takes up the debate with two scholars with firsthand knowledge of McLuhan.

Future Tense
8.30am Thursday 21 July

Repeated 12.30am Friday 22 July

“Global village” or global delusion? It was a nice line but how real was the notion the “global village”? And can technology change things in and of itself? Ethan Zuckerman and Tom Standage, two leading thinkers and writers, give us their take on the work of Marshall McLuhan today and where we may be heading in today’s inter-connected digital world.

Australia Talks
6pm Thursday 21 July
 Repeated 3am Friday 22 July

“Advertising,” pronounced Marshall McLuhan, “is the great folklore of the 20th century.” But where does it fit in the 21st century? Some of Australia leading advertising practitioners and commentators join a discussion about the pervasive and evolving nature of a saturated marketing environment.

Sound Quality
11.20pm Friday 22 July

Repeated 3am Monday 1 August

Sound Quality turns on and tunes in to messages from the McLuhan galaxy. Think sound grabs from the media futurist, taken out of contest and placed in a sea of 21st century music. Marshall McLuhan recontextualised for the text generation.

2pm Saturday July 23 

Repeated 1pm Wednesday July 27

What would McLuhan make of computer games? Gaming is the fastest growing sector in entertainment, an interactive art form that challenges and redefines conventional ideas around narrative and information delivery. Now with ‘cinematic’ games like L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain, gaming is starting to compete for serious critical attention with the established art forms of cinema and literature.


Marshall McLuhan debates his ideas on Australian TV in 1977

In June 1977 Marshall McLuhan visited Australia and was a guest on Monday Conference, a popular live ABC television show hosted by Robert Moore. McLuhan debated his ideas with Moore and took questions from a feisty studio audience made up of members of the media and advertising industry, including TV boss Bruce Gyngell (see Part One at 14 mins), and young, funky Derryn Hinch (see Part Two from 3 mins).

McLuhan had been brought to Australia to address a broadcasting conference organised by Sydney radio station 2SM, and the Monday Conference was broadcast from the ballroom of the Sydney Hilton Hotel.

Many in the audience clearly admired McLuhan who has well into his prime and at ease with the live television situation. The discussion covered an eclectic range of topics, from television, privacy and Richard Nixon to holograms, transcendental meditation, Jane Austen, Euclidean geometry, denim jeans and nude streaking.

Towards the end of the program, the always unpredictable McLuhan can be heard just off-mic, saying to Moore, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m going to have to sneak off and have a pee!”.

Can you put names to the faces in the Monday Conference audience? Could it be Ugly Dave Gray from Blankety Blanks in the front row? Go to the ABC McLuhan facebook page to find see an album of stills.

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