Visionary Marshall McLuhan’s Son Eric Speaks At CrossmediaTO Special


 Eric McLuhan

                                                                        Photo credit: Michael McLuhan

July 21st marks the 100th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, the famous Canadian media visionary.

Last night’s CROSSMEDIATO event hosted by Gavin McGarry of JumpWire Media featured McLuhan’s son, Eric as a speaker.
CrossmediaTO is a monthly series that focuses on motion, mobile, marketing, publishing and gaming the third Wednesday of every month. The notion of cross-media will be further explored by Interactive Ontario’s X-Summit October 24-26 at The Carlu in Toronto, which has recently posted an open call for speakers.Eric McLuhan Headlines CrossmediaTO

McLuhan touched on the fact that never before have two major forms of media swallowed each other like television and the Internet have in recent years, and noted the death of publishing councils to go alongside the latter with the long decline in that industry that began about twenty years ago when there were more and more books but fewer readers.

He also said that attention spans have shrunk enormously, and that the average sentence since the digital age began that people write has gone from twelve to eight words.

That attention was a pillar reflection of how our imagination works- do we think in words or images?

Most of the audience said they thought in images- and that shouldn’t be surprising given the very visual nature of multimedia today.

McLuhan also said that people know how to read, but they would rather not- it’s likely because we can watch or listen to most things instead.

Both Obama and Harper in recent weeks have outlined shortages in key areas where the United States and Canadian economy could grow, and that should come as no surprise considering the Stratford Report, released at Canada 3.0 back in early May, said that Canada needs 750,000 information communication technologists, but currently only has 150,000.

Even the United States government can’t keep up with information technology. Adam Thierer concluded an article that asked if there was a solution to the changing media landscape on WebProNews on July 1st:

Information technology is moving way too fast for our federal regulators to keep up with it,” he said. “We live in gut-wrenching, interesting, disruptive times… some of this experimentation and evolution is just going to have to play itself out… there isn’t any easy answer

Eric McLuhan Offers Some Insight, Thankfully!

McLuhan said that once something is posted on the Internet, that copyright is practically over, which bleeds comparisons to Arianna Huffington’s speech at the CMA National Convention in late May – that access will eventually rule over ownership, and that corporations need to be more transparent.

He continued in saying that corporations now hire artists to create products, who are in turn influenced by corps. Someone asked on Twitter whether or not an artist would lose their artistic freedom if they worked in corps. I disagreed, because in writing op-eds as I do, you can state your opinion while reporting, just as an artist, while influenced by the group, can go away from what is suggested and insert a bit of themselves.

After all, Eric McLuhan said that he believed in bringing people and different organizations together to solve problems, rather than using copyright and patents to create propiertary innovation. The Internet has many diverse communities where people share information to solve problems, and the web’s open nature is often celebrated.

Eric McLuhan’s Laws of Media

Eric McLuhan is also an author himself, having published Laws of Media in 1988 posthumously after the death of his father.

To give you a general idea of what the book is about, and perhaps an understanding of what to consider as media continues to evolve here is a bit from the Marshall McLuhan Wikipedia page:

McLuhan summarized his ideas about media in a concise tetrad of media effects. The tetrad is a means of examining the effects on society of any technology (i.e., any medium) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical tool, phrasing his laws as questions with which to consider any medium:

What does the medium enhance?

What does the medium make obsolete?

What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?

What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?.

Finally, the work of James Patterson on the theories of communication was also mentioned as valuable reading material by Eric McLuhan.

My Takeaways

We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as I mentioned in an earlier post about Marshall McLuhan, but Eric McLuhan has confirmed the fact for me that we would rather not keep up with rapidly changing innovation than actually try to because it’s too hard and it requires us to read.

Catch up is brutal though, I will admit that at least, and that’s exactly what most people must confront if you want to be innovative enough in the rapidly changing media world.

That doesn’t mean you have to know everything though, for Econsultancy recently reported that we are headed towards digital fragmentation towards sub-specialist silos and “special ones“, in terms of how media budget spending continues to change.

Someone did say to me at an event once rather than diving into different areas of mobile and new media, why don’t you specialize?

Well, that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the general term cross-media, now would it?

This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

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