The Medium is the Massage (The Film, 1967)

14Aug11

All McLuhanists know the book by Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quintin Fiore titled The Medium is the Massage (1967) and most are familiar with the LP that came out around the same time with the same title. But I suspect that few are aware of the film that was distributed that same year (1967) by McGraw-Hill Education under the same title. The only public showing this 54 minute film appears to have had was on NBC TV, as the entry below from TV Guide indicates. I saw it at the New Museum located in the Bowery in New York on Thursday night, accompanied by Mark Stahlman, whose account is posted below. As he writes, the copy of the 16 mm film loaned by the Pratt Institute, was red with age and in deteriorating condition. It’s essential that somone preserve a copy of this valuable film and digitize it for the posterity for the insights it gives on Marshall McLuhan’s ideas and era………..AlexK

Last night, Alex Kuskis and I went to a showing of a one-hour 1967 made-for-television “documentary” titled “The Medium is the Massage.”

Yes, we all know the book and some have even heard the vinyl (which is a HOOT) but a MOVIE?

It was a) excellent (i.e. you should try to see it) and b) surprised me by attracting a packed house of downtown “hipsters.”

As I said to Alex before it began (since, being “oldsters,” we got there early when the room was only 10% full), “New York doesn’t really have a McLuhan ‘scene,’ so it will be interesting to see who shows up.”

Yes, Fordham is in New York (okay, mainly in the Bronx) but I don’t really associate “media ecology” with New York “culture” (i.e. the world that my artist/musician daughter lives in, since she’s never heard the term.)

The turnout was, no doubt, partly a result of being sponsored by Rhizome.org which is “dedicated to the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology” and is affiliated with the New Museum, where the film (yes, this is a 16mm film) was shown.

This print came from The Pratt Institute, where it has likely been sitting it the archives for 40+ years, getting pink with age.  Since it has apparently never been digitized, to see the movie you will have to find a local copy. probably at some local college.  Hopefully, someone will find the money to do a restoration and telecine so that it can get wider circulation.

About 40 minutes into it, McLuhan starts to discuss “patterns” (btw, most of the film is headshots of McLuhan interspersed with fast-cut graphics) and I turned to Alex with anticipation — will he say it?

Sure enough, the “punchline” of that segment was McLuhan intoning the phrase PATTERN RECOGNITION.

Does anyone know when he started to use it?  Did he “coin” the term?

Did he focus on the topic/phrase in any essay?

And, is this a topic/phrase that has any deeper literature — particularly in psychology?

Mark Stahlman, Brooklyn NY

 The New Museum in the Bowery, NYC

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3 Responses to “The Medium is the Massage (The Film, 1967)”

  1. 1 ken

    one reference, for pattern recognition…

    “There is in IBM, for example, a phrase that Information-Overload produces Pattern-Recognition… When you give people too much information they instantly resort to pattern recognition, in other ways, to structuring the experience” — conversation with Norman Mailer, 1968, 10m in) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuPwipHzRzc


  1. 1 TV Guide | McLuhan Sandbox

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