Wave Project celebrates 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan, Edmonton

15Oct11

Edmonton, Alberta   –   October 14, 2011

July 21st this year marked the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth in Edmonton. The popular thinker and media theorist, famous for his slogan “the medium is the message” and coining the phrase “global village”, has had a profound impact on how we think about mass media and communication technologies. The Wave Project, an ongoing art and media installation, invites viewers to participate in exploring the “tribal and immersive character of new media.”

Taking advantage of the latest digital technologies and abundance of mobile devices, viewers of the installation – located at Enterprise Square, the University of Alberta’s downtown campus – are treated to a constantly changing montage of text, music, and speech. A webapp allows users to view live webcams around the world simply by scanning a QR code or entering the URL displayed on site. Participants, called Wavelings, also spontaneously generate “word clouds” related to their physical location.

This virtual space of sounds and images corresponds to a “concrete space” of real-life practices. There is a poetry circle working in the renga format, a collaborative approach fostered by internet connectivity; and another group that creates and selects photos. Finally, viewers are also invited to use their social media networks to respond to the installation.

McLuhan’s ideas are more pertinent than ever, with the increasingly rapid pace of change in media technologies that we now experience. Ease of access to computers, cheaper mobile devices, higher bandwidth, social networks: in the last few years all have dramatically changed how we connect with each other, how we retrieve and retain data, and even how we relate to the world as individuals and as a global social network. Most importantly, it ensures that individuals are not simply recipients of prepared media, but create and transform content as well in a symbiotic relationship. The medium truly is the message.

The Wave Project is a collaboration between numerous fields of research. Six departments at the University of Alberta are represented in its development, including such diverse areas as Industrial Design, Music, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Design lead Cezary Gajewski notes that the project was unveiled this June as part of the 2011 meetings of the Media Ecology Association. It will remain in place until next summer before being relocated to the Edmonton International Airport.

Related links: Click here for a description of the Wave Project – Wave Art 

Marshall McLuhan Edmonton Centenary 2011 – Wikipedia: Renga’s Definition

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