A Look Back, a Look Forward: Celebrating McLuhan…All Over Again, St. Louis, MO


by  on NOVEMBER 18, 2011

Dear Media Literacy Proponents and Enthusiasts,

GMLP’s  2011 Media Literacy Week has come to a close.    Again, we’re  both exhausted and elated.   Our celebration of Marshall McLuhan’s centennial birth date was full and memorable.  Our partners performed in exemplary fashion.  The conversations were lively and thought-provoking, especially given our media climate, today.

You may recall last year’s debut of our special Guest Contributors section, during our Fourth Media Literacy Week:  “Media Literacy: Truth or Consequences.”  At that time, numerous citizens underscored the importance of media literacy.  Of  particular note was  GMLP Member Paul Guzzardo’s thoughtful and powerful call to action.  Guzzardo, designer,  digital artist, attorney AND… longtime McLuhan “student”/devotee,  gave us  a serious “heads-up”   re:  upcoming worldwide celebrations of Marshall McLuhan’s centennial birth date.    He underscored the importance of St. Louis, specifically,  paying tribute to the  McLuhan heritage, and for us to recognize and honor the rich media history for which McLuhan and St. Louis University scholar Father Walter J. Ong, S.J.  are responsible.  As is said by many scholars today, that history–McLuhan’s and Ong’s scholarship at St. Louis University—is an inextricable part of our world’s  rich media history.   And, today, McLuhan/Ong  theory and scholarship have prompted new discussions and theories, given their  great bodies of work are now  more easily accessible; certainly these works may be even more meaningful, useful and viable, now, given our rapidly changing media landscape.

McLuhan & Ong

(Marshall McLuhan at centre & Fr. Walter Ong, SJ, seated on his left; at St. Louis University))

Two years ago, someone intimately connected to Marshall McLuhan—McLuhan’s son, Eric—was here at St. Louis University when the institution,  appropriately, hosted theMedia Ecology Association’s Tenth Convention.  At that time, simply and directly, he  reminded the international audience:   “It all started here.”    (Check out my 2009 story on that meeting and on Eric McLuhan, specifically. )  He  delighted us with a look back and forward regarding his Dad’s work, creating  greater anticipation—whether he intended to or not—for the myriad celebrations  we’d probably see, in  his Dad’s memory, back home in Canada,  and around the world.

So, it was befitting that Gateway Media Literacy Partners,  a St. Louis-based organization focused on media literacy and media literacy education, took to heart these calls to action, preserving that spirit of space, as McLuhan, himself, might have said,  and provide the commemoration of  our unique St. Louis media history– from the opening session at St. Louis University,  where scholar Jerry Harp acknowledged McLuhan’s history with the revered Father Walter J. Ong, S.J, to the closing  academic symposium, where John Knoll, head of St. Louis’  Interfaith Partnership and someone who actually knew  Marshall McLuhan, acted as moderator for the event.  Everyone participating in our week themed “Media Literacy is the Message: The Legacy of Marshall McLuhan, considered McLuhan, yesterday, today and tomorrow!  And, actually, reading up on McLuhan, again, I found he actually popularized weekly seminars, back in the fifties, to discuss  his theories and media, as it was unfolding.

In closing, our Fifth Media Literacy Week is certainly  a milestone for our organization, and you’ll enjoy more related stories and pictures in the coming weeks; but isn’t it a delicious coincidence that it  would coincide with McLuhan’s centennial?  All these re-considerations of McLuhan’s myriad theories that have been brought back to the table by a community where it all got started….THAT  is SWEET indeed!

Thank you, ALL! – Jessica Z. Brown, President and Founder, Gateway Media Literacy Partners, Inc.       http://tinyurl.com/7f265zb

Father Walter J. Ong, SJ (1912-2003) – 2012 is the centenary of his birth

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