Call for Papers: Media and Formal Cause



The collection of essays Media and Formal Cause edited by Eric McLuhan and published by NeoPoiesis Press is a book of great importance to the field of Media Ecology and McLuhan Studies. If you have not yet read it I urge you to do so. Corey Anton and I have both written papers discussing McLuhan’s notion of formal cause which we plan to publish in a collection of essays reacting to and commenting on Media and Formal Cause. The abstracts of these papers are reproduced below. Any one wanting to read the complete papers should email Corey or me off line and we will email the papers to you. Corey and I will be joined by Lance Strate as editors of this collection. The purpose of this communication is to invite you to contribute to this collection by writing an essay sharing your thoughts of McLuhan’s use of formal cause. 

The deadline for submitting a proposal in the form of an abstract will be March 18 with a final draft of the paper due by July 21, 2012. We look forward to your responses and if you are interested in joining the project we would appreciate a letter of intent as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention.

Please email submissions to   

Here is the abstract of Corey’s paper:

McLuhan, Formal Cause, and The Future of Technological Mediation – Corey Anton

Abstract: By re-examining the thought of Marshall McLuhan, showing how his work relies upon the notion of formal cause, this paper offers a heuristic framework for understanding the nature and future of technological mediation. It not only helps to disclose a great deal of coherence and order (a systematic method) to McLuhan’s thought, it also provides a useful multidisciplinary orientation for future research into the various impacts of technology upon thought, action, and life more broadly.

Here is the abstract of my paper

McLuhan and Causality: Technological Determinism, Formal Cause and Emergence – Robert K. Logan

Abstract: We explore McLuhan’s relation to causality. It is shown that McLuhan was not a technological determinist in the sense that he did not posit a simple linear relationship between technology and their effects. It is shown that his notion that electric media give rise to a field perspective is inconsistent with a simple interpretation of a direct causal connection between a technology and its impact. McLuhan after all was a media ecologist, perhaps the first, and although an ecological view incorporates causality, the relationships between the elements of a media ecology that includes the users and their technologies is not a simple one that can be summed up with a simple linear cause and effect form of technological determinism. It is shown in fact that his approach to understanding media parallels that of emergentists and complexity theorists. His notion “the medium is the message,” his idea of the simultaneity of effects and causes, his reversal of cause and effect, his notion of media as environments, his field approach and his notion of media ecology all foreshadow emergence and complexity theory. McLuhan’s notion of formal cause in many ways is equivalent to the most salient features of strong emergence. Examples include the inability to predict the future, the emergence of a new medium is equivalent to a phase change and the notion that the medium is the message shares many of the features of Brian Arthur’s notion of increasing returns and the butterfly effect of chaos theory. It is argued that McLuhan’s notion of formal cause taken from Aristotle is actually more aligned with strong emergence theory than it is with Aristotle’s original notion of formal cause (ειδοσ or eidos).                

Robert K. Logan,                                         
Chief Scientist – sLab at OCAD, Prof. Emeritus – Physics – U. of Toronto                 

2 Responses to “Call for Papers: Media and Formal Cause”

  1. Thanks Alex for posting my message. It did not include my email so I am posting this comment. If you want the full papers of Corey Anton and me, Bob Logan please email me at logan at physics dot utoronto dot ca

    • Bob, I’ve added your email address to the posting. Yes please, I would like to receive copies of both your essays. Thanks…..AlexK

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