The Communication Galaxy: Discoveries, Boundaries, & Opportunities (22-24 Nov., 2013: Ottawa, Canada)


The Communication Galaxy: Discoveries, Boundaries, and Opportunities

The legendary Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) prophetically predicted the future of global media communications when he voiced, in one of his most frequently quoted passage of his book: “if a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent” (1962: 41). Indeed, McLuhan’s work revealed the “magical” world: the new media of communication—radio, television, film, photography, satellites, computers, the Internet, and social media.

This conference builds on McLuhan’s notions of “galaxy” and “global village,” where he argued that with the new technological advances of the media (especially television, during his time), societies are restoring the “tribal” character that existed before the invention of print. The world has become a “global village” where people send and receive messages instantly. In 1970, McLuhan told Ed Fitzgerald of CBC television: “You could say that with the satellite, the global village has become a global theatre … [with] everybody on the planet simultaneously participating as actors” (Benedetti & DeHart, 1997: 66).

A fundamental goal of this conference, therefore, is to showcase the various spheres of our current global communication galaxy, evident in the multi-disciplinary framework of human communication, and to demonstrate different emerging issues in the practice of media and technology.

Keynote Speaker Keynote Speaker

Dr. Graham Murdock, Loughborough University, UK

McLuhan coined one of his best known phrases, the ‘global village’, against the background of the first simultaneous broadcasts by satellite. His vision for a new borderless culture echoed the optimist predictions of world unity and reconciliation that had greeted every transnational communications technology since the advent of the telegraph. Since he wrote, the world has become more interconnected and communications networks –particularly the internet- have played in central role in bringing this about. But this push to ‘globalization’ has increasingly become the battleground for competing conceptions and ambitions and the terrain of intersecting crises.

The world-wide embrace of marketization has been underpinned by the concerted promotion of consumerism- the promise that personal consumer choices are the only true sphere of individual freedom and self –realisation. But delivering on this promise, and the philosophy of growth it presupposes, has generated an escalating environmental crisis, unsustainable levels of person debt, and an accelerating gap in income and wealth.

In the political sphere we see the resurgence of fundamentalisms built around binary contrasts between ‘us’ and ‘them’, friends and enemies, anchored in purist readings of religious texts and national narratives that will admit no ambiguity.The selective translation of these beliefs into militant action has prompted states to intensify levels of surveillance and security producing their own resilient
classifications of threats and risks.

At the same time, we also see a gathering struggle for justice informed by an ethos of cosmopolitan citizenship and the new commons. This paper explores these three dimensions of tension and conflict in the contemporary global landscape focussing on the ways they are translated into struggles over command of communication systems.


Saint Paul University, 223 Main Street, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1C4

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