McLuhan Program: Culture & Technology Lecture Series, University of Toronto


During 2013-2014, in a student-led initiative, the iSchool’s Coach House Institute (CHI) is hosting a series of lectures and discussions addressing cultural specificities in our understanding of information. The aim is not be to focus on culturally diverse uses of information, but instead to investigate the nature of information itself–and to ask whether, and if so how, fundamental theories of information incorporate, accommodate, or abstract away from the diverse epistemic and ontological commitments of varied communities.

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Sandy Pearlman – Tuesday, Feb. 11 – 7 pm – Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Title : “As The Age of Saturation Encounters Asymptopia, Or, As You Like It” 

Abstract: “We can prove that some line – namely, an Asymptote, constantly approaches another by showing what will be the case if the progression is continued as far as one pleases… Even so there are Asymptote figures in geometry where an infinite length makes only a finite progress in breadth.” – Gottfried Leibniz

“So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time.” – The Eagles

The invention and evolution of the analog photographic, motion picture and sound reproduction technologies, which characterized the media of most of the 20th century, and which remain, either, with us still or even counter-intuitively resurrected in our 21st century present, strikingly and synchronously coevolved with the development of the 19th century Romantic Symphony and its characteristically saturated sonorities. As if, in the case of sound recording, these technologies were embedded with optimization factors for the reproduction, amplification and glorification of those romantic sonorities, which became characteristic of not only the symphonic music of the 19th century, but, the film and popular music of most of the 20th century as well — including most spectacularly the technologically incarnated folk music known as heavy metal. This trend line persisted until the last twenty years of the 20th century when the decisive proliferation of newer digital media technologies created under the imperatives of the Nyquist/Shannon/Weaver information theoretics, which were (never forget!) originally developed to solve all the problems entailed in the long distance telephonic transmission of specifically speech changed absolutely everything. At that point, Saturation encounters Asymptopia and a new set of perceptual limits is imposed upon the new genus of Digital Media Objects. From that point on, everything gets really strange or really bad, depending upon your perspective… As for As You Like It, Rosalind was the grand mistress of perception after all. And perceptual theory is the key to the puzzle of this lecture. Never forget that Rosalind, “can do strange things”. As for the rest of the story see you at the lecture.
Sandy Pearlman is currently Dean’s Visiting Professor for Interdisciplinary Innovation at the University of Toronto and Visiting Professor at McGill University. Over the years, Pearlman has taught and created provocative new courses at the Music, English, Religious Studies, Law and Management faculties. A relentless brainstormer on the future of media in general, and the ever-tightening embrace of Music by Technology and Technology by Music in particular. Producer, creator, songwriter, manager and theorist for some of the most important bands and musical trends of the last 30 years (among them Blue Oyster Cult, Clash, Black Sabbath, and Pavlov’s Dog), Pearlman is variously blamed and/or lauded for the launch of such cultural trends as Heavy Metal, Occult Rock, Goth, Punk, and New Wave. Described by the Billboard Producer’s Directory as “the Hunter Thompson of rock, a gonzo producer of searing intellect and vast vision,” Pearlman has embarked upon an all-encompassing project for the construction of a “Grand Unified Field Theory of the Future of Music,” a substantial component of which is the parallel emergence of the “Paradise of Infinite Storage” and new hybrid analog-digital codecs for music and media objects in general – perhaps the most disruptive game changer yet. (Source: )

Bernd Frohmann – Tuesday, Feb. 25 – 7 pm – Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

 Title: “Document, Index, Trace, and Death: Briet’s Antelope Lessons”  

Abstract: The first third of this paper is about my concept of documentality, which I think avoids some dead ends in thinking about documentation in general. I take speech as my example of how the documentality of even such a seemingly ephemeral phenomenon can emerge and be strengthened, in this case through the modes of materialization of utterance provided by Aristotelian rhetoric, which, I also argue, are relevant to important contemporary verbal performances.

The rest of the paper is about what I call “Briet’s antelope lessons”. I argue that from her brief discussion of the “vêture” of documents cascading from her now-famous antelope, we learn that its ambiguous connection to those documents poses a specific problem pertaining to the documentality of things. How is the fate of the primary document (the antelope) related to its secondary documents (its vêture”)? And how are connections between documents and their referents established, maintained, and severed? Briet’s antelope lessons direct us to such questions. Four case studies are presented as illustrations of this problem: the gardens of Villandry, the glass flowers of Harvard’s Ware Collection, practices of telepresence, such as Second Life and webcam sexual activities, and the Visible Human Project.
Bernd Frohmann is Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information Studies at The University of Western Ontario. He is the author of “Deflating Information: From Science Studies to Documentation” (University of Toronto Press, 2004) and various articles and book chapters on information and documentation studies. His current research interests are in contemporary media studies. (Source: )

One Response to “McLuhan Program: Culture & Technology Lecture Series, University of Toronto”

  1. 1 Mcluhan Technology Quotes | Technology Documents

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