Marshall McLuhan: One of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World

13Feb14

50 Canadians Who Changed the World

Ken McGoogan. HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 (329p) ISBN 978-1-44340-930-8
McGoogan, author of How the Scots Invented Canada, sets out to combat Canadian modesty by highlighting 50 notable Canadians, limiting himself to Canadians born in the 20th century and whose efforts had global impact. To demonstrate the breadth of endeavors, McGoogan looks at six fields: activists such as Kenneth Galbraith, Romeo Dallaire and Maude Barlow; visionaries such as Marshall McLuhan and Jane Jacobs; artists such as Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood; humanitarians such as Craig Kielburger and Stephen Lewis; performers such as Russell Peters, and Leonard Cohen; and finally pure and applied scientists such as John Polanyi, David Suzuki and Mike Lazaridis. A limited page count forces brevity; none of the figures are discussed in any depth. The author takes this even farther when he crams graphic novelists Joe Shuster, Dave Sim and Chester Brown into one chapter and stem cell researchers into another while wasting space on the inanimate robotic spacearm. Unfortunately, the author also focuses only on the positive aspects of the figures; readers unfamiliar with the people profiled get no hint of Sim’s repellent misogyny and only passing references to RIM’s meltdown under Lazaridis. Canada’s great figures are grand enough to warrant a more in-depth and critical approach. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/ogbmg4f )
*****
Ken McGoogan on Marshall McLuhan in How the Scots Invented Canada (2010):
In the beginning was the alphabet. And the alphabet gave rise to the printing press. And the printing press taught linearity, sequentiality, and compartmentalization, which together spawned industrialization. The newly standardized environment, epitomized by the assembly line, encouraged left-brain single-mindedness, and that created Modern Man. So it began, the gospel according to Marshall McLuhan.

Before he was done, this Scottish Canadian visionary would anticipate the World Wide Web and social networks like Facebook. As the apostle of the electronic era, McLuhan predicted the emergence of a world of instantaneous information: speed, volume, multidirectionality, interactivity. The medium was the message. By changing our world, electronics would transform us as human beings. We would find ourselves juggling contradictions, multiple perspectives, and plural identities. To cope, we would activate the right side of the brain. We would become more complex. – McGoogan, Ken (2010). How the Scots Invented Canada. Toronto: HarperCollins, p. 366.


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