Happy 103rd Birthday, Marshall McLuhan!

21Jul14

MMby_BarbaraWilde2Two photos of the casually-attired Marshall McLuhan by Barbara Wilde, taken around 1976

MMby_BarbaraWilde1

 Douglas Coupland’s “biography” of Marshall McLuhan is a curious mixture of speculation and hyperbole, interspersed with the essential facts of the man’s life in broad strokes. Although it gets some things wrong, there are nevertheless some useful insights worthy of Coupland’s artistic perception, as well as that of his subject. Here is a quote:-

Marshall was also encountering a response that would tail him the rest of his life: the incorrect belief that he liked the new world he was describing. In fact, he didn’t ascribe any moral or value dimensions to it at all — he simply kept on pointing out the effects of new media on the individual. And what makes him fresh and relevant now is the fact that (unlike so much other new thinking of the time) he always did focus on the individual in society, rather than on the mass of society as an entity unto itself. It was Marshall’s embrace of the individual — a poetic and artistic, highly humane embrace–that has allowed the reader (then and now) to enter his universe. There are, perhaps, no practical political, religious, or financial applications to Marshall’s work. It could even be argued that it should be seen as a rarefied artifact unto itself, an intricate and fantastically ornate artwork that creates its own language and then writes poetry with it. And what would be wrong with that? Art is art. And an artist, according to Marshall, is someone on the frontiers of perception, who looks at information overload with the goal of pattern recognition, to see things before anyone else”. – Douglas Coupland (2009). Marshall McLuhan, Toronto: Penguin Canada, pp. 142-143.

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L. Canadian edition  –  R. American edition

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