Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s Groundbreaking Book, Understanding Media (1964)

16Aug14

The Baylor Libraries Symposium highlights research and scholarship at Baylor by recognizing the major anniversary of a significant publication. Each year a particular work is chosen based on its cross-disciplinary appeal in the humanities, arts and/or sciences.2014 Baylor Libraries Symposium
September 25-26, 2014 The 2014 Baylor Libraries Symposium marks the 50th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In his influential and controversial book, McLuhan asserts that every medium is an extension of our human systems and can have a profound effect on our bodies, senses, perceptions, and understanding. McLuhan’s challenging work has influenced such diverse fields as the creative arts, technology, philosophy, business, communications, and politics.

Dr. Paul Levinson of Fordham University will deliver the symposium’s keynote presentation on Thursday, September 25, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. in Packard Auditorium of the Marrs-McLean Science Building. Dr. Levinson is a professor of communication and new media, prominent media commentator, and author. His award-winning book, Digital McLuhan, explores the implications of McLuhan’s insights for the Internet and the next horizon of digital media.

Abstract for Paul Levinson’s Keynote Address:

The Medium of the Book: Fifty Years after Understanding Media

A half century after the publication of McLuhan’s Understanding Media seems like a good time to examine the recent evolution of the book itself as a medium.  In Understanding Media, McLuhan quotes the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine’s circa 1830 observation that “the book arrives too late”.  Today, in a revolution as important as the introduction of Gutenberg’s press, books can arrive instantly anywhere in the world, via Kindles and other ebooks. But the most significant part of this development may pertain not to readers but authors, who can now publish books without a publisher and within an hour or less after the book has been written.  The advantages and disadvantages of this bypassing of the traditional gatekeeper for authors and the world at large will be explored — they are mostly advantages — as well as the decline of gatekeeping in other media. Current conflicts, such as the dispute between Amazon and the traditional publisher Hachette will be examined. Connections between the evolution of the book and other facets of writing on the Web will be traced, including the capacity of readers to communicate directly and easily with authors, in modes akin to the “intelligent writing” that Socrates yearned for in the Phaedrus.

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