The 2014 Marshall McLuhan Lecture by Douglas Coupland at transmediale, Berlin


Gallery Image

transmediale Partner Exhibition Opening: Slogans for the Early 21st Century by Douglas Coupland

I posted the 2015 Marshall McLuhan Lecture by David Orrell about a month ago, 8 or 9 postings below this one. But Douglas Coupland’s 2014 Lecture Titled Space Junk was only uploaded to YouTube in January of this year. Here it is, along with a review of the lecture below it.

2014 Marshall McLuhan Lecture – Space Junk
28 January, 2014 – Embassy of Canada, Leipziger Platz 17, 10117 Berlin

The transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture invites a Canadian cultural figure, whose work expands on McLuhan’s media theories in the context of contemporary culture and society. In 2014, the Canadian writer and visual artist Douglas Coupland delivered the lecture, entitled “Space Junk”. Following his iconic writings on the first digital workers “Microserfs” in the 1990s to the digital natives of “JPod” (2006) and his biography of McLuhan “You Know Nothing of my Work!” (2011), Coupland uses his unique way of expressing ideas—almost a form of stand-up comedy—to explore the ultimate fate of our junk data and where hyperdigitization will take us in the end. As he alternates between the sacred and the profane, a new form of discourse emerges that engages both academic and populist spheres.

Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan & Your Digital Doppelgänger

By Charmaine Li   –   Feb. 7, 2014

“There’s an unusual situation where there’s a hair growing sideways in my left nostril and it’s driving me crazy… that’s called too much information,” remarked Canadian author, visual artist and Maisonneuve contributor Douglas Coupland during the opening of his speech at the Embassy of Canada in Berlin. Each year, Transmediale—a Berlin-based festival that explores the intersection of art, technology and culture—organizes a lecture inviting a Canadian cultural figure to speak about Marshall McLuhan’s theories in a contemporary context.  

Coupland, who wrote a biography on the Canadian media theorist titled Marshall McLuhan: You know nothing of my work!, delivered this year’s talk on the topic of digital trash—or what he referred to as the “unintended side effects of information and its delivery system.”

Appropriately, a screen above the author projected a rapid rotation of photographs from a series his 2002 series “Trash Only Canadians Will Understand”.  As the name suggests, the audience is treated with flashing agglomerations of Canadian junk gems, including a spaghetti sauce-covered Cheezies bag, a mangled Clamato container and a battered POGO box.

In many ways, Coupland is like McLuhan. Particularly, both Canadians are credited with popularizing notable cultural terms (“Generation X” and “global village” respectively) and both employ equivocal public speaking styles (read this account of Coupland at the International Festival of Authors 2013 and watch this McLuhan interview).

Throughout the lecture, Coupland skips from talking about how the internet facilitates the homogenization of human thinking to reading modified pieces from Shopping in Jail (his collection of non-fiction essays published last year) to discussing whether the internet will ultimately favour the individual or the group. But the most McLuhan-reminiscent and riveting part of the speech was when Coupland, in an attempt to illustrate how individuality can pluralize with technology’s ever-increasing speed and power, relayed a story about a hypothetical digital data doppelgänger. (Read the rest of this review at ).


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