Finally Getting the Message: McLuhan’s Media Practice – A Lecture by Graham Larkin at the McLuhan Salon, Canadian Embassy, Berlin, in 2011

In a 1959 talk and a 1964 book Marshall McLuhan famously declares that “the medium is the message.” By 1967 the title of a typographically adventuresome book turns “message” into “massage”. In each case McLuhan is urging his audience to care less about the apparent content of communication (what happens to be “on” TV or “in” a book) and more about the psychodynamics of the particular medium (the effects of television or the book per se). Although later interpreters have viewed the medium=message/massage tenet as central to McLuhan’s thinking, there has been little sustained attention to the practical role of inscription, publication and broadcast in his work. In short, it is time to pay closer attention to the media practice behind McLuhan’s media theory. The present talk, based on extensive researches in the McLuhan fonds at Library & Archives Canada, will survey the evidence for McLuhan’s quotidian encounters with the very media that he investigates.

This lecture by art historian and researcher Graham Larkin was delivered at the McLuhan Salon, at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin in 2011, during the centenary celebrations for the birth on July 21, 1911 of  Marshall McLuhan. It only recently became available online. Follow this link to the online Hybrid Lecture Player, which provides the best viewing, with Graham Larkin lecturing in a window at the top right, a window on the top left that shows the archive documents he’s talking about, and the text of his lecture below it: .

The one hour and 42 minute lecture is divided into the following sections: Intro, McLuhan’s Media Practice, Orality, Reading/Writing, Viewing Listening/Watching, Being a Character, Research publishing, Blow-up, The Freewheeing McLuhan. And it covers the following publications: The Mechanical Bride, Counterblast, Understanding Media, The Mediaum is the Massage, The McLuhan DEW Line, Explorations.

Here is the lecture by itself for anyone not wanting to view it on the Hybrid Lecture Player:

You can download a PDF of Larkin’s lecture from here:
About Graham Larkin: He lives in Ottawa, where he was curator of European & American Art at the National Gallery of Canada from 2005 to 2011. His researches into the early history of cataloguing and collecting include a doctoral dissertation (Harvard 2003) on the origins of the catalogue raisonné in 18th century print albums. While completing his dissertation, he assisted information designer Edward Tufte with the award-winning book Beautiful Evidence. Dr. Larkin has taught seminars and curated exhibitions at Harvard University, and at Stanford University where he was a Humanities Fellow from 2003-5. He has published in various journals including Print Quarterly, Word & Image, ArtForum and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

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