The Communication Revolution [Video] – Panel Discussion with Edgar Dale, Marshall McLuhan, Gilbert Seldes & Keith Tyler, 1960
The Communications Revolution (1960) is a panel discussion between Marshall McLuhan and two other academics, Edgar Dale and Keith Tyler, and cultural critic Gilbert Seldes, who chaired the panel. The event took place at the third annual Conference on the Humanities on October 28-29, 1960 at Ohio State University. The general theme of the conference was “Popular/Mass Culture: American Perspectives.” McLuhan, already well-known for his views on electric media, was the central focus at the conference and gave a keynote lecture on the first day titled “Technology, the Media, and Culture,” the text of which can be found in Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003), pp. 13-33.
The panel discussion on The Communications Revolution (1960) took place on the second day of the conference, chaired by Gilbert Seldes (1993-1970), the leading cultural critic of the day. Edgar Dale (1900-1985) was a Professor of Audio-Visual Education at OSU and the author of a well-known textbook about educational media that was the standard reference on audio-visual media for over a decade, reissued in several updated editions: Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching (1946). For more about Edgar Dale see https://goo.gl/D7MEZU . Keith Tyler (1905-1994) was a Professor of Radio Education at OSU. For more information see https://goo.gl/IMYBpv . The text of this panel discussion can be found in Understanding Me: Lectures & Interviews (2003), pp. 34-43.
Select McLuhan Quotes From the Communications Revolution Panel
A New Medium Elucidates the Medium it Supplants: “I think one of the things that happens when a new medium comes on the scene is you become aware of the basic characteristics of older media in a way that you were not when they were the only things around. I think we’re becoming more aware now of what print is than we were before. Radio seems to have acquired more sense of its own identity since television, and movies likewise”. (The Communications Revolution in Understanding Me (2003), p. 35)
Obsolesced Media Are Repurposed: “… it would seem natural that older forms [media or technologies] are put to new uses and discover new roles. The book, for example, in our time has discovered many new functions that it never had fifty or a hundred years ago. It has become very powerfully directed toward teaching people how to learn other things besides books [e.g. how-to books], how to learn arts of many kinds. The book has taken on a vast new function as a means of informing people, directing people’s skills in many, many areas.” (p. 35)
TV Invites Participation: “The character of the television image, I think, fosters this kind of participation simply because it is a rather poor image, and it involves the viewer in a great deal of completion of the detail that is missing visually in that image. The act of seeing television is very much that of participation as in reading a detective story where you are very much with it precisely because you are not given very much narrative information. You have to fill it in”. (p. 38)
Cool Individuals Are the Most Intriguing on Cool TV: This one of the first if not the very first mention by McLuhan of his hot/cool media dichotomy.
[Senator] “McCarthy folded a week after he went on television. And if Huey Long had gone on television he would have been a flop at once. TV will not take a sharp character, a hot character. It’s a cool medium, and our politics are being cooled off to the point of rigor mortis, according to many people. The nature of this medium which calls for so much participation does not give you a completed package, a completed image. You have to make your image as you go. Therefore, if the person who comes in front of the TV camera is already a very complete and classifiable type of person – a politician, a highly obvious doctor type, lawyer type – the medium rejects him because there’s nothing left for the audience to view or to complete, and they say this guy’s a phony. There’s something wrong with this guy.” (p. 40)
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