The University of Michigan Announces the H. Marshall McLuhan Collegiate Professorship in Digital Media, School of Information


The University of Michigan iSchool – North Quad

This is an excerpt from a letter dated July 19, 2018, addressed to Michael McLuhan and signed by the University of Michigan’s Provost and Dean of the iSchool.

The H. Marshall McLuhan Collegiate Professorship in Digital Media, School of Information

H. Marshall McLuhan periodically visited the University of Michigan from 1944 to 1978. He used the University of Michigan Library for his research, attended university events, met colleagues, and gave occasional lectures. These included a university lecture, A College of Engineering lecture, and a broadcast on WUOM. His book, Understanding Media, was excerpted in the Michigan Daily in 1965, and in 1966, the Michigan Daily published a guide to “McLuhanism.” His work inspired a column (“Medium”) in the counterculture Ann Arbor Sun in 1968 and he was placed on the reading list of the Ann Arbor-based Rainbow People’s Party. Mr. McLuhan’s mother, Elsie, lived in Detroit, where Mr. McLuhann also regularly spoke at the Ford Auditorium from 1959 to 1971. Mr. McLuhan himself lived in nearby Windsor, Ontario for two years [while teaching at Assumption College, now Assumption University, part of the University of Windsor].

H. Marshall McLuhan is best known for the theorization of digital media (which he called “electric” media) in his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. The book developed a structuralist approach to the study of the mass media and popularized Mr. McLuhan’s phrase, “the medium is the message.” It was published in 1964 and arose from his work directing the “Understanding New Media” project under contract to the US Office of Education. Early results were first presented at the National Association of Educational Broadcasters convention in Detroit in 1959. He went on to write 15 books and received a raft of official awards, honors, and honorary degrees over the course of a distinguished and controversial career. As his theories from the late 1950s prefigured everyday digital computing and he was a devout catholic, he has often been called the unofficial patron saint of the Internet.

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