A Resume of the Activities & Interests of the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology


This document was passed on to me by Andrew McLuhan. It looks like a handout to be given to visitors to McLuhan’s Centre from beyond the University of Toronto, as well as from within it. Since it mentions City as Classroom, which was published in 1977, this document must date from that year or 1978. It is useful in showing how McLuhan viewed and promoted the Centre to the world at large.


University of Toronto
Toronto 5, Canada


Marshall McLuhan, Director


The Centre began as a seminar in Culture and Technology in 1952, with Professor E.S. Carpenter (Anthropology, Professor Jacqueline Tyrwhitt (Architecture — associate of Siegfried Giedion), Professor Tom Easterbrook (Political Economy), Professor Carl Williams (Psychology) and Professor Marshall McLuhan (English).The group was interested in the studies of Harold Innis, among others. In 1963 Professor McLuhan was appointed by President Claude Bissell to create a new Centre for Culture and Technology to study the psychic and social consequences of technologies and media

The work of the Centre has been guided by Professor McLuhan, who has been influenced in his work by another eminent Canadian, Harold Innis(also of this university).It is widely acknowledged that Professor McLuhan has opened up significant dimensions of the field for study.

At the present time, the culture of Canada is at a major turning point. The combined pressures of our information technologies–from telephone, radio and television, to satellites, microprocessors, ships, cable–systems, fibreoptics and lasers–are about to swamp the pattern of Western civilization and identity. All previous technological breakthroughs and the ensuing cultural revolutions that we have studied, have operated with relatively extensive time scales when compared to the present one. In our century these time scales have been drastically shortened. The print revolution was enacted over hundreds of years: the television revolution was enacted within one generation. It is crucial that the question of the interaction of culture and technology receive immediate and widespread attention.

In the pursuit of our interests at the Centre, we have been observing the most recent developments. We are interested in using our training and experience to examine the practical questions that our government will be facing with regard to the future of Canadian culture and identity.

Our research team bridges the two ‘cultures’ as defined by C. P. Snow: it Includes both, comprising individuals trained in humanities as well as in the sciences and in the technical aspects of the technologica] hardware. Presently, our ‘core group’ consists of persons trained in Communications, Engineering, English, French, Physics, Biochemistry, Management and the History of Science. In addition, members of the core group have studied (and published on) the politics of Canadian identity and cohesiveness from various standpoints. We are quite conscious of the peculiar nature of the Canadian mosaic, having worked with the French—English interface as well as with native people and multi—cultural communities. Culture means not just the fine arts, but all aspects of the everyday life of the population, resident and transient: it includes hockey and physics as well as ballet and native sculpture.

          The published works of our associates over the years are too well known to require mention here. Our more recent investigations have included the following:

—  a classroom text for training in the study of culture and media (City as                           Classroom)

  a book-length study of the changes in management structures due to electric               media (Take Today:The Executive as Dropout)

  a detailed study of the forging of Western patterns of culture by the phonetic               alphabet. (“Alphabet, Mother of Invention”, Et Cetera, Vol.34, 1977)

— a study of those and other cultural patterns in relation to the hemispheres of the          brain;

— a proposed research project for converting television hardware into a form that            would support (instead of erode) Western sensibility and culture;

a preliminary study of the parameters peculiar to the Canadian pattern of identity;

— a full-scale study of the etymological and verbal character of all human artefacts, which places the study of technologies and their effects on a linguistic and humanistic basis for the first time, and which allows prediction of effects (currently underway, supported in part by a SSHRC grant).

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