Janine Marchessault on Marshall McLuhan (2004)

16May21
Janine Marchessault

Janine Marchessault is a professor in Cinema and Media Arts and holds a York University Research Chair in Media Art and Social Engagement. Her research has engaged with four areas: the history of large screen media (from multiscreen to Imax to media as architecture and VR); diverse models of public art, festivals, and site specific curation; 21st century moving-image archives and notions of collective memory/history. She is a founder of the Future Cinema Lab, and the 2014-2016 inaugural Director of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts Research. A Trudeau Fellow, she is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Unfortunately, the embedding code for this TVO Video does not work. Therefore, please follow this link to view the half-hour video:
https://tinyurl.com/5x5j7ym4

This is TVO’s transcript for the presentation, unfortunately with the entire text capitalized. Obviously, they seem unaware that full textual capitalization is DIGITAL SHOUTING!

Janine says I THINK THAT PEOPLE ARE, ARE READING MCLUHAN AGAIN —
BECAUSE THE ROLE OF COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES IS IN MEDIATING AND PRODUCING FUNDAMENTAL SOCIAL CHANGES IS MAYBE MORE OBVIOUS RIGHT NOW THAN IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO.

THERE’S ARGUABLY A MORE PRESSING NEED RIGHT NOW TO UNDERSTAND THE FUNCTION OF TECHNOLOGY. THE CHANGES THAT ARE BEING BROUGHT ABOUT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY IN THE CONTEXT OF
GLOBALIZATION. OR RATHER THERE’S A PRESSING NEED TO UNDERSTAND
GLOBALIZATION IN TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY.

IN TERMS OF NEW COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY AND MCLUHAN’S WORK, I BELIEVE WILL PROVIDE US WITH TOOLS TO DEVISE QUESTIONS FOR THINKING ABOUT THESE CHANGES. FOR THINKING ABOUT WHAT’S BEEN CALLED SPACE, TIME, COMPRESSION. DESPITE THIS SENSE OF MCLUHAN AS A VANGUARD THINKER THOUGH, WE MUST ALSO REMEMBER THAT HE TRAINED AT CAMBRIDGE IN ENGLISH STUDIES AND WAS DEEPLY INFLUENCED BY THE CAMBRIDGE NEW CRITICS, ESPECIALLY F.R. LEVIS, AND I.A. RICHARDS.

SO MCLUHAN IS FIRST AND FOREMOST AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR. A CONSERVATIVE, IF NOT STUBBORNLY, ANTI-MODERN, MENTALITY. HE NEVER DROVE A CAR. HE DID NOT WATCH TELEVISION, A MAN OF LETTERS AND SATIRIST. AND IT’S CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTAND THAT HIS CONCEPT OF THE MEDIA, A TERM HE MADE FAMOUS BEGINS WITH AN AWARENESS OF THE MATERIALITY OF LANGUAGE, WITH LANGUAGE AS TECH NAME.

IT’S THIS PASSION FOR THE BEAUTY AND ORGANIC EXISTENCE OF LANGUAGE BOTH WRITTEN AND ORAL, THAT SETS MCLUHAN’S WRITINGS ON THE MEDIA APART FROM THE MORE, IMPERICALLY DRIVEN APPROACHES THAT CAME TO CHARACTERIZE THE NORTH AMERICAN SOCIAL SCIENCES IN THE 50S AND 60S.

MCLUHAN’S DISTINCTIVE, INTERDISCIPLINARY STYLE OF WRITING ALIGNS HIM WITH THE POST WAR GENERATION OF CULTURAL THEORISTS.
RAYMOND WILLIAMS, AUREL BACHT, UMBERTO ECO AND MOST ESPECIALLY, HAROLD INNIS. WHILE THESE THINKERS HAVE NOT ALWAYS SHARED MCLUHAN’S VIEWS OF THE MEDIA, WILLIAMS AND ECHO WERE SOMETIMES HIS STAUNCHEST CRITICS…

Janine takes a bottle with water from a nearby table.
She continues…

LIKE HIM THEIR THEORIES EXCEED ACADEMICALLY DEFINED NORMS OF WRITING AND DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES. ALL OF THESE WRITERS ADDRESS THE LIBBED CONTEXT OF EVERY DAY CULTURE.

THOSE THINGS THAT MAKE UP ORDINARY PERCEPTIONS AND EXPERIENCES, ALWAYS PLACES THEIR INSIGHTS WITHIN A HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK. IN THEIR WRITINGS, CULTURE IS WHAT IS SO FAMILIAR THAT IS HAS CEASED TO BE NOTICED.

THAT CULTURE IS AN ENVIRONMENT. A WHOLE WAY OF LIFE. A METHOS.

THESE CONCEPTUALIZATIONS HAVE HELPED TO LAY THE FOUNDATIONS
AND DEFINE SOME OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE QUESTIONS FOR MEDIA
STUDIES, AND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF CULTURAL STUDIES IN A VARIETY OF NATIONAL CONTEXTS FROM THE 50S ON.

MCLUHAN’S CAREER ENCOMPASSES THE MULTIPLE MEANINGS OF THE
WORD PROJECT OR PROJECT OR PROJECTION. THE PROCESS OF CREATING. THE PERFORMATIVE ASPECTS OF SPEECH, REFRACTED LIGHT,
PSYCHOLOGICAL TRANSFERENCE, A COURSE OF ACTION, A COMMUNITY
OF MAKING.

I SEE MCLUHAN’S, BOTH HIS WRITINGS AND HIS ORAL COMMUNICATION AS DEEPLY PEDAGOGICAL. HIS PEDAGOGICAL ART AS THE CANADIAN CULTURAL THEORIST, JOHN FECKADAY HAS CALLED IT, IS COMMITTED TO CREATING DIALOGUE AND INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITY, TO CREATING COMMUNITY, TO CREATING COMMUNION.

IT’S A PROFOUNDLY, CATHOLIC PROJECT. MCLUHAN’S PROJECT WAS TO
MATERIALIZE THE WEB OF HUMAN RELATIONS, MINUTE AND LARGE,
INFRASTRUCTURAL AND COTIDIAN IN THE WORLD. THIS CONNECTIVE WEB HE BELIEVED WAS ENHANCED BY ELECTRIC MEDIA. ONE CAN READ HIS COLLAGES AND HIS STIMULATING, SOMETIMES CRAZY, HOMOLOGIES AS MOTIVATED BY A FAITH THAT EVERYTHING IS INTER-RELATED.

THE RESEARCHER’S TASK IS TO DEVISE WAYS OF MATERIALIZING OR
EXCAVATING THESE HIDDEN RELATIONALITIES, AND FOR THIS REASON ARTISTS ARE ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL TO MCLUHAN’S PROJECT.

MCLUHAN’S WORK CANNOT BE DIVORCED FROM HIS IMMERSION IN THE CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL TRADITION, WHICH INCLUDES ARISTOTLE, AUGUSTINE, AND AQUINAS. A TRADITION THAT IN HIS INTERPRETATION, GIVES PRIDE OF PLACE TO THE POETIC PROCESS AND TO ARTISTS.

THERE’S A WHOLE LINE OF ARTISTS THAT INTEREST MCLUHAN IN THIS REGARD. FROM CHAUCER TO HABELERT, AND SHAKESPEARE, POE, COLERIDGE, MALAMET, BAUDELAIRE, AND OF COURSE THE GREATEST WRITER OF THE 20TH CENTURY, JAMES JOYCE. POETRY IS THE PRIVILEGED ART FORM.

FOR CONTEMPORARY POETRY HAS ACCORDING TO MCLUHAN HEALED THE BREECH BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE. AND LANGUAGE IS THE PRIMARY MEDIA, WHICH HE SEES AS A COLLECTIVE WORK OF ART BECAUSE OF ITS CONNECTION TO ORAL CULTURE, TO HUMAN SPEECH AND TO THE TEMPORIAL REALM.

FOR MCLUHAN WHO SECRETLY BELIEVED THAT THE BEST ARTISTS OF THE WESTERN WORLD WERE CATHOLIC, THE ARTIST PROVIDES THIS SOURCE OF GREAT INSIGHT. THE ARTIST IS THE ANTENNA OF THE CULTURE. NOT AS PRIVILEGED HUMAN, BUT BECAUSE ARTISTS TAKE AS THEIR OBJECT HUMAN PERCEPTION AND COGNITION…

Read the rest of the transcript at https://tinyurl.com/c9wacn2n 

Marshall McLuhan: Cosmic Media (2005)



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