The End of the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology (1968 – 2023)


    Marshall McLuhan at the Coach House on the University of Toronto                 campus, (Robert Lansdale, University of Toronto Archives).

By Alexander Kuskis, PhD
University of Toronto

The purpose of the Centre for Culture and Technology, as initially envisioned by Marshall McLuhan in 1963, was to “advance the understanding of the origins and effects of technology.” One of the specific objectives was “to organize an inter-disciplinary seminar for staff members and graduate students and to devise new experimental procedures for identifying the psychic and social consequences of technological change.” These were revolutionary ideas at the time and there was excitement in the air.

McLuhan, whose name became identified with the new field of Media Studies, believed that bringing together scholars, business people, artists, and other leaders in their fields, would provide analysis of, and solutions to, problems that evaded those isolated in their own professional silos. The journal “Explorations (See, co-edited by McLuhan with Edmund Carpenter, was just such an exercise. See also some of the original editions of “Explorations” here:

To ensure McLuhan’s return to the University of Toronto from Fordham University in New York where he was occupying the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities for the academic year 1967-68, McLuhan was promised a building and small staff in which to house his Centre. He was offered an unused coach house behind the Kelly Library on its west side, which acting director Arthur Porter took charge of until McLuhan returned. For the next 12 years, the Centre was a thriving hub of exploration, innovation, and scholarly production.

After Marshall McLuhan died in 1980, the Centre found continued life as the renamed McLuhan Program for Culture and Technology, whose main purpose was to be the sponsorship of lectures and research on the work of Marshall McLuhan and related activities.  From 1983 until 2008, the McLuhan Program was under the direction of Derrick de Kerckhove who was McLuhan’s colleague, student, and translator. After de Kerckhove’s tenure, the Faculty of Information, also known as the iSchool, renamed the program the Coach House Institute (CHI), distancing the faculty from McLuhan’s legacy. In 2016, CHI was renamed once again in McLuhan’s honour as the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. The Estate agreed to this with the tacit understanding that finally, a centre for McLuhan Studies would be established at the University. This was not to be. The programming since the renaming in 2016, has not been McLuhan-centred.

Realizing that the Faculty of Information had no intention of nurturing a centre for McLuhan Studies, the Estate and heirs decided to rescind permission for the use of the McLuhan name. The process, begun in May 2022, will be completed this month according to the current Dean, Wendy Duff.

The Estate and heirs would still be happy to see a program of McLuhan Studies established at the University of Toronto or another Toronto-based University. Michael McLuhan, Executor for the Estate, said it “would have to be an institution with the integrity and funding necessary to establish a program or Chair to further scholarship in the field of McLuhan Studies.” While there are several historical plaques at the University of Toronto, plus a street named Marshall McLuhan Way, and a sculpture on campus attesting to Marshall McLuhan’s association with the university, there is no longer his Coach House with his name on it that was associated with him for 55-years. That is a pity for his many former students, collaborators, and admirers from around the world who recognized his accomplishments in the new fields of media ecology, media literacy, and media studies.


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