Guest editors: Phil Rose (Canada), Varvara Chumakova (Russia)

This year marks 50 years since the publication of Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s book The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967), which sought to popularize McLuhan’s central theses about the environmental changes that new media help to bring about. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), McLuhan originally proposed the formula “the medium is the message“, but the error that appeared in the former book’s title became a catalyst for considerable discussion within media studies. This formula has been interpreted in different ways, but it primarily highlights that the very form of communication influences certain patterns of reality construction encoded within the message itself: that is, the form and content of communication are inextricably linked. The medium as “massage“, however, indicates that media have direct effects on their users as well. Other variants of this formula have appeared. “The medium is the mass age” and “the medium is the mess age” refer us not only to the problems of mass culture, which flourished in the middle of the 20th century; but also to various criticisms of this development, including the cultural problems associated with symbol drain and information overload. “Mess“, after all, is a sort of rubbish, clutter, or disorder.

This special issue is unique in being an inter-cultural (Russian and English) as well as intercontinental collaboration providing its articles in English and Cyrillic Russian.

Vol 3 No 1 (2018)


Владимир Геннадьевич Николаев


Scott McLemee examines Susan Zieger’s The Mediated Mind: Affect, Ephemera, and Consumerism in the Nineteenth Century, which helps put into clear view the impact of mass media culture on the way we live now.

By Scott McLemee   –  July 27, 2018

Among the first books about Marshall McLuhan was one called The Medium Is the Rear-View Mirror (1971)– [by Donald F. Theall, McLuhan’s first PhD student at U of Toronto] a title that alluded to the media theorist’s most famous sound bite while also incorporating one of his favorite metaphors. An uncommonly lucid explanation of what he meant by “the rear-view mirror view of the world” can be found in the interview he gave to Playboy magazine in 1969: “Because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has proceeded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world.”

McLuhan’s core doctrine was that technology in general and communications media in particular defines the terrain of human experience and cognition so completely as to be, in effect, our real environment — our second nature, in the fullest sense. A sufficiently transformative innovation, such as Gutenberg’s movable type, reorganizes the whole social and cultural order so radically that, soon enough, it is almost impossible to comprehend the extent of the change itself. Instead, old expressive forms and patterns of life turn into content for the new media system. Television absorbed film, just as film consumed narrative literature, which assimilated and digested oral storytelling — with changes in audience and habits of attention at each turn.

McLuhan had an unfortunate tendency to coat his insights with thick layers of vatic bafflegab [a matter of opinion]. (Perhaps the less said about his notion of television as a tactile medium engaging the mind more fully than the printed page, the better.) But the nub of his argument is bound to seem plausible to anyone who has lived through at least the last two or three decades of cultural reformatting by digital means. Visible in the rearview mirror now is the telecommunications system of McLuhan’s own day, with messages beaming out from a few stations to a mass audience — an ordering of attention that grows ever harder to imagine, but that anyone who grew up in it took as a given. “We don’t know who discovered water,” as another of McLuhan aphorisms has it, “but we know it wasn’t a fish…”

Read the rest of the review of Susan Zieger’s book here:

Publisher’s listing for Zieger’s book:

2-page spread from McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage

The online publication of the journal Imaginations 8-3: Special Issue on Marshall McLuhan & the Arts was announced on this blog in December of last year. See

Here is a note from co-editor of this issue Adam Lauder: [I am] delighted to finally share the print version of the special issue of ‘Imaginations’ co-edited by Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers and myself, on the theme of “McLuhan and the arts,” with fantastic contributions by Mohammad Salemy, Elena Lamberti, Jody Berland, Tom McGlynn, Alexander Kuskis, Jessica Jacobson-Konefall / May Chew / Daina Warren, Henry Svec, Adina Balint, Gary Genosko, and Kenneth Allan; beautifully printed in full colour by Friesens in Winnipeg …many thanks to Editor-in-Chief Sheena Wilson and the team at Imaginations for hosting and facilitating this project, especially Managing Editor Brent Ryan Bellamy for his unflagging support of every stage of the rigorous review and production processes, as well as copy editor Shama Rangwala and French translator and copy editor Ève Robidoux-Descary. Thank you to Jaqueline, whose concept this special issue was, for inviting me to collaborate, and for giving me space to “experiment” in our Introduction. Additional special thanks to Kari McCluskey at the University of Winnipeg and Dr. Markus Reisenleitner (York University, and incoming Editor-in-Chief of Imaginations). 

About this issue:

“The artist tends now to move from the ivory tower to the control tower of society”. —Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)

Editors | Adam Lauder and Jaqueline McLeod Rogers

This special issue exploring “Marshall McLuhan and the arts” encourages new approaches to the study of McLuhan’s influential theses on perception, design, and the built environment as well as the artist’s changing role in postindustrial society. Submissions try to excavate previously unknown, or lesser-known, narratives and linkages, and/or engage contemporary resonances and possibilities for intersection with current critical theories and debates.

Recent years have been witness to McLuhan’s re-emergence as a major interdisciplinary thinker whose writings bridge the study of communication, culture, and technology. The computational, materialist and sensorial foci of his thought offer suggestive alternatives to approaches and assumptions embedded in the linguistic turn. Our volume includes papers that explore his work on design, perception, and visualization as well as how his insights continue to inform or otherwise connect up with current art and design production as well as theories about their place and meaning in contemporary culture…

TO ORDER COPIES: Email, Attn: Kari

The cost is $30 for the first copy and $25 for additional copies.

A cropped portion of a collage created by Indo-Canadian artist Panchal Mansaram who prefers to be called Mansaram with the collaboration of Marshall McLuhan that includes a photo of the latter taken by Mansaram (1969, with new elements added in 2011).

Click on the image for a readable view.

Many McLuhans: Celebrating the UNESCO Designation

A symposium to celebrate and mark the designation of the Marshall McLuhan Library archives into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Organized and sponsored by the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

Friday, September 21, 2018   –   10 AM – 6 PM

Keynote Speaker: John Durham Peters (see

Special Guest Speaker: Andrew McLuhan


Daniel Adelman (Innis College, University of Toronto)
Mitchell Akiyama (Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto)
Jody Berland (Humanities, York University)
Michael Darroch (School of Visual Arts, University of Windsor)
Robert Fisher (Library and Archives Canada)
Alan Galey (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto)
Gary Genosko (Communication, Ontario Institute of Technology)
Baruch Gottlieb (Canadian Visual Artist/Author based in Berlin)
Paolo Granata (Book and Media Studies, St. Michael’s College)
Ganaele Langlois (Communication, York University)
Janine Marchessault (Cinema and Media Studies, York University)
Rhonda McEwen (ICCIT/Canada Research Chair, University of Toronto)
Sarah Sharma (McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto)
John Shoesmith (Fisher Library, University of Toronto)
Armond Towns (Communication, University of Denver)
Liam Cole Young (Communication, Carleton University)


A note from Andrew McLuhan of the McLuhan Institute )

Marshall McLuhan’s annotated working library, now at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, was recently added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, recognizing that it is a globally important cultural artifact.

Some years ago I had the remarkable experience of inventorying and documenting the library before it left our family.

It has been a joy over the years to share that experience and that library with people around the world in presentations and through my blog ‘inscriptorium.’

I recently began a new similar journey with my father Eric’s library, and I am looking forward to sharing that as well. Like Eric and Marshall, the libraries are related but different. Eric’s is very much an extension of Marshall’s.

It was my honour to accept an invitation to speak at this celebratory event this September in Toronto being organized by the Fisher library and the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology – University of Toronto.

Please join us if you are in the area this fall!

The Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

Marshall McLuhan was a Catholic, having converted from the Baptist and Methodist faiths of his parents in 1937 at the age of 26. But is his body of work on media theory essentially Catholic in its scope and substance? Partially it certainly is. In his late teens and 20s he was influenced by Thomist philosophy and Catholic writers like G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, but after he studied at Cambridge University he was at least equally influenced by non-Catholic thinkers like I.A. Richards, F.R. Leavis, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce (who left the Catholic Church, “non serviam”), Harold Innis, E.T. Hall and many others. For a word cloud of influences on McLuhan that suggest that religion by itself had little to do with his thinking about culture and technology, produced by Paolo Granata, see In my opinion, an understanding of McLuhan’s Catholicism is important for an understanding of the man, but only to a certain extent for his media thought. (Thanks to Paolo Granata for bringing this recent article to my attention.)

By Brett Robinson   –  June 29, 2018

When WIRED magazine christened the Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan its “patron saint” on the original masthead in 1992, it seemed like a fitting honor. After all, the new tech culture magazine was the self-proclaimed authority on where the world was headed in the digital age. So tagging McLuhan, the late English professor turned media philosopher, added some prophetic pomp. His popular slogans like “the medium is the message” sounded like Zen koans written by an ad man, perfect for a Silicon Valley culture fixated on spreading the gospel of techno-utopianism.

Here is something you will not find in WIRED magazine: “In Jesus Christ, there is no distance or separation between the medium and the message: it is the one case where we can say that the medium and the message are fully one and the same.”[1] A theological take on “the medium is the message.” This is also McLuhan.

Whether McLuhan coined his famous phrase while looking at a television or a crucifix is of little importance. What is interesting is how McLuhan applied his deeply Catholic imagination to understanding media. The rangy professor with a penchant for the prophetic was running on a different operating system than the secular elites of Silicon Valley.

McLuhan may not have been the patron saint WIRED was looking for; rather, he was a techno-heretic in electric sheep’s clothing. A scholar of James Joyce, McLuhan wrote in a style reminiscent of Joycean satire, skewering the advertisers and technologists who so admired his style. McLuhan was not unlike the protagonist in Joyce’s “The Holy Office”:

But all these men of whom I speak
Make me a sewer of their clique.
That they may dream their dreamy dreams
I carry off their filthy streams

Thus I relieve their timid arses,
Perform my office of Katharsis.
My scarlet leaves them white as wool
Through me they purge a bellyful. [2]

McLuhan hovered at a vantage point from which he could see clearly the naive romanticism and insularity of the media “professionals” who leaned on his work for justification.

In one breath McLuhan called advertising “the greatest art form of the 20th century” and in the next, “a vast, military operation to conquer the human spirit.” To try and pin down McLuhan would be a mistake. He was neither an optimist nor pessimist when it came to understanding our hyper-mediated environment. By his own description, he was only “apocalyptic.”

In a letter to Jacques Maritain, McLuhan wrote the following:

“Electric information environments being utterly ethereal fosters the illusion of the world as a spiritual substance. It is now a reasonable facsimile of the mystical body, a blatant manifestation of the Anti-Christ”. [3]

Maritain responded by agreeing that the rapidity of change did not allow time for adaptation and that the technological revolution was producing “grave” troubles for some Catholics. In an interview with Pierre Babin, McLuhan expanded his metaphysical view of media:

“Just think: each person can instantly be tuned to a “new Christ” and mistake him for the real Christ. At such times it becomes crucial to hear properly and to tune yourself in to the right frequency”. [4]

McLuhan’s apocalyptic view was not negative. As he explained it, “Apocalypse is not gloom. It’s salvation. No Christian could ever be an optimist or a pessimist: that’s a purely secular state of mind.” [5] Privately, he wondered if the new media environment might even usher in a “religious Renaissance.” [6]

The 1960’s were not a particularly friendly time for Catholic intellectuals of any stripe who sought to integrate the Church’s intellectual tradition with that of the social sciences. The academic tide had turned toward a more secular and critical approach to the disciplines. In his public appearances, McLuhan often veiled his religious commitments so as not to be outed. In a famous debate with the novelist Norman Mailer on Canadian public television, McLuhan tried to explain how the technology of the satellite had turned Nature into content. No longer something external and out of our control, Nature was now a work of art, visible in its totality from the outside and above, completely programmable.

[1] M. McLuhan, E. McLuhan, J. Szlarek, The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 102.

[2] J. Joyce, James Joyce: The Poems in Verse and Prose (London: Kyle Cathie Limited, 1996), 42.

[3] M. McLuhan, E. McLuhan, J. Szlarek, The Medium and the Light, op. cit., 72.

[4] Coste, review: M. McLuhan, Autre homme, autre chrétien à l’âge électronique (Book Review), Bulletin De Littérature Ecclésiastique (1980): 81, 233.

[5] M. McLuhan, E. McLuhan, J. Szlarek, The Medium and the Light, op. cit., 50.

[6] See:, accessed June 28, 2018.

Read the rest of this essay at

Two other essays on McLuhan and religion can be read at:-

D. de Kerckhove, Passion and Precision: The Faith of Marshall McLuhan (1982) at

R.J. De Souza. Marshall McLuhan and the Divine Message (2011) at

St. Basil’s Church, built in 1856, is the founding church of the Congregation of St. Basil in TorontoOntario, Canada, the college church of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, and a parish church serving a large local congregation. Marshall McLuhan went to mass there daily during his years at St Mike’s as the college is known as by locals.

This is addressed to the Marshall McLuhan community of interest and supporters of the McLuhan legacy in the Greater Toronto region, in Canada and beyond. The situation that concerns us is at York University in their English Department and is described by B.W. Powe in the paragraph below his photograph.

 B.W. Powe

B.W. Powe–poet, writer, scholar, essayist–has been teaching his course at York University on Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye for several years now. It is about to be cancelled very early in the enrollment season, which traditionally goes on until late August. Enrollment has been down at York since the long strike. The English Department has been deeply affected. Nevertheless, this course has been popular, and in fact usually enrolls to its limit. It is the only course of its kind in North American Universities and Colleges. It is the only course at York that focuses entirely on Marshall McLuhan for a semester. Its elimination could be a setback for McLuhan studies in Toronto. BW was in the process of building bridges with his colleague Paolo Granata at the University of Toronto, setting up joint events so that York and the U of T could develop a McLuhan synchronicity between the universities. This is now at risk of being lost. Any help in communicating our collective dismay with York’s intentions would be helpful and deeply welcomed.


I am sending my own email letter of support for BW and dismay at this overhasty action for BW, not just because his course has been canceled too early since such decisions are usually made in late August for the Fall and Winter semesters and there is ample time for additional enrollments, but because this usually over-subscribed  course has as of a few days ago been dropped from the English Department’s curriculum entirely with no prior notice or consultation with Professor Powe. This is wholly unwarranted.

I am calling on supporters of the Marshall McLuhan legacy, which is not just important to Toronto and Canada, but the whole world, to send email letters of support for BW Powe and his McLuhan-Frye course with a request that it be reinstated for this Fall/Winter semesters and returned to the English Department’s curriculum for future students.

I will not publish the email addresses of the York University administrator’s here, so if you are interested and wish to add your support for this cause, please send me a note by Messenger if you are on Facebook or by email to AlexanderKuskis at gmail dot com. Thank you………………Alex Kuskis

For your information here is Wikipedia’s bio on BW Powe:

ADDENDUM July 16, 2018: A York University student’s petition was started by a former student of BW’s by the name of Kathy Tsukalis. York University students can go to this site to read and sign it:

This is a non-scholarly journalistic look back at Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. It is mostly an appreciation but it also includes some cutting comments about McLuhan’s “obscure” writing style and criticism of McLuhan’s “matrix” structure for the book. He should have read the page that is untitled and unpaginated that precedes page one of the Prologue to The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962); there he wrote of his “mosaic or field approach,” stating that it represents “the galaxy or constellation of events” in a “mosaic of perpetually interacting forms that have undergone kaleidoscopic transformation—particularly in our own time.”  He chose a matrix structure as opposed to a traditional linear approach because he thought it reflected the post-literate “allatonceness” world of electronic media and technology. 

Living in Marshall McLuhan’s Galaxy

One can find fault with his showy, wilfully obscure style, but the world he predicted 50 years ago is the one we live in.

True, you have to get past the fact that it’s a hastily written, over-padded undergraduate term paper. It consists of little more than a series of lengthy, brain-cramping quotations about the alphabet and typography, and scatterings of slick bite-sized ad copy, unborn ideas and incomprehensible references. A cast of brilliant writers including Cervantes, James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, Plato, and Shakespeare walk across the book’s stage in roles that, while entertaining if you’re into literature, are more perplexing than illuminative.

But to dismiss it as frustrating gibberish, tempting though this may be, would be foolish. McLuhan, the crafty gadfly, knew exactly what he was doing. For the serious, patient reader, this book reveals, over time, powerful insights into the impact of communications technology on human existence.

In communicating his message, McLuhan eschews clear, linear writing for the “grotesque,” an approach that, in principle, expresses truths by throwing together collections of symbols, leaving it up to the “beholder” to make the connections; truths that would otherwise take much longer to express verbally; a kind of “witty jazz” with no point of view, no linear connection and no sequential order, where the reader participates as co-author.

This may explain why the book starts by leaping immediately to its conclusion, as McLuhan invokes William Blake to explain his delivery:

The Reasoning Spectre Stands between the Vegetative Man & his Immortal Imagination.

By beginning at the end, and throwing all sorts of ideas around in a “mosaic pattern of perception and observation” McLuhan is drawing attention to the fact that print is biased in favour of organised, logical, segmented thinking … when really there’s a whole lot more going on. Reason, he seeks to show, offers only incomplete understanding of the world.

The book’s main topic has to do with the senses we use to make sense of the world. When this orientation changes, men change. And they change when any one sense, or bodily or mental function, is externalised by technology. Imagination is the balance that exists when there is unity of experience, an entire, natural interplay among the senses; when no senses are “outered”. When outered, each sense becomes a closed system, and in “beholding this new thing, man is compelled to become it”.

Plato is quoted as saying that the onset of literacy diminished ontological awareness, thereby impoverishing experience. The stated purpose of The Gutenberg Galaxy is to discover how far the restrictive visual bias was pushed by introduction of the alphabet, then manuscripts, then typography. The message of the book is not that print, or any other communications technology, is good or bad, but rather that to be unconscious of its effect is disastrous. Print-biased man, for example, is unwittingly subjected to “its remorseless power of homogenisation” and is therefore in jeopardy of losing the capacity to imagine freely and independently.

Standing on mentor Harold Innis‘s shoulders, McLuhan suggests that revolution takes place as personal and social life adjusts to new models of perception produced by new technologies. From the alphabet on, he says, there has been a continuous drive in the west toward a separation of the senses which has had a profound impact on our emotional and political existence.

Non-literate modes, says McLuhan, are implicit, simultaneous and discontinuous (much like his text). They existed in the primitive past, and as he predicted, seem to be shaping the future. (Source:

Marshall McLuhan, Canadian philosopher, holding a book as he leans over a chair. Photograph, 1966.

Brennan Hall, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto

Deadline for submission: December 1, 2018

The Media Ecology Association invites paper and panel proposals for presentation at its 20th Annual Convention, taking place on 27-30 June 2019 in Toronto.

We welcome submissions that encompass the broad array of disciplines focusing on the study of media as environments, technology and techniques, modes of information, and symbolic codes of communication that constitute media ecology.

We also invite submissions exploring this year’s theme “Media Ethics. Human Ecology in a Connected World”.

In our current hyper-connected era, information and communication technologies are increasingly forming the infrastructure of a new digital human ecosystem which is larger and quicker to evolve than any prior.
This continually transforming and evolving planetary habitat connects all of humanity into, what Marshall McLuhan’s prescient mind termed, a “Global Village”.

Technology and new media’s impact on this ecosystem has a profound effect on every aspect of the human ethos – self-expression, education, values, beliefs, needs, livelihood, enjoyment – and society at large.
Over the past few years, these emerging technologies and unforeseen digital media practices have also given rise to ethical issues, political and societal questions of critical importance to our evolving future.

The countless unintended implications – current or potential – of today’s rapid technological developments have largely come from socio-technical systems and emerging digital, robotic, artificially intelligent, or biomedical technologies. These advances have led to an unprecedented need for new ethical perspectives and frameworks to underpin the building blocks of our new digital ecosystem.

General areas of interest related to this year’s theme include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Internet of things
  • Robotics and automation
  • Bioengineering
  • Virtual/augmented reality
  • Data ethics, privacy, surveillance, cybersecurity, and data protection
  • Big data and cloud computing
  • Social media algorithms
  • Internet policy
  • Misinformation on social media
  • Propaganda, censorship, and free speech
  • Net Neutrality, openness, and digital inclusion
  • Media integrity in journalism, advertising, public relations
  • Digital citizenship, social and political engagement
  • Entertainment media, digital and media arts
  • Digital literacy and media pedagogy
  • Civil discourse, human dignity, diversity, and individual expression in the media ecosystem
  • Wellbeing sustainability and prosperity in the media environment
  • Innovative interpretations and new ethical perspectives emanating from the Media Ecology intellectual tradition
Download the full 2-page extended CFP which includes Guidelines for Submission, Panel Presentation Submissions, Venues & Special Events, Important Dates & other essential information from:
Portion of a bas-relief plaque in front of the Kelly Library at St Mike’s that includes the images of James Joyce, Marshall McLuhan & other faculty such as Étienne Gilson who taught at St. Mike’s

What do Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, media theorist Marshall McLuhan and Canadian popular culture have in common? This is the question that Mark A. McCutcheon seeks to answer in his new book, The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology, published in 2018 by Athabasca University Press. In this unique and penetrating analysis, McCutcheon argues that Shelley’s 1818 novel essentially reinvented the word “technology” for the modern age, establishing its connections with ominous notions of man-made monstrosity. In the twentieth century, this monstrous, Frankensteinian conception of technology was globalized and popularized largely through Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its numerous, diverse adaptations in Canadian popular culture. The Medium is the Monster establishes Frankenstein, and its various adaptations, as the originating intertext for a modern conceptualisation of technology that has manifested with a unique potency in Canadian pop culture, informing works as disparate as David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the fiction of Margaret Atwood, and even electronic dance music. Furthermore, McCutcheon undertakes an incisive of analysis of how Frankensteinian constructions of technology have shaped real-world discussions of science and industry, an intertextual discourse which he sees as most powerfully encapsulated in the rhetoric associated with the Alberta tar sands industry.

Over the course of the interview, McCutcheon provides some fascinating insights into changing cultural attitudes towards technology, the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the novel’s relationship to McLuhan’s media theory, and the surprising scope of Shelley’s cultural impact. (Source:

About the Author

Mark A. McCutcheon is professor of literary studies at Athabasca University. His scholarly publications include articles on such subjects as Canadian popular culture, Frankenstein adaptations, and copyright policy in English Studies in CanadaDigital Studies/Le champ numériqueContinuum, and Popular Music, among other scholarly journals and books. Mark has also published poetry and short fiction in literary magazines like EVENTExistereCarousel, and subTerrain. Originally from Toronto, Mark lives in Edmonton. His scholarly blog is

 First Ed. 1818

From Mark McCutcheon’s Review of the Study

The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel, Frankenstein. In the two centuries since its appearance, the book has taken on the mantle of a cultural touchstone, having been adapted, referenced, recapitulated, and retold in an apparently endless succession of books, movies, graphic novels, and other media. Itself loosely based on the Prometheus and Pygmalion myths, Shelley’s novel has become one of the most influential books in the western canon.

It is also a volume capacious enough to encompass a dizzying array of interpretive approaches. The text has been seen variously as a warning about humanity’s hubris in attempting to play God, a cautionary tale about the limits of scientific knowledge, and an early meditation on the nature of technology and industrialization. Literary critic Wendy Steiner writes that Shelley “was clearly horrified by the cold, overreaching adventurism of science, industrialism, colonization. Even art was not immune from dehumanization. … Frankenstein’s monster is a symbol of art as inhumane manufacture.”

Athabasca University professor of literary studies Mark A. McCutcheon extends this investigation – not altogether convincingly – in his new volume, which posits a kind of Venn diagram of influence among Shelley’s novel, the writing of media critic Marshall McLuhan, and Canadian pop culture, most especially in the realm of science fiction movies and literature………..

But his investigation of McLuhan’s influence on postmodernism and our current technology-besotted society is vigorous and provocative. It is also interesting to note the similarities between McLuhan and a current Canadian academic currently making waves in the popular culture. McCutcheon cites W. Terrence Gordon, who suggested that McLuhan was interrogating “the feminization of the North American male” in The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. When McCutcheon later refers to McLuhan’s “cult of personality as a maverick academic” and his status as a “theoretical guru,” it’s almost impossible not to make a comparison with Jordan Peterson. (Read the entire review at

Eric McLuhan at the18th Annual Convention, St. Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA June 22–25, 2017

On Eric McLuhan’s ‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century’

By Andrew McLuhan

[Eric McLuhan’s last speech, ‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century,’ was delivered at El Nogal in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 17th, 2018. He died, suddenly, the following afternoon. The following remarks were written to introduce that speech when it’s published along with the speeches which Lance Strate and Sergio Roncallo-Dow gave that evening.]

ME21 — Introduction

Asked to travel to Bogotá, Colombia, to give an opening address at the Universidad de la Sabana’s launch of their doctorate program in communication, Eric McLuhan used the opportunity to make some comments regarding what he felt needed immediate (and overdue) attention in the area of media ecology, and to offer some advice to people wading into that field of study. He felt that those just starting out, especially as they are in Colombia, removed from what now constitutes a tradition in North America, have a great opportunity to make a fresh start; to avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes; to begin again.

Eric McLuhan was there when the idea of media ecology was born. Indeed, he maintained that he came up with the term while in New York City in 1967–68 helping his father Marshall McLuhan as he taught at Fordham, and that Neil Postman “ran with it.”

In the McLuhan school of media ecology, it is not simply an area of study, but an area of action, and this is what Eric wanted to get across in his speech. We have to be more than observers, we have to be agents of change. It’s been more than 50 years. Enough talk, time to act.

This activist stance, taken seriously — as it is meant to be taken — is not popular. It’s radical. It requires great changes in various cultures’ attitudes and habits, and it means a significant reduction of profits for technology companies and their shareholders. That is some of what we’re up against.

In a letter dated May 6, 1969, Marshall McLuhan wrote to Jacques Maritain:

“There is a deep-seated repugnance in the human breast against understanding the processes in which we are involved. Such understanding involves far too much responsibility for our actions. … Since we are doing these things to ourselves, there is no earthly reason for submitting to them unconsciously or irrationally.”[1]

My father was becoming bold in his statements. A devout and life-long Catholic, he was more willing to speak in public about his faith, especially as it related to his work. He had, in the last year or two since the publication of The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul (BPS Books, 2015) spoken publicly a few times about his ideas for a ‘Catholic theory of communication,’ particularly when we traveled to Saskatoon where he gave the Keenan lecture at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatoon, in November 2017.[2]

I had been traveling with my father for the last ten years or so. Because of his at-times fragile health, he needed someone with him who could assist in an emergency. It was during these trips that I began to get interested in ‘the family business,’ as it were. Hearing him talk, and in our own conversations during travel, I began to get an understanding of what it was all about. Understanding is addictive. My interest was cemented when I spent almost two years documenting and inventorying Marshall McLuhan’s personal library prior to its relocation to the Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.[3]

Because of Eric’s advancing age and increasing difficulty with travel — he was 76 years old, and I had started to wheel him through airports in a wheelchair because he couldn’t walk very long distances — we had decided he would retire from traveling to speak in 2018. We had already committed to two engagements this year, Colombia and Germany[4], and decided to keep them.

In the tragedy and shock of my father’s death On Friday, May 18th while we were in Colombia, there was a surprising amount of beauty.

As Marshall tended to teach at Catholic institutions, so my father seemed to get invited to speak at Catholic institutions. Our last three trips were to St. Mary’s College in California (Keynote address to the Media Ecology Association’s annual conference), St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon (The 29th Michael Keenan Memorial Lecture), and La Universidad de la Sabana in Chia just outside of Bogotá, Colombia.

Eric took the opportunity to pray in the university’s two chapels and had been remarking on an abundance of roses, a sign he related to St. Theresa de Lisieux, who he had a particular fondness for.

It is a comfort to his family that Eric died while in the bosom of his faith; practising it with his characteristic devotion, feeling its real presence around him.

It is fitting that his last public address would be about looking forward to media ecology in the 21st century, entreating us to be bold, have courage, blaze new trails.

He went out with style and grace.

I will miss his presence, his wit, his obsession with all forms of puns, his humour. I will miss his instruction, his patience in answering my every question with their often-obvious answers. The world is poorer for the loss of his knowledge and skill. I will wish I paid closer attention. I will have to be content with what I was able to learn, and trust that it prepared me to go forward. I will treasure it all as well, and I am glad he left behind much on the record, for us all.

‘Media Ecology in the 21st Century’ is more than a wonderful speech; it is a map, a way forward.

The short and emotionally charged conclusion to the speech was written by hand while Eric waited to go on stage. He urges us to be bold, dares us to be radical, fortifies us with courage.

Let’s go — there’s little time to waste.

Andrew McLuhan
June 2, 2018.

[1] The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion, edited by Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek (Stoddart, 1999).

[2] Eric McLuhan’s lecture ‘Catholicism and Communication: The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul’ was recorded and is available on The McLuhan Institute’s YouTube channel.

[3] Marshall McLuhan’s library has recently been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World registry.

[4] Our last trip together was to be in Germany this November (2018) at the Munster School of Design. A conference loosely organized around the 30th anniversary of the publication of Laws of Media: The New Science.


Marshall McLuhan & Young Eric McLuhan