PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age

Join us for the fifth Monday Night Webinar, Monday MAY 25th, 8:00-10:00 PM EST: PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age.

In a playful, relaxed, and experimental online format, a panel of participants will explore the mosaic of the metaphoric global village in light of the current global crisis, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

Hosted by Paolo Granata
Special guests:
Terence Bowman, Adeena Karasick, Lance Strate, Tom Cooper

LINKS to the live stream:

Marshall McLuhan Facebook Group

The McLuhan Institute YouTube Channel:

Biographies of the Guest Speakers

TERENCE BOWMAN is a Montreal-based actor, improviser, writer, comedian and teacher, with an illustrious career that spans three decades and a multitude of mediums. Stage, studio, keyboard and a classroom are all Terence’s homes. He has appeared in feature films with Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson and has had recurring roles on the TV series Blue Mountain State and Big Wolf on Campus. Terence is a member of The Vestibules, a Canadian sketch comedy group perhaps best known for the Dr. Demento Show cult sketch hit Bulbous Bouffant and for their appearances on CBC Radio, TV and at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Read more here:

ADEENA KARASICK was born in Winnipeg, of Russian Jewish heritage, is a poet / cultural theorist and video and performance artist; as well as the award-winning author of five books of poetry and poetic theory. Dedicated to the interplay of conflictual dialects, aesthetics, textures that impact on the construction of feminist and cultural identity, her articles, reviews and dialogues on contemporary poetry, poetics and cultural/semiotic theory have been published worldwide. Karsick’s writing has been described as “electricity in language,” “an impressive deconstruction of language and meaning which is “exuberant in [its] cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” and “inserts itself amongst the corpus of texts that are changing, and being changed by, contemporary pedagogies”. Read more here:

LANCE STRATE is a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, has an honorary appointment as chair professor at Henan University in China, and was the 2015 Harron Family Endowed Chair in Communication at Villanova University in Philadelphia. He is the author of several books, including “Echoes and Reflections: On Media Ecology as a Field of Study,” “On the Binding Biases of Time and Other Essays on General Semantics and Media Ecology,” “Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman’s Brave New World Revisited,” and most recently, “Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition.” Strate has co-edited a number of anthologies, including two editions of “Communication and Cyberspace,” as well as “The Legacy of McLuhan; Korzybski And…” Read more here:

TOM COOPER is the author or co-author of seven published books about media ethics and criticism and the co-publisher of Media Ethics, an independent academic and professional magazine (both on-line and in print). Cooper has written over a hundred articles and reviews. Recently he has served as an ethics expert for the United Nations creating a new ethics curriculum for students and faculty worldwide. From 1975-1980 at the University of Toronto, Cooper served as an assistant to Marshall McLuhan, the renowned communications theorist who originated the phrase “the medium is the message.” Cooper co-produced some of the first audio-spacebridges (live satellite, two-way broadcasts) between the U.S., the Soviet Union, and other countries. Read more here:

Terence Bowman’s Vestibules, formerly known as Radio Free Vestibule, is a Canadian surrealist comedy troupe composed of Terence Bowman, Paul Paré, and Bernard Deniger. This is their Ballad of Marshall McLuhan:-

The New Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication journal and project is inspired by the original journal Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication, which was edited by Edmund (Ted) Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan. The first eight issues of Explorations were published between 1953 and 1957 at the University of Toronto and a ninth issue was published in 1959 edited by Edmund Carpenter alone. Marshall McLuhan then edited issues 10 to 32 between 1964 and 1972 that appeared as inserts in the alumni magazines of the University of Toronto with issues number 10 through 19 appearing in the Varsity Graduate magazine and issues 20 through 32 appearing in the University of Toronto Graduate magazine.    

New Explorations reaffirms and continues the theoretical perspectives of Explorations, which so profoundly influenced the Toronto School of Communication and media studies worldwide. Just as the first Explorations probed the emergent media technologies of McLuhan’s electric age in the second half of the 20th century, New Explorations continues their voyage of discovery into the digital age of our new millennium.

PUBLISHED: 2020-05-15
  • Editor: Robert K. Logan
  • Associate Editor, Co-Blog Editor:  Adam Pugen (
  • Associate Editor, Co-Blog Editor: Steven Hicks (
  • New Explorations Website:

PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age

Join us for the fourth Monday Night Webinar, Monday MAY 18th, 8:00-10:00 PM EST: PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age.

In a playful, relaxed, and experimental online format, a panel of participants will explore the mosaic of the metaphoric global village in light of the current global crisis, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

Hosted by Paolo Granata
Special guests:
R.H. Thomson, Rea Beaumont, Ramona Pringle, Barry Vacker 

LINKS to the live stream:

Marshall McLuhan Facebook Group

The McLuhan Institute YouTube Channel:

Biographies of the Guest Speakers 

R.H. THOMSON – In 2015, Canadian stage and screen actor RH Thomson was awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement and the ACTRA Award of Excellence.  He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010 and has been given an Honorary Doctorate from Trinity College, University of Toronto. He has appeared in theatres across Canada and has filmed in Canada, the US, Greece and the Czech Republic most recently in Chloe directed by Atom Egoyan. He has earned Gemini, Genie, Dora and Merritt awards for his work and recently directed The Crucible at Theatre Calgary and performed [the role of Marshall McLuhan in his final year of life] in The Message by Jason Sherman and This Was The World by Ellie Moon at the Tarragon Theatre Toronto. He played Matthew Cuthbert in the CBC/NETFLIX series Anne With An E for which he has received two Canadian Screen Awards. As well as being an advocate for the arts, Mr. Thomson has worked on many history/education/arts projects. For the First World War Centenary, he built the multi lingual project The World Remembers-Le Monde Se Souvient, an international WWI Commemoration with installations across Canada and in four other nations –

REA BEAUMONT is a pianist and composer known for her powerful performances and innovative concert programs that continue to captivate audiences.  “An internationally recognized interpreter,” Beaumont performs a wide range of repertoire, including lesser-known works and those by Canadian composers. She has premiered over 60 works in collaboration with esteemed Canadian composers such as R. Murray Schafer, Barbara Pentland, Oskar Morawetz, composer-pianist Anton Kuerti, and others. As a composer, Rea Beaumont’s works are reviewed as having “compositional prowess.”  Trained at the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia, RCM, Eastman School of Music, and The Banff Centre for the Arts, Beaumont earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano & Conducting, a Master of Music, Bachelor of Music in Music Education.

RAMONA PRINGLE is creator, educator, journalist and researcher focused on the intersection of technology, creativity and the human experience. Currently, she is Director of the Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University, which is home to three incubators, the Transmedia Zone, the Fashion Zone, and the Design Fabrication Zone, as well at HQ, a venue for immersive experiences and presentations, and the Global Campus Studio, a virtual hub that fosters international collaborations and co-creations. She is an associate professor in the RTA School of Media, named by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the world’s top film schools, within the esteemed Faculty of Communication and Design. Ramona is a technology columnist for CBC News and CBC Radio, with a weekly syndicated column on the social side of tech, examining the ways in which digital culture is changing every aspect of our lives, cities, and work.

BARRY VACKER is an Associate Professor in the Klein College of Communication at Temple University. He is a media theorist and mixed-artist whose works span the intersection of art, film, media, science, technology, and philosophy. Author of numerous books and articles, Vacker’s recent books include the third edition of Media Environments (2019) and Black Mirror and Critical Media Theory (2018). Vacker’s art and creative works twice received an international  award: the 2010 and 2019 John Culkin Award from the Media Ecology Association. Entitled “Media(s)cene,” Vacker’s recent large-scale art installation was featured during the 2019 Media Ecology Convention at the University of Toronto and he gave a lecture about this art and writings at the 2019 Festival Internacionale de Arte Contemporaneo in Leon, Mexico. Vacker’s TV and radio interviews include talking with Anderson Cooper about the The Matrix and Studio 360/Public Radio International about 2001: A Space Odyssey. Barry is co-founder of the annual Temple-Arcosanti program, where students travel to the eco-city in Arizona to study media, ecology, and technology. He also enjoys teaching large lecture courses with 200+ students, especially Media and Society.

R.H. Thompson as Marshall McLuhan in The Message, at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto

PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age

During this time of physical distancing, we all miss the joy of getting together, engaging in authentic real-time conversations, ultimately being part of a living community. 
Join us for the third Monday Night Webinar – PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age – live on Facebook and YouTube, Monday MAY 4th, 8:00-10:00 PM EST.

Hosted by Paolo Granata
Special guests:
Donna Halper, Jesse Hirsch, Mark Lipton, Phil Rose

The idea is simple. In response to the state of physical distancing and isolation, it’s time to bring back the McLuhan’s tradition of weekly Monday Night sessions in a brand new format: The Monday Night Webinars!

In a playful, relaxed, and experimental online format, a panel of participants – academics, artists, designers, raconteurs, innovators, and thinkers – will explore the mosaic of the metaphoric global village in light of the current global crisis, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

LINKS to the live stream:

Marshall McLuhan Facebook Group

The McLuhan Institute YouTube Channel:

Biographies of the Guest Speakers 

DONNA HALPER is a professor at Lesley University in Cambridge MA; a media historian; author of six books and many articles; a mentor; researcher; and public speaker. She has been a former radio consultant, radio disc jockey and music director, best known for having discovered the [Canadian] rock band Rush (who dedicated two albums to her). She has also been a free-lance reporter for several newspapers and magazines. She has taught courses in broadcasting, media criticism, and media history, and is author of a number of books, including the first book-length study devoted to the history of women in American broadcasting.

JESSE HIRSCH is a futurist speaker, researcher and internet strategist. An experienced innovator and collaborator, his passion is educating people on the potential benefits and perils of technology. Jesse owns and operates Metaviews Media Management Ltd., which focuses on research and consulting around new media business models, big data, and the strategic use of social media. He is also a co-founder of the Academy of the Impossible a peer to peer lifelong learning facility. Because of the impact technology has on our relationship with the world, Jesse believes that it should be used in responsible and creative ways. He encourages audiences to use technology as the catalyst for collaboration, education, and growing thriving organizations.

MARK LIPTON is Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. He is the author of Research, Write, Create: Connecting Scholarship to Digital Media (Oxford UP, 2014) and works at the cross-sections of media and education, where young adults’ conceptions of media, culture, and learning (trans/inter)-act across contexts of spectacle, performance, and identity. Lipton was Primary Investigator and subsequent author of Smoke Screens: From Tobacco Outrage to Media Activism (Children’s Health Initiative 2000-2003); Media Education Project (Canadian Council on Learning & Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC] 2007-2012).

PHIL ROSE has taught Communication courses at York, McMaster, and Wilfred Laurier Universities. Interested in media environments, he was the President of the Media Ecology Association and is actively involved with the Canadian Communication Association. Phil is also interested in politics and ran for parliamentary office to represent the interests of Niagara West in Canada’s Parliament. He holds a PhD in Communications & Culture, a Master’s degree in Music Criticism, and Bachelor degrees in Education, English and Music. Phil enjoys mentoring students, as well as teaching and playing piano and the guitar. He is the author of  Radiohead: Music for a Global Future (Rowman & Littlefield Publisher)  and  Roger Waters and Pink Floyd: The Concept Albums, published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

A McLuhan Seminar at the Coach House, 1973

PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age

During this time of physical distancing, we all miss the joy of getting together, engaging in authentic real-time conversations, ultimately being part of a living community. 
Join us for the second Monday Night Webinar – PandeMedia and Folklores from the Lockdown Age – live on Facebook and YouTube, Monday MAY 4th, 8:00-10:00 PM EST.

Hosted by Paolo Granata
Special guests:
Howard Rheingold, Derrick de Kerckhove, Robert K. Logan, Mathew Ingram

The idea is simple. In response to the state of physical distancing and isolation, it’s time to bring back the McLuhan’s tradition of weekly Monday Night sessions in a brand new format: The Monday Night Webinars!

In a playful, relaxed, and experimental online format, a panel of participants – academics, artists, designers, raconteurs, innovators, and thinkers – will explore the mosaic of the metaphoric global village in light of the current global crisis, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

LINKS to the live stream:

Marshall McLuhan Facebook Group

The McLuhan Institute YouTube Channel 

Biographies of the Guest Speakers 

Howard Rheingold is an American critic, writer, and teacher, known for his specialties on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing).

Derrick de Kerckhove is the author of The Skin of Culture and Connected Intelligence and Emeritus Professor of French at the University of Toronto. He was the Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology from 1983 until 2008. Since 2007 he has been teaching and doing research at universities in Italy.

Robert K. Logan with his PhD in Physics from MIT became a physics professor in 1968 at the U of Toronto, where he  has been a Professor Emeritus since 2005. Besides teaching math-based physics courses, he taught an interdisciplinary course in The Poetry of Physics, which led to his collaboration with Marshall McLuhan and his research in media ecology and the evolution of language. His best-known works are The Alphabet Effect based on a paper co-authored with McLuhan, The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age and The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture.

Mathew Ingram is currently the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York. Prior to that he was a senior writer at Fortune magazine, where he wrote about the evolution of media and the social Web, and before that he was a senior writer at Gigaom, at the time one of the leading technology blog networks in the USA. He wrote about the evolution of media and content and all that involves, including social media, Google, and the web in general. Up until January 2010, he worked for The Globe and Mail, the daily national newspaper of Canada based in Toronto, for about 15 years.

A McLuhan Seminar at the Coach House, 1973

Monday Night Webinars

During this time of physical distancing, we all miss the joy of getting together, engaging in authentic real-time conversations, ultimately being part of a living community. 

Well… the idea is simple. In response to the state of physical distancing and isolation, it’s time to bring back the McLuhan’s tradition of weekly Monday Night sessions in a brand new format: The Monday Night Webinars!

Starting this Monday night, April 27, 8:00-10:00 PM EST, Paolo Granata will be hosting – live on the MARSHALL MCLUHAN Facebook Group and simultaneously on the McLuhan Institute YouTube Channel – an online weekly panel, informal and informative, to better understand who we are, what matters to us, and where we might be going in this rapidly changing world. In a playful, relaxed, and experimental online format, a panel of participants – academics, artists, designers, raconteurs, innovators, and thinkers – will explore every week the mosaic of the metaphoric global village in light of the current global crisis, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

The Monday Night Webinars will be an opportunity for an open discussion, a creative and respectful dialogue for making sense of our contemporary media landscape and for releasing the energy of new and outrageous ideas, innovative thought, and transformative understanding and action in response to the current social scenario. 

Each Monday Night Webinar will commence with an impromptu and probative discussion, where participants are encouraged to sketch a picture of current opportunities and challenges for human well-being. We will also engage the audience, getting feedback and comments, to put forward innovative solutions for improving our global human condition which we wish to explore. 

Join us every Monday night, starting Monday April 27, 8:00-10:00 PM EST, live on the MARSHALL MCLUHAN Facebook Group or the McLuhan Institute Channel on YouTube. Follow the one of the links below:-

Marshall McLuhan Facebook Group:

Shortened Link

Hosted by Paolo Granata
Guests on April 27

Elena Lamberti is a researcher at the University of Bologna, where she graduated in Foreign Languages and Literature and received her PhD. She is specialized in modernist literature, cultural memory, media ecology, war literature.

Michael McLuhan – Photographer at Michael McLuhan Photography and Manager of the Marshall McLuhan Estate.

Paul Levinson is an American author, singer-songwriter, and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York City. His novels, short fiction, and non-fiction works have been translated into sixteen languages.

Andrew McLuhan is Director of The McLuhan Institute, which he began in 2017. His first major research project was in the cataloging and evaluation of Marshall McLuhan’s working library, now named to UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, and he has presented widely on the subject. He is a frequent speaker on university campuses.

Alexander Kuskis – Adjunct Professor, publisher of the McLuhan Galaxy blog, Moderator of the MARSHALL MCLUHAN Facebook Group.

For several years I have followed the work of Douglas Coupland because he exemplifies for me the kind of artist McLuhan wrote about who has “integral awareness” because he “grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time” (Understanding Media, p. 65). Therefore any new book involving him, whether collaborated or by himself alone, gets my attention. This looks like such a book , which will be published in the experimental text and image tradition of The Medium is the Massage. This title that is not yet listed by Amazon is described as:


Does the inside of your head feel a little strange today? That’s because tech is remaking individuality itself say Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Shumon Basar. Here they share part of The Extreme Self


Text by Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist & Shuman Basar

The weird world we all seem to be living in started on 10 January 2016, when David Bowie died. By the end of that year, we had entered the WTF-era of Brexit and Trump, two black swan events that derailed the 21st century.

Since then, old binaries have collapsed, and the new binaries tore up your family. It’s no longer enough to be a moderate. The centre? Just for losers! Extreme makes you more popular, more profitable, more politically powerful. Extreme makes you feel good. Also, feelings now legitimise lies. Because the world’s most talented engineers design algorithms that engineer your emotions.

This backdrop is the basis for our next book, The Extreme Self, a new kind of graphic novel about what happened to you from 2016 to right now. It’s a sequel to The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present (2015). There, we speculatively updated a famous paperback from 1967, called The Medium Is the Message, by theorist Marshall McLuhan, graphic designer Quentin Fiore and ideas svengali Jerome Agel. McLuhan died in 1980, so he never got to see the digital world we now viscerally inhabit – but in many ways, he sensed it coming.

        In The Age of Earthquakes, our focus was tech’s rewiring of time and space. We claimed that the unintended consequences of technology were dictating the future. For The Extreme Self, we are pivoting to tech’s remaking of individuality itself. We want you to know that the unintended consequences of technology dictate who you are.

What if individuality is morphing into something else? Something that’s multiplying, over-empowered, righteous, triggered, disposable and immortal? Why would this be happening?

Because the 21st-century’s most valuable resource is YOU, with all your online behaviours, enriched data sets and millions of meta-data points. And if “data is the new oil”, then 2016 was the equivalent of a global oil spill that can’t be reversed.

Netflix’s documentary The Great Hack showed how and why data is at the centre of our daily news cycles. Cue Cambridge Analytica. Whoever controls data has the power to swing elections, polarise politics and redefine reality. Untruths have never been so seductive. Let it be known that over-eager AI assistants and deep-fake porn are just the beginning.

The line dividing you and data is long gone. In this process, a large part of you is extracted from you. An ever-larger part of you now exists everywhere and nowhere, independently of your five senses. The extreme self is invisible, imaginary and has already been weaponised. Has there been anything like this before?

What follows over the next few pages is a sample of spreads from The Extreme Self. It’s designed by the London studio Daly & Lyon, who we think of as our fourth author. While the words you see are ours, the images come from a process we call ‘mindsourcing’. We invited 70 of the world’s foremost artists, designers, filmmakers, photographers and electronic musicians to send us portraits, self-portraits and crowd portraits. The face is central to the Extreme Self. It’s the basic unit in what Shoshana Zuboff calls ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’.
See and read the rest of this article here

On The Age of Earthquakes, see

Established in 1997 between the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto and the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines, the Marshall McLuhan Fellowship has been awarded yearly to a recipient embodying outstanding qualities in the field of investigative journalism.

Canadian embassy’s political & public affairs counselor Warren Mucci with Patricia Evangelista who was awarded the 2019 McLuhan Fellowship

UNIVERSITY students in mass communications/journalism can gain much from experienced media people themselves, particularly those who keep to responsible journalism. Universities offering these courses would do society a great service, to the whole world, in fact, to hone these future media practitioners [to] stick to genuine journalism tenets. Universities should strive to have their students learn from multi-awarded journalists.

Journalism’s purpose is providing people with verified information, that is, useful to decision-making. The value of journalism is from its very purpose — to provide people not just with the 5 Ws (the what, who, where, when and why) and 1H (How) but that these Ws and H have been faithfully verified. As a source puts it, journalism as a “discipline of verification” is “not just the facts,” but also the “truth about the facts.” (

Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980). Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher, a communication theorist, whose work is one of the cornerstones of media theory study. “His studies of mass media effects on thought and behavior became internationally famous during the 1960s.” He is credited to have coined the term “global village” (in 1964) “to describe the phenomenon of the world’s culture shrinking and expanding at the same time due to pervasive technological advances that allow for instantaneous sharing of culture” (Johnson 192).

Marshall McLuhan Fellowship. Commemorating his legacy to the journalism world, “the Marshall McLuhan Fellowship is the flagship public diplomacy initiative of the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines.“ Launched in 1997, the Fellowship is part of the Embassy’s advocacy to encourage responsible journalism in the Philippines with the belief that a strong media is essential to a strong, democratic society. (  Annually, “the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility assists the Embassy in choosing a Filipino journalist who has either published an outstanding piece of investigative reporting or possesses a collective body of journalistic work that contributes to positive change in the social arena or has raised the level of public discourse on an important issue.” < › CanEmbPH › photos › the-embassys-mcluhan-f..>. “The recipient undertakes a two-week program in Canada to interact with media counterparts and to discuss significant current issues on governance with Canadian government officials, academics, and members of civil society. The recipient also has the opportunity to sit as a Fellow at the University of Toronto’s McLuhan Centre.” The Canadian Embassy organizes a series of forums in several cities to enable the returning journalist share experiences in Canada with students of communication and members of the local and community media. “The Sun Life Financial Inc. has been the Embassy’s partner in this initiative by providing funding to the recipient’s travel to Canada since 2007.” < › CanEmbPH › photos › the-embassys-mcluhan-f..>.

The Lecturers. A great favor from the Canadian Embassy’s Public Affairs Attache Mr. Carlo Figueroa for Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) audiences, especially that Mindanao is far from the Philippine capital, is the hosting by Liceo de Cagayan University in Cagayan de Oro City of these multi-awarded McLuhan fellows. In all the lectures, the host university located in the Region 10 capital city, ensured that mass communication students, faculty members and practitioners composed the majority of the audience of a hundred and more.

The lecture series began in 2007 with McLuhan awardee Ma. Teresa Bacalla who talked on investigative journalism. She was training director of the Philippine Press Institute and is a member of VERA Files — a nonprofit online news organization in the Philippines focusing on investigative journalism and in-depth reporting of Philippine social issues”…
Read the rest of this article at

Media Health is a group of researchers in Montreal who “study the health applications and implications of information and communication technologies.” One of their major projects looks at “Screens and Stress,” the purpose of which they explain thus:

Screens can stress us by their physical properties or by their content . Screens can also de-stress us, by extending our access to information and communication. We investigate the tipping point at which screens can become a health hazard.
In this they are influenced by the work of Marshall McLuhan and Hans Selye, a Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist who studied the effects of and responses on organisms of stressors, explaining the connection between these two men thus:

Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: Extensions of Man urged us to study media’s impact on self and society in the same way that Canadian Physician Hans Selye examined the stress theory of illness: “all technologies [were] extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed“. These extensions also stressed the systems which gave rise to them: “When a community develops some extension of itself“, he wrote, “it tends to allow all other functions to be altered to accommodate that form“. The question is: Is there a silver lining to our screen addiction?

Hans Selye (1907-1982) 

(C) Najmeh Khalili-Mahani

Before the COVID19 Pandemic, many of us were stressed by screen addiction. So stressed (see footnote below) that the Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Safety (MSSS) was holding expert’s discussion forums to address concerns of parents about screen use by children between the age of 2-25. On March 20th, we were called back to discuss the benefits of screen usage for this young population. Ironically, that conference may no longer be needed. COVID19 has made a compelling case.

During the COVID19 Pandemic, digital literacy has become an essential competency. We should not have any human contact. Premier Legault just talked about the irony, for parents who have always asked their children to get off of screens,  to have to now encourage the youth to remain glued to screens, and to find fulfillment in many possibilities afforded by the social media.

After the COVID19, we will be forced to embrace all our our ambivalences about screens. Our future screen-related stress will be the unavoidable reality of the  Digital-of-Everything at the speed of electrons, and joining China, Israel, and Iran in adopting their surveillance systems of public safety.

To navigate this stress, we may go back to Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of New Media, Inspired by Hans Selye’s Theory of Stress.

In Understanding Media: Extensions of Man,  Marshall McLuhan suggested that all screens are initially stressful but we must consider the nuances of screen-related stress. He urged us to study media’s impact on our self and the society in the same way that the notable physician, Hans Selye, examined the stress theory of illness

In a 1936 Nature publication, Selye defined stress as a quantifiable “general adaptation syndrome“–a cascade of common physiological responses to different ‘alarming’ stimuli, which help the system to adaptively recover its equilibrium–else, fall to disease.

Writing for the first issue of the Journal of Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communications (edited by McLuhan), Selye depicted the living organisms with a network diagram of node (See figure below. Reactons or units of life). The nodes were “associated with eachother by interactions of varying importance”.

Pressure exerted on any unit would spread through other nodes, depending on the degree of its connectivity.

Figure Caption: Selye’s depiction of ‘reactons’ (units of life) and how stress exerted its specific and non-specific effects by the degree of association between the communication networks of the body. (Source: The Stress of Life).

McLuhan and Selye’s theories would have treated screens as both stressors and de-stressors in finding adaptive equilibrium.

In his 1956 book, Stress of Life, Selye wrote:

‘Stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand, whether caused by or results in pleasant [eustress] or unpleasant [distress] conditions.” But eustress causes less damage because ‘”how you take it” determins whether you can successfully adapt to the change.’

McLuhan concurred:

‘Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Socially, it is the accumulation of group pressures and irritations that prompt invention and innovation as counter-irritants.’

Please read the rest of this essay at

Najmeh Khalili-Mahani – Director, Media Health

PhD(2009) Neuroscience, McGillU; MEng(2001) Biomedical Engineering, McGill U; MA(2008), Film Studies, Concordia U; and BEng(1998), Electrical and Computer Engineering, Concordia U) is an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Design and Computation Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, and leads the Media-Health and GameClinic laboratory at PERFORM Centre. She is a member of TAG (Technoculture, Art and Games) in Concordia University’s The Milieux Institute for Arts, Science and Technology. She also serves on the Steering Committee of the McGill Centre of Integrative Neuroscience (MCIN), dedicated to creation of neuroinformatic solutions for studying brain health. Inspired by her neuroimaging studies of brain response to stress and drugs, Naj develops translational frameworks that use media and technology to better understand inter-individual differences in resilience through age.

  • From Porter, A. (1969). Cybernetics simplified. Barnes & Noble Inc. pp. v-vi


This is a much needed book. It helps to build a bridge between The Two Cultures whose separation plagues C.P. Snow and many others. The very word “cybernetics” is a useful clue to the central meaning of the electronic revolution. The speed-up of information movement creates an environment of “information overload” that demands pattern recognition for human survival. It was natural therefore, for the first explorers of this field to use a term from navigation. In economics it has become natural to speak of the decision-making of tomorrow as taking place in a world economy. Instant access to and retrieval of information creates entirely new economic and political situations. The new information environment created by the new electronic technologies is quite imperceptible and can only be discovered by special inventories of changing trends and changing human responses to the new environment.

In his new book, The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker devotes much of his discussion to the changing relation of the executive to time as a resource. The electric speed-up tends to reduce both distance and time so that both acquire new values. Drucker devotes special attention to the effects of the computer on management. “Critical path” programs provide advance planning of each part of a work. Each part has to be ready on time in order for the whole program to be workable. Much flexibility of on-the-spot decisions is thus sacrificed. “In its place there are high-risk decisions” (page 163). Speed up of information necessarily entails a great increase of awareness of other operations. Nothing can be treated as merely isolated and separate any more. The total human response to any innovation becomes part of the operation that must be anticipated.

In his essay “The Impacts of Science on Public Policy”, Emmanuel G. Mesthene points to the changes in banking that result from the elimination of transaction time by the introduction of computers. For example, large bank balances are no longer needed.
“Bankers originally saw computers as faster and more efficient mechanical clerks that could improve old procedures. But, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they are taking over and changing the very nature of the banking business. Even the physical plant is being changed. A new bank building in Chicago has been designed around the need for powerful antennas at the skyline of the city to facilitate wireless communication.
This is an important lesson to learn from our experience with science and technology in the last quarter century. To turn to science as a means is to take the first step toward changing one’s ends.
((page 101)

Earlier Mesthene had pointed out that science changes the ground-rules of our physical environment:
Our newfound ability to change the physical world within the same time spectrum required by social or political changes has affected our attitudes and policies in ways that enhance our use and the effects of science still further. We support much more science than ever before – an order of magnitude more than a quarter century ago. (page 98)

We would do well to consider the effect of the new satellite environment around the planet as altering our very concept of Nature. “Nature” is now content, as it were, in a man-made environment. One of the unexpected effects of the new feelings toward nature has been the programming of invention itself. There has come a need to put invention on a systematic basis so that we can invent whatever we need to invent. But more important is the need to anticipate the effects of these inventions.

It is here that Professor Porter’s discussion of homeostasis has great relevance to the social and political climate of our age. The same pattern appears in the educational sector where the trend is towards learning as discovery rather than learning as instruction.

Professor Porter’s book will be of the utmost service in promoting an understanding of the need for the wedding of science and technology and of politics and the arts.

Marshall McLuhan

On Dr. Arthur Porter see on this blog see Dr. Arthur Porter (1910-2010), Acting Director for the Centre for Culture & Technology, University of Toronto (1967-68) at

Dr. Arthur Porter