McLuhan & Composed Theater

Dr. Richard Cavell is a media theorist and Professor of English at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His work has often examined the ideas of his mentor Marshall McLuhan – the influential Canadian philosopher and media theorist – but from a unique stand point, by considering him as a ’spatial theorist’ that explored how changes in media have altered our understanding of space and time.

Speaking about McLuhan in his talk ’McLuhan and Composed Theatre’ – which took place in 2017 at the Royal Art Academy of The Hague, as part of the symposium ’Feedback #1: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts’ Cavell describes McLuhan’s conversational style in which each sentence would be on a separate topic, a conscious methodology that would break from the restrictions of traditional linearity. Cavell seems to explore a similar approach in his talk, as he moves quickly from one idea to the next in his exploration of McLuhan’s work, and as he complements it with thoughts from contemporary writers and thinkers. It proves a complex and far-reaching overview of many of McLuhan’s ideas, presented in a fascinating presentation that offers a new perspective into the work of the much studied and discussed media theorist.

The jumping off point for Cavell’s conversation is rooted in one of McLuhan’s central observations: McLuhan emphasised the transition from written text and print media, into electronic media, television, and now the internet – which in many ways McLuhan is credited for having anticipated in his writing. His hypothesis was that a text-based world is one that is visually and linearly minded, influenced by the fact that a printed text is static, remains unaltered and is consumed by separate individuals. The rise of electronic media on the other hand creates a society that is aurally minded and non-linear in its thinking – at least relative to the strict linearity of written text. As electronic media is collectively consumed and in constant flux, for McLuhan it leads to what he called the ’global village’: a new type of social organization that is similar in many ways to that of aural traditions that existed before the rise and ubiquity of print media. The question then becomes: how does this affect us and our perception of our surroundings when we exist in an interconnected, all-encompassing and fully immersing aural world?

                  Dr. Richard Cavell                 
My research focus on media theory and Canadian Studies finds common ground in my publications on foundational media theorist Marshall McLuhan. I am the author of McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography (U Toronto P, 2002) and of Remediating McLuhan (Amsterdam UP, 2016), the editor of On the Nature of Media: Essays by Marshall McLuhan(Gingko, 2016), and the curator of I have also written the critical performance piece, Marinetti Dines with the High Command (Guernica, 2014), and the architectural study Friedman House (ORO, 2017). Details can be found at

I’m pleased to announce a Feb. 24 Digital Synergies event to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of Herbert Marshall McLuhan in Edmonton.  

The event is open to all and registration information is at the bottom of this email. 
Digital Synergies at the University of Alberta presents
A Playful Mind: Marshall McLuhan’s Life, Legacy, and Laws
Paolo Granata, University of Toronto
February 24 – 12:00-1:00pm (Mountain)
This year marks the 110 anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan, who was born in Edmonton in 1911. In the late 1960s, McLuhan was called the “Oracle of the Electronic Age” as a member of the Toronto School of Communication. He later spawned the field of media ecology studies and was anointed Wired magazine’s patron saint in the 1990s. He is perhaps the most quoted, analyzed, and misunderstood scholar of the last century and many of his probes on the social impact of communications technology endure to this day. He was certainly an unconventional and provocative thinker, and most importantly he was gifted with extraordinary intellectual playfulness.

This webinar will touch on the life and legacy of Marshall McLuhan by playing with his Laws of Media (1988), a critical framework to analyze any medium, technology or human innovation.

In a highly interactive setting, McLuhan Centenary Fellow, Prof. Paolo Granata, will engage the audience to stimulate cooperative, innovative, and creative thinking skills, allowing participants to cultivate awareness and critical understanding of the implications of contemporary digital media platforms, from Twitch to TikTok, from Discord to Clubhouse.

Paolo Granata (University of Toronto) is an innovator, and a cross-disciplinary media scholar. Nurtured by the century-old tradition of the University of Bologna, his research and teaching interests lie broadly in the area of media ecology, semiotics, print culture, and visual studies.
He is the founder and director of the University of Toronto’s Media Ethics Lab, a research hub that studies the ways that digital media practices and emerging technologies are marked by ethical issues and decisive political, societal, and cultural questions.

When: Feb 24, 2021 12:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

You must register in advance for this event:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.


Gordon A. Gow, PhD
Professor, Sociology/Media & Technology Studies
Graduate Coordinator, Communications and Technology Graduate Program (MACT)
Adjunct Professor, Peter Lougheed Leadership College
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

The University of Alberta is located in ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan) on Treaty 6 territory and the territory of the Papaschase and the Métis Nation

Paolo Granata leaning against McLuhan’s Coach House, home for his Centre for Culture v& Technology

© The Estate of Yousuf Karsh. All Rights Reserved

Author and independent McLuhan scholar Bill Kuhns (see and his collaborators are seeking information from the members the McLuhan community of interest and the general public for two research projects that we are engaged in:

1. We know that there are audio and video recordings of Marshall McLuhan that are out there that were formally or informally taken during some of his lectures, both public and academic, that former students, academics, teachers, artists, business-people and/or members of the general public made themselves or acquired. There are also recordings of formal interviews and possibly some informal ones that we are unaware of. We are interested in receiving information about such materials and, if possible, copies of them, whether in analog or digital form, for the purpose of building a comprehensive listing and archive of all of Marshall McLuhan’s lectures, talks and interviews.

2. We are also currently helping to prepare the script for a National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary film about McLuhan’s value for surviving today’s turbulence, so much of it media-provoked. The film is tentatively titled, “Marshall McLuhan’s Roadmap to the 21stCentury.” 

One thread of the film will be short interviews with ex-students and acquaintances who warmly remember specific instances revealing fresh facets of the great man. Or, as he once wrote to Ann Landers, “The anecdote can yield multitudes of diverse insights unsuspected by the narrator of the anecdote.”

Here’s Bill Kuhns’ favorite personal anecdote:

The first time I met Marshall was in his small office at Fordham University, in January of 1968, less than two months after he endured the wide-awake agony of 23-hour open-brain surgery in late November of 1967. He was seated at a desk, writing something with a pencil. The pencil snapped. I offered him a pen. He grinned as if the punchline had already been delivered, then, brushing away the offer, delivered that punchline: “It will change what I’m writing, you know.”  

If you have a warm and treasured recollection of a Marshall episode that you could share with us on camera, we would love to hear from you. Shooting will probably not commence until summer. The interview itself could perhaps be done as unobtrusively as possible, by Zoom or Skype or FaceTime, or, eventually, when the time comes, in person.

Please contact me at Include “anecdote” in the header. Or alternatively contact Alex Kuskis at

Thank you,
Bill Kuhns & Alex Kuskis

The Coach House

Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt

Watch the above video which is 1.5 hours in duration

Q&A Online Video Session (in English) with – ANDREW McLUHAN
and – BARUCH GOTTLIEB (curator “Global Warning”, lecturer, media artist)

Andrew McLuhan is Director of The McLuhan Institute – an organization to preserve and promote McLuhan studies. He, recently emerging as a media scholar in his own right, has been working through the libraries of his grandfather Marshall and his father Eric for many years, examining their references, their reading habits and the role books and publication played in their media theory practice .   

On this special occasion Andrew McLuhan will help us explore this vital relation between textual and digital data, between book and screen through a presentation of Marshall McLuhan’s books and the way he interacted with them as part of his process of understanding media.

The discussion will be introduced and moderated by curator of the exhibition Baruch Gottlieb and streamed on the Museum for Communication Frankfurt’s channel at as well as at The McLuhan Institute’s YouTube Channel


The above Q & A session is part of –
Special exhibition from October 6, 2020 to January 31, 2021

The exhibition #Feedback 5: Global Warning! is dedicated to an icon of pop culture: Marshall McLuhan. The Canadian technical scientist and literary historian predicted the “global village” back in 1962. From 1964 onwards, public discussion revolved around his famous statement, “The medium is the message.” He was the first to ask the question about the effect of the new media on people and thus achieved a broad response.

After the Second World War, scientists such as Norbert Wiener and Claude Shannon, he is considered the founder of IT and made the computer possible, into a future shaped by technical control. It even seemed possible to automate thinking. What has been realized and how do we experience the digitalization and globalization of our present?

The exhibition #Feedback 5: Global Warning! takes a curatorial selection of predictions by Marshall McLuhan as an opportunity for a confrontation with contemporary art. Darsha Hewitt, Christof Migone, Stephanie Syjuco and Mogens Jacobsen – they all work with new media and penetrate their influence on society with their works of art. The artists reflect on technology experiences, changes in perception and the understanding of our world through media. Is contemporary art an early warning system for society?

With expertise and creativity, McLuhan reached a large audience. He designed his texts artistically in magazines, published newsletters that were sent by letter and, above all, used television to address his media-critical messages. McLuhan has deliberately used its celebrity status to experiment in real time with a nationwide audience. Never before or since has communication science played such a public role in our understanding of technological change.

Marshall McLuhan noted the end of the rational tradition of Enlightenment humanism through the electronic information of simultaneous mass communication around the world. The new age of satellite and television meant the networking of the world into a global village. He saw people trapped in it and, with visionary power, predicted the development of new social and artistic forms. Around 80 years later, it is time to check whether these historical findings have been realized.

#FEEDBACK 5 – Global Warning! : Marshall McLuhan and the Arts, curated by Baruch Gottlieb and sponsored and supported by the Canadian Embassy in Germany and West The Hague, is a look ahead to Canada as the host country at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021.

Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt

Me. You. Us. Them. by ,,

17 August 2020

Have you wondered why the inside of your head feels so strange these days? We think you’re morphing into something else. We call this “The Extreme Self.”

What follows is a sample from our next book. It charts the transformations taking place in individuality and in crowds — emotionally, socially, and spiritually. It’s also a sequel to our previous title, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present. Like that book, The Extreme Self is designed by Daly & Lyon, and the imagery predominantly comes from seventy of the world’s foremost artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, and more. We asked them to send us portraits or self-portraits. Why? Because the “face” has become the basic unit in what Shoshana Zuboff calls the “age of surveillance capitalism.”

The Extreme Self was previewed in a large-scale exhibition we curated at MOCA Toronto, titled “Age of You,” which travels to Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, in 2021. See

Here’s a discussion charting the evolution from “the extreme present” to “the extreme self” in our extremely uncertain times.

Shumon Basar: Flashback to 2017. We were in Hans Ulrich’s office at the Serpentine Galleries in London. There was a palpable whiff of something unsettling in the air. Earlier that year, Trump had been inaugurated as president of the United States. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, right-wing militia, and the Ku Klux Klan had recently marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. Timothy Garton Ash described this geopolitical moment —when nativist politics was taking over, and it seemed like democracy was voting to annul itself — as “like 1989 in reverse.”

Douglas Coupland: It was the point when we knew we’d crossed a border into utterly new cultural territory.

SB: Totally. It was also clear the alt-right could meme way better than the political left. This was one reason they were winning the disinformation wars.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: Then, somehow, the three of us began to discuss our shared love for Eric Hobsbawm’s book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991. Hobsbawm had been a young boy in Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933. This set him on a path of lifelong Marxism, based in London. Eventually, he also became a mentor of mine, and a close friend of the Serpentine Gallery’s.

SB: He really was a titan. And, if I recall, Hans Ulrich — who’s always manically doodling like Robert Walser used to — wrote down some words. “The Extreme Self.” It felt like a eureka moment. We knew this was the direction to explore in a new book and exhibition. Doug, our first book together, The Age of Earthquakes (2015), introduced the “Extreme Present.” How does the extreme self follow on from The Extreme Present?

DC: Well, The Age of Earthquakes articulated how we inhabit a world that has profoundly morphed away from the twentieth century. That book was sort of a birth cry. Much of it was written in 2012–13. My worry has been that the pace of culture might outstrip the book’s perceptions, but its ideas are aging crisply. I think that for older people, The Age of Earthquakes is a guidebook. For younger people it’s like those super obvious rules they post on the walls beside swimming pools.
Fast-forward to now: The Extreme Self explores the mutation of personhood inside the “extreme present.” It’s about our interior worlds more than the exterior world. It asks, “What does being ‘you’ mean right now versus, say, ‘you’ of thirty years ago. And what is a ‘group’ compared to 1990?”

SB: Then COVID-19 came along and pushed us even faster and further into the twenty-first century.

DC: It really did. I do find it remarkable how, with 9/11, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries broke away so cleanly from each other. Even to watch an episode of Friends right now feels like temporal ecotourism, which is probably why it’s so massively successful in streaming format.

HUO: We then decided that we’d take the bone structure of Hobsbawm’s The Age of Extremes and update it for our current world.
Read the rest at

To read about this group’s last book see From The Medium is the Massage (1967) to The Age of Earthquakes (2015) at

On a subway just about all passengers stare at their cellphones.

By Doc Searls  –   Sep 13, 2019

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).

By Publius Audax

Controlling the center of The Center of Everything (“China” in English) makes Xi Jinping the most powerful person on Earth and the world leader of the Mussolini Movement. The danger to us all: Xi has lost his nerve. His panic is the biggest geopolitical crisis since WWII.

Xi’s problem is the Information Cost-Velocity Curve. The ICVC has dominated all human organization since we learned to mumble. On the Curve, information cost is always falling and information velocity is always increasing. Anything that fell off the Curve from the Roman Empire to the first-generation PC and smartphone makers, died.

All organizations, political, social or economic have, for all history, been subsets of the Curve. If the Curve moves, as so famously with the Gutenberg Press of 1440, you either move with it, or you go down. The Gutenberg Press shredded every power structure in Europe. Those countries which resisted paid a fearsome price in people and money. The European Union is to this day divided into two: those countries in its north who adapted and those in its south who didn’t.

McLuhan’s Gutenberg lesson for Xi: The Curve can fast outrun any limitations you place on it. Xi now faces his Gutenberg Moment. And he’s choking.

The Curve’s biggest impact is this: the farther we move out on the Curve, the more power is diffused. Our democracies are a direct function of Gutenberg’s putting the printed word in front of people so that they could make up their own minds about things. The telegraph took the next step, the radio the next and so on through the Internet, the Cloud and social media.

Staying out front on the ICVC is the key to growth and prosperity. Why? Because those companies and nations better able to substitute ever-cheaper information for other factor inputs like land, labor and capital gain market share more quickly than those which cannot. That’s how Walmart and Apple did it.

Naturally, every company wants to put as much distance as possible between itself and its competitors on the Curve. All nations—the smart ones anyway—know that Ricardian comparative advantage comes from information-optimization strategies that get them out on the Curve and keep them there.

Over half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan taught us in his two great books, The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media, that, like gravity, the shape and direction of information governs all structures. Structures cannot defy information gravity and dictate the shape and direction of information.

Xi’s problem: how can The Party defy information gravity and limit the massive shape changers like marginal cost computing on the Cloud that determine outcomes.

McLuhan died 40 years ago this week. He did not live to see the PC age, let alone the Internet or the overwhelming power of marginal cost computing on the Cloud. Nonetheless, in Understanding Media, he said that we would live in a world of “electric-all-at-onceness” (the only way he could express it in 1964) and then laid out logically how we would behave in such a space. He described the world of Facebook and Google perfectly…

Mussolini came from southern Europe, the losing side of the Gutenberg revolution. His pre-Gutenberg policy was Party control of the military, information and selected enterprise, leaving the rest to the market. He believed that the Fascist Party could control information gravity, thereby controlling outcomes. Hitler called Mussolini a “political genius” for this kludge: all the control that Stalin got for a fraction of the cost. Mussolini’s system is widely used all over the world today, most notably in The Center and Russia.

McLuhan would have been happy to tell Xi that we are way too far out on the ICVC today for the Mussolini system to hold.

McLuhan would have pointed to a second, massive danger to Xi: the changing nature of time. He would have explained to Xi that time on the ICVC is measured in the half-life of a microprocessor, where a year is about two months. That, he would have told Xi, changes both the nature of your decision-making and the speed with which you must make decisions. “Electric-all-at-onceness” is no joke…

Thanks to Michael McLuhan for supplying this article.

Read the rest here:

Paperback editions of ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.’ (photo: Andrew McLuhan)

By Andrew McLuhan

Some excerpts from and comments on Marshall McLuhan’s introduction to the second edition of ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’ (1966) with some information about The McLuhan Institute (Ted (revised) from MI). 

Something you may not know about, and I only discovered very recently, is that for the second (paperback) edition of ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’ (1966), Marshall McLuhan wrote a short new introduction.

[It was not reprinted in most subsequent editions, but is in the latest ]

This second introduction is short, only five printed pages, but it is packed with goodies directed toward criticisms and misapprehensions of the original printing, notably ‘media hot and cool,’ and ‘the medium is the message.’

A few examples:

[After several paragraphs on changes in the popular use of the terms ‘hot’ and cool.’]

“The section on “media hot and cold” confused many readers of Understanding Media who were unable to recognize the very large structural changes in human outlook that are occurring today. Slang offers an immediate index to changing perception. Slang is based not on theories but on immediate experience. The student of media will not only value slang as a guide to changing perception, but he will also study media as bringing about new perceptual habits.”
[Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Introduction to the Second Edition, p.viii]

I am struck by how often what Marshall wrote half a century ago holds up today. I am not talking about so-called prophesy or prediction. Marshall wasn’t so much ahead of his time as ahead of contemporaries who were behind their time. As he said ‘I’m very careful to only predict things which have already happened.’

A technique such as this — studying slang as a guide to changing sensibility in individuals and cultures — is still worth employing if one is interested in noting change. This tool is one of many Marshall gives “the student of media” who cares to take it.

“The section on “the medium is the message” can, perhaps, be clarified by pointing out that any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment. Environments are not passive wrappings but active processes. … “The medium is the message” means, in terms of the electronic age, that a totally new environment has been created. The “content” of this new environment is the old mechanized environment of the industrial age. The new environment reprocesses the old one as radically as TV is reprocessing the film. For the “content” of TV is the movie. TV is environmental and imperceptible, like all environments. We are aware only of the “content” or the old environment. … Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and degrading. Yet the new one turns its predecessor into an art form.”
[Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Introduction to the Second Edition, pp. viii-ix]

Substitute terms and we could say today: “The new environment reprocesses the old one as radically as Netflix is reprocessing TV.”

Read the Rest here:

Panchal Mansaram

March 4, 1934 –  December 6, 2020

We are deeply saddened that Panchal Mansaram passed on from this life on Sunday December 6, 2020 in Burlington, Ontario, at the age of 86 years old, almost one year after his beloved wife Tarunika. He had a strong internal light and quiet persistence that came from a deep faith that life would lead him where he needed to go. He was born on March 4, 1934 in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India. He studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai and at the Rijks Academie, Amsterdam. In 1966, he migrated to Canada with his family. After stops in Montreal and Toronto, he made his home in Burlington, where he trained a generation of artists as a teacher in the Hamilton & Wentworth District School Board. His house and art studio on Gardenview Drive was a welcoming space where visitors from far and wide were always made to feel like family. In the last year of his life, he found a warm community at The Village of Tansley Woods. Mansaram was a visionary artist whose diverse artwork reflected his interest in the ways media and technology created a collage-like experience in daily life. He had life-long friendships with leading thinkers and artists of the 20th century [Including Marshall McLuhan], and he produced a substantial body of work ranging from painting and prints to photography, textile works, video and more. Today, his artwork is in museum collections around the world.

He was beloved husband of the late Tarunika Mansaram and loving father of Mila Mansaram. He was the brother of PratapChand Mistry, Bhagwandas Mistry, Shantiben Gehlot and brother-in-law of Anil Mehta, Dinesh Daftary, Surbhi Shah, and Mrudu Chauhan. The last rites were performed at the Bay Gardens Funeral Home, Burlington. His ashes will be scattered along with those of his beloved wife Tarunika at a later date. Due to covid restrictions, there will be no visitation or memorial service. Leave your messages in the online Book of Condolences at

Rest in peace, dear friend.

You can also sign the Guestbook here:

A poster created for an exhibition of his art where I first met Mansaram. The photo of McLuhan in the centre was taken by Mansaram. Marshall McLuhan added his name to the art work on the right side.