A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Archive for October, 2010

Seeing our present as future.

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Another one for McLuhan.

The critics of Marshall McLuhan said he was a charlatan speaking gibberish.  Yet here he is in 1964, sounding remarkably sane to modern ears, predicting a now ubiquitous small, hand-held electronic device – cell phone, blackberry, i-phone – on which you can play a movie.  Granted he doesn’t see it as digital but 20/20 future sight is asking a lot.  Lesson – if you’re going to predict the future be ready for criticism if you get it right.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Clearly …

“At the present time, film is still in its manuscript phase, as it were; shortly it will, under TV pressure, go into its portable, accessible, printed-book phase.  Soon everyone will be able to have a small, inexpensive film projector that plays an 8-mm sound cartridge as if on a TV screen.  This development is part of our present technological implosion.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 291-292.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, October 30th, 2010
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The power of numbers

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  If not true perhaps it should be.

In 1970 Marshall McLuhan was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Alberta and in his speech to the graduating classes could not resist talking about one of his favorite ideas:  that the world’s problems were all capable of speedy resolution.  If only the experts would stand aside and let large numbers of ordinary people go to work on them.  Hard to believe?  Odder things have happened – such as for example Wikipedia or a Nelson Eddie-led rebellion.

Check out especially the four minutes from minute 2 to 6.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upOpUJZ5XBc&feature=related

Marshall McLuhan (November 20, 1971, age 60).  No problem …

“There is no kind of problem that baffles one or a dozen experts that cannot be solved at once by a million minds that are given a chance simultaneously to tackle a problem.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, “Convocation Address, University of Alberta, November 20, 1971.”

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 29th, 2010
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The power of film.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  You go where it goes.

“It was Renee Clair who pointed out that if two or three people were together on a stage, the dramatist must ceaselessly motivate or explain their being there at all.  But the film audience, like the book reader, accepts mere sequence as rational.  Whatever the camera turns to, the audience accepts.  We are transported to another world.”

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Which is hard to believe.

But for all that may in fact be true.  Stranger things can happen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXruyT3ziUU

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 286.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Do you like art?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  You may want to think again.

In 1969 Marshall McLuhan met Jane Jacobs for lunch and persuaded her to make a movie with him to stop the building of the Spadina Expressway.  Take One sent an editor, Joe Medjuck, to interview McLuhan about the movie.  McLuhan, however, was brimming with ideas and Medjuck had to work hard to bring McLuhan back to the movie.  One of those ideas – not a new idea to McLuhan but one he often liked to return to –  is that new media contain old media and in containing them remake them into art forms.  Thus black and white movies on TV – Casablanca – become art.  But hold on to your hats as McLuhan runs with this idea in this interview turning it into a much darker and bleaker vision than you might think.  Art is what we make and is not necessarily a good thing.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58)  What cities, movies, and radio have in common?

“I think television advertising is in very poor shape.  Exceedingly poor shape. … [Because it is film contained by TV.]  The same thing happens to the city as happens to TV and advertising.  You put an outer ring of a suburb around an old city and this automatically destroys the inner city, that’s all.  And if you put a new medium around an old one it automatically destroys the old one.  In the act of using the old one it destroys it.  But in destroying it, it turns it into an art form.  Movies are now an art form because they’ve been completely destroyed by TV.    Now this is simple fact.  TV destroyed radio and radio’s now an art form.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

“Marshall McLuhan Makes a Movie.”[1969?]

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
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The deeps of TV

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The way to understand is to experience.

Anyone who reads Marshall McLuhan knows that TV is a cool medium.  And that far from being a passive medium TV demands high involvement or participation from all of the senses.  But to be told this is not to understand it. The best way to understand this is to experience it.  Here in glorious 1960s black and white is the message McLuhan claimed hit audiences in his day most powerfully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8Q3cqGs7I

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Bye bye couch potato …

“The banal and ritual remark of the conventionally literate, that TV presents an experience for passive viewers, is wide of the mark.  TV is above all a medium that demands a creatively participant response.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 336.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
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Do you want to be immortal?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  More on the power of print.

Yet another of the powers of print according to Marshall McLuhan is that it granted us the power of immortality.  Granted, you cannot live forever.  But you can put you into a book and that version of you could live forever.  Or can it?  How long will any of the things made by man survive?  Many today behave as if social media and possibly other technologies will give us immortality too.  Are they wrong so to do?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“Psychically, the visual extension and amplification of the individual by print had many effects.  Perhaps as striking as any other is the one mentioned by Mr. E.H. Forster, who when discussing some Renaissance types, suggested that ‘The printing press, then only a century old, had been mistaken for an engine of immortality, and men had hastened to commit to it deeds and passions for the benefit of future ages.’  People began to act as though immortality were inherent in the magic repeatability and extensions of print.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 175.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
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Is nothing sacred anymore?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Marshall says no.

Another of the powers of print according to Marshall McLuhan is to take the sacred, the spiritual out of man and nature.  If true, print has much to answer for:

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities.  The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 176.

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 22nd, 2010
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Successful media are very successful.

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Don’t underestimate successful media .

In Understanding Media Marshall McLuhan reminds us not to underestimate the power of successful media to work their way into every crack and cranny of our culture.  He does not think he needs to argue the case.  A word to the wise should be enough.  Consider for example the continuing power of the automobile to influence our lives.  I imagine as the flood waters rise on this globally-warming world we will be calmly raising our highways rather than saying good bye to our cars:

 

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“Once a new technology comes into a social milieu it cannot cease to permeate that milieu until every institution is saturated.”

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, October 21st, 2010
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The power of print is greater than you think!

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The curious case of the death of the book.

Of all Marshall McLuhan’s prophecies perhaps the most controversial in his time, and ours, was the death of the book.  And he was not shy about who he mentioned it to.  Most famously, in a speech to publishers in New York City in the sixties, the story goes, McLuhan decided to let his audience in on the news that they wouldn’t be around in the future, at least not in the business of publishing hard-cover books.  Afterwards, the audience was so impressed by his talk one of the publishers offered him a book deal for – you guessed it – Understanding Media.  Yet it is often forgotten that McLuhan also believed that the powers created by the book would long outlive their creator, which is not as good a story, but may in fact be more likely to be true.  And perhaps there is for this reason less need to run for cultural cover as the internet continues to play havoc with newspapers, magazines, and of course the poor old book.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The book may be dead but not the book bred!

“Those who panic now about the threat of the newer media and about the revolution we are forging, vaster in scope than that of Gutenberg, are obviously lacking in cool visual detachment and gratitude for that most potent gift bestowed by on Western man by literacy and typography: his power to act without reaction or involvement.  It is this kind of specialization by dissociation that has created Western power and efficiency.  Without this dissociation of action from feeling and emotion people are hampered and hesitant.  Print taught men to say, “Damn the torpedoes.  Full steam ahead!”

As illustrated, for example, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXzCOlPHFmc

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 178.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
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Is American humour the monopoly of uneducated rubes and yokels?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The argumentative Dr. McLuhan .

Marshall McLuhan never backed away from an argument.  In fact he seemed to be happiest when he was courting an argument by uttering an inflammatory opinion.  Here he takes on the world of American speech, locating and characterizing it in less than flattering terms.  While exceptions to his rule come to mind McLuhan seems to have managed to stake out a high ground of sorts.  You of course must decide for yourself whether he’s right.  Are uneducated rubes and yokels the masters of American humor and slang?  Certainly, one could not be so assured about the rule of British slang and humor by British semi literates.

Consider this evidence found on you tube:

British:

American: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtsRa45-_1A

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Quite naturally …

“Permeation of the colloquial language with literate uniform qualities has flattened out educated speech till it is a very reasonable acoustic facsimile of the uniform and continuous visual effects of topography.  From this technological effect follows the further fact that the humor, slang, and dramatic vigor of American-English speech are monopolies of the semi literate.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 178.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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