A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

Archive for February, 2011

At a loss what to do with dinner guests who overstay their welcome?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Here’s what I do.    

After dinner is finished I leave the table to read in my study.  Now it is possible that a guest may not take the hint and instead follow me.  At this point I have found it is necessary to act decisively.  As I pass the living room couch I pick up a book from the dozen or so I have stacked on it, turn around sharply, and hand it to my guest saying, “I think you may enjoy this.”  Works every time.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Now that’s an idea!

Here’s another way to present it. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 12th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication 1 Comment

Mea Culpa!

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  How could I have got it so wrong!

Last year, I posted a blog in which I imagined Marshall’s pleasure at the prospect of the word “McLuhanism” appearing in the Oxford dictionary.  However, apparently, I underestimated the later McLuhan’s paranoid tendencies.  According to the journalist Barbara Rowes who wrote a profile on McLuhan for People Magazine in 1976, which I have only recently run across, far from being pleased “McLuhan considered the prospect sourly.”

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  My exact words, if I remember correctly were …

“I can just imagine what that word is going to mean.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines “McLuhanism” as “The social ideas of the Canadian writer H. Marshall McLuhan (1911-80), such as that the effect of the introduction of the mass media is to deaden the critical faculties of individuals.”

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 11th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture 1 Comment

McLuhan kicks the TV downstairs.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Recently I put the TV in the basement.

Why? As I told that journalist, Barbara Rowes, who interviewed me for People Magazine, “I did not want it invading my home.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Other technologies McLuhan rejected …

At one time or another were cars, wristwatches, dictation machines, and electric typewriters.  Is the machine using us?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Technology 1 Comment

McLuhan escapes from the 19th century.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  To set the scene.

I admit it, I’m a creature of habit.  Up at 4 am to read the New Testament in Greek, Latin, French, German, or English in my green bathrobe.  On the white kitchen wall phone a bit after 5 to discuss new breakthroughs in media studies with a colleague, today it’s Barry Nevitt.  Shocking to realize it, but do you know no one in media studies realizes it’s not possible to prove anything?  You can only disprove things.  “It’s really quite enraging that nobody has ever thought of this before.”  Back upstairs for a quick catnap.  Then dressed (Hawaiian shirt and slacks) and down to the kitchen for breakfast at 8.  My custom at table was to read the New York Times while Corinne rustles me up either a beefsteak, rare, or an egg on whole wheat toast with honey – depends on the day, I like to alternate – when one day I realized I was spending too much time reading the bloody newspaper.  You see “the complicated lay of the Times is 19th-century.  To get through the whole damn thing would take at least a week.  In the electronic age people want information quickly.”  That’s when I made my move.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  What did McLuhan do?

He switched to the Toronto Globe and Mail.  There are, you see, many ways to time travel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w5coGE5fm0

Some of them quite exhausting.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology 1 Comment

Who was Marshall McLuhan?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Who am I?

“You see, I’m a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes character who simply investigates the environment and reports exactly what he sees.  Strangely enough some people are actually frightened by me.  I find the whole exploration of the environment very exciting.  Once you decide to become an explorer, there’s no place to stop.  I’m like Columbus.  I discover new worlds everywhere I look.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  So who was he?  A Sherlock or a Columbus?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s No Comments

Products are becoming services.

Marshall McLuhan (May 8, 1967, age 55).  For example …

“Instead of going out and buying a packaged book of which there have been five thousand copies printed, you will go to the telephone, describe your interests, your needs, your problems … and they at once Xerox with the help of computers from libraries all over the world, all the latest material for you personally, not as something to be put out on a bookshelf.  They send you the package as a direct personal service.  This is where we’re heading under electronic conditions.  Products increasingly are becoming services.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Sound familiar?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Predicting Communication via the Internet (1966),” interview with Robert Fulford, May 8, 1966, on CBC’s This Hour Has Seven Days in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 101.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Technology No Comments

Where is advertising heading?

Marshall McLuhan (May 8, 1967, age 55).  “Quite simply …

The ad will become a substitute for the product, and all the satisfactions will be derived informationally from the ad, and the product will be merely a number in some file somewhere.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  And why not?

If as Mad Men teaches advertising is about happiness.

And happiness cannot be bought.  It can perhaps be learned.  And where better to learn than through ads?  For example, here is where you can learn the lesson that it is better to give than to receive.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Predicting Communication via the Internet (1966),” interview with Robert Fulford, May 8, 1966, on CBC’s This Hour Has Seven Days in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 101.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 4th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture 1 Comment

Welcome to the classroom without walls.

Marshall McLuhan (March 3, 1959, age 47).  Have you turned on your teacher today?

“One effect of the commercial movement of information in many media is that today we live in classrooms without walls.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Education is a snap.

You want answers?  Your wish is the medium’s command. . .

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Electronic Revolution:  Revolutionary Effects of New Media,” address to meeting of the American Association for Higher Education, March 3, 1959, in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 7.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education, Technology No Comments

What’s new pussy cat?

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Apparently quite a lot …

On June 25, 1967, forty-five TV control rooms around the world joined together to create by satellite the world’s first global TV program.  In Toronto Marshall McLuhan was asked by the CBC’s Stanley Burke “Can you say what message the medium has around the world this afternoon?”  Here is his answer.

Marshall McLuhan (June 25, 1967, age 55).  And yet …

“Everyone will look at this program as if it were something they had already seen before with just a little addition of this or that.  Because that is the inevitable way we look at everything. It’s the same old thing with a little item or two added.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  Many people we imagine have never seen anything new ever.

 

Reading:

Or rather viewing: http://bit.ly/aDWkXA

 

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Technology No Comments

How did Russia beat the U.S. into space?

Marshall McLuhan (August 24, 1964, age 53).  They didn’t have a nineteenth century.

The Russians are people of the ear rather than the eye.  They didn’t have an Industrial Revolution.  They went directly from an oral age to an electric age, skipping the mechanical age.  This acted like a sling shot to fire them into space.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Again, no wonder his colleagues at Toronto University thought he was nuts.

And on this one I’m inclined to agree with them.  And yet it is a thrilling idea.  And certainly a more entertaining one than, say,  the Soviets were good at engineering and math and not shy of spending resources on a space program their economy couldn’t sustain.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

David Thompson, “How to learn economics in a rowboat,” Toronto Daily Star, August 24, 1964.


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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Technology No Comments