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 April, 2011

What is truth?

Marshall McLuhan (March 25, 1974, age 63).  Good old Agatha Christie!    

“Was it Hercule Poirot who, when asked ‘what is truth?’ replied: ‘Eet ees whatever upsets zee applecart?” 

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Perhaps it’s time to upset some apple carts? 

Why not?  You have nothing to fear but the apples.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 492.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 249-50

Tags:

Apocalypse now?

Marshall McLuhan (July 24, 1974, age 63).  Good-bye identity!    

“Electric speeds of information literally create the mass man and obliterate the private man.  … Is it too late to point to our universal victimization by media in which private identity has been abolished?” 

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  With what result?

Electric media separate us from our bodies.  As, for example, when you make a cell phone call.  You stay put your mind hurtles elsewhere to meet with others in electric space.  All media separate you from the physical you.  The result, electrically, McLuhan came increasingly to believe, is a witches brew of dark discarnate effects.  As we lose our physical identities we become unable to separate fantasy from reality, resort unthinkingly to violence, and are watched and monitored relentlessly by electronic eyes at home and abroad.  Is there any escape?  Depending on the day Marshall’s answer was either yes or no. 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 503.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 249-50

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, April 29th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Technology No Comments

What is your task?

Marshall McLuhan (April 12, 1936, age 24).  My task?

“My task as a teacher will be to shake others from their complacency.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  But how?

As Marshall showed throughout his career the most effective method was a form of intellectual shock therapy.  To assert that the world was not as it appeared to be in the electronic age.  Cause did not precede effect it followed it.  Consumers were becoming producers.  Advertising was a substitute for consumption.  Print created history.  The medium is the message.   Impossible?   Far from itl.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 84.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Education No Comments

Is TV hurting the Liberal’s and NDP’s chances in the election campaign?

Marshall McLuhan (April 24, 1979, age 67).  Yes!

“We have an election underway here in Canada and the issues include separatism, as well as jobs and inflation.  All of these are hot issues.  That is to say, they are completely unsuited to the TV medium.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  The McLuhan strategy.

And today we also have an election underway.  And while the issues have changed, Marshall’s observations remain relevant.  If TV is unsuited to the selling of hot issues then the party that avoids the issues on TV is most likely to win.  Not surprisingly, McLuhan had another idea, too: hot issues could be pushed on a hot medium like radio.  If McLuhan is right, this could be what is required for a Liberal or NDP victory. Hot sell on radio, cool engagement on TV.  But can any of the opposition leaders beat the Harper stare?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 545.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Politics No Comments

TV kids and rock-and-roll.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  They go together like horse and carriage!    

“It is not strange that the young should respond untaught to rock-and-roll as an interpretation of their world of accelerated stress and change.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Untaught?

Yes and no.  What about the classrooms without walls of movies, TV, and ads?  But of course that is what Marshall must have meant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41lign3VBZo

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

Tags:

Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Education No Comments

The new threat?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  The new.    

“As the most completely book-minded people in the world, North Americans would seem to be moving into new orbits of experience for which their bookishness has not entirely prepared them.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What is to be done?

Continue to explore.  To discover how media as media work.  Bring understanding to the rescue.  That I imagine is what Marshall would do.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

Tags:

What has TV done?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  To give but one example

“Nobody seems to know much about why the paper-back book flopped in the 30’s and succeeded in the 50’s.  But it is a fact which probably has some relation to TV …”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What else?

TV he suggests in one shotgun blast of speculation in Counterblast may also explain “the unexplained popularity of highbrow paperbacks,” the strange ability of “the young [to] … respond untaught to rock-and–roll,” the new importance of “the quick briefing by experts [in business] or the making of deals at lunch,” as well as the rise of “the roundtable, the frequent conferences and group brainstorming.”  To McLuhan, it would seem, anything new in the late 50s and early 60s was probably the result of TV.  His critics threw their hands up in dismay.  His fans rifled through Understanding Media for explanations.  And McLuhan?  What did he do?  He went on to dream up more things TV could be doing without our knowing and left the explanations to others.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 98-99.

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments

Music to their ears.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  The teenage music!

“Today the teenage music is an environment not something to be played inside an environment.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Profound or what?

Perhaps all Marshall is saying is that teenage music is loud and is best avoided indoors.  Of course, having 6 children and sensitive hearing he had many opportunities to be struck pleasantly or unpleasantly by teenage music.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

Tags:

Michael Hinton Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Technology No Comments

Who put the fire into the fireside chat?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Radio!

“The radio and public address microphones killed off political oratory.  You can’t orate into a microphone.  You have to chat.  …  Roosevelt was the first to master the microphone as artillery fixed at the fireside.  The home becomes the firing line.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  TV is not radio.

Unless radio makes a comeback the fireside chat would appear to be dead.   As you can see:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Politics, Uncategorized No Comments

Business talks!

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Talking is a labour-saving technology!

“The executive who has many decisions to make must resort to the speedy oral conference with specially briefed experts.  The sheer quantity of information entering into such frequent decisions could not possibly be presented in linear, written form.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Hence, the popularity of the single page report!

The purpose of the single page is not to record everything that needs to be said.  It is to remind the reader of everything that needs to be said later and in greater detail.  And as this clip suggests not all that is said needs to be recorded.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Management, Uncategorized No Comments