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 May, 2011

Will we ever crack the code?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The ultimate challenge!

“Cracking the code of our own popular culture is much harder than the problem of the Rosetta Stone image.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And what a challenge it is!

The finding of the Rosetta Stone at the town of Rosetta in Egypt in 1799 provided the crucial information required for linguists to eventually decipher the writing of ancient Egypt because the stone contained parallel passages written in Egyptian hieroglyphic characters, Egyptian demotic writing, and miracle of miracles Greek.  Popular culture is so hard to understand because it is more than language.  It is everything that makes us who we are as feeling, thinking, acting, and speaking social beings.  Unfortunately, there are no cultural Rosetta Stones – no worked examples of the multi-dimensional translation of one popular culture into another – to guide us.  As a result we never know which leads are worth following up and which are not.  And to make matters worse, because we are inside of it most of the time we don’t even realize there is something called our popular culture which we don’t understand. (Or as McLuhan liked to put the idea, whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.)  One of the ways Mcluhan thought you could see a popular culture was through ads.  McLuhan found ads to be endlessly fascinating.  Each is outside of ourselves and represents a window into our popular culture.   What do they mean?  Who can say for sure, but they do fascinate …

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 148.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
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The forms of architecture.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Roads not buildings.

“The road is our major architectural form.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Forming and reforming.

Roads, McLuhan is saying, not buildings drive our cities to be what they are.  They form them.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 132.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 28th, 2011
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McLuhan on marriage.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It’s about making not matching.      

“After the death of Mrs. Johnson, with whom he had been very happy, Dr. Johnson was asked by Boswell whether there was another woman in the world with whom he could have been as happy.  ‘Yes, sir.  Forty thousand.’  Johnson knew marriage was not matching but making.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And what about you? 

Marshall McLuhan met Corinne Lewis in July 1938 and they were married just over a year later in August, 1939.  They were married for 41 years, had 6 children, and by all accounts had a very successful marriage.  Perhaps there is something about happiness that can be learned from McLuhan.  Are you looking for the perfect match or getting on with the making of one? 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 128.

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Michael Hinton Friday, May 27th, 2011
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All has changed since TV.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  We are pre-Gutenberg.      

“We are tribal again.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And now what? 

We continue to be constantly changed.  Shaped and reshaped by the internet, google, electronic books, Wikipedia, twitter, and a hundred other gadgets.  And as in McLuhan’s day it all seems so ordinary as if nothing particularly important is happening.  Unless, of course, you understood that the medium is the message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mES3XJiEQR8&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 124.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s 1 Comment

The new learning

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Pattern recognition.      

“Today, again, after a period of classified consumption, learning in a comprehensive world is becoming play, pattern recognition, discovery.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What do you do when you hit play? 

Learn of course.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
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The ‘missing link’

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have wondered why …

“The ‘missing link’ created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Indeed I have, now that you mention it.

In Saturday’s post I asked what you thought McLuhan would say is the explanation for the greater interest in the ‘missing link.’  Notwithstanding Michael Edmunds thoughts, which you may want to take a look at in the comments on that post, I’m going to plump for a simpler answer.  The great chain of being is a completed whole, full of information, and therefore hot.  The missing link, on the other hand, is a gap in the chain of evolutionary development, cool, and therefore more involving and more interesting.   Like these sign off audio clips are more involving than the complete shows they followed …

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
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Have you ever noticed? (Part 3)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have also wondered why …      

“The ‘missing link’ created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Here’s your chance to try and think like McLuhan. 

What do you think McLuhan would say is the explanation for greater interest in the missing link than the great chain of being?  See Tuesday’s post for the answer.  Meanwhile this may help inspire you to solve this mystery.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Permalink Communication, Culture 1 Comment

Have you ever noticed? (Part 2)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have also wondered why …      

“Isolated news items are more interesting than editorials.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Now that you mention it. 

McLuhan’s observation seems bang on.  The editorials in a newspaper are not as interesting as the news items.  As with ads McLuhan says the news item wins out because it has no single point of view.  It is all about the present.  It is in tune with the our electric age.  This may be bumph, but as observations go is remarkably astute.  Editorials are not what newspaper readers want.  Why do newspapers devote so much space to them?  Is this any way to run a newspaper?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Friday, May 20th, 2011
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Have you ever noticed? (Part 1)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have wondered why …      

“Ads are more interesting than essay articles.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Now that you mention it. 

McLuhan says the reason why is that ads fit better with the electric world in which we live.  In the electric world of TV, radio, movies, and, now, the internet, e-mail, texting, facebook, and twitter, everything is coming at you at once, squeezing out narrative and points of view.  Ads unlike the narrative essay that goes from past to present to future exist in “an inclusive present.” This may or may not be bumph.  But you have to wonder as you flip through a magazine or watch TV why the ads are sometimes more interesting than the main attractions.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 19th, 2011
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Why is TV so involving?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Because it compels involvement.

“Visual space is a continuum.  … Tactile space is an interval.  Hence beat and rhythm. … It is the interval whether in music or mosaic or in poetry that compels involvement until we become part of the situation.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Huhh?

This is the kind of statement that drove McLuhan’s critics mad with rage.  What was he saying behind the McLuhanisms such as visual and tactile space?  Perhaps that it is not by chance, as he hints in Culture Is Our Business that The Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was such a hit with 60s TV kids.  The song reaches out to you and you reach back to it.  It really does want to hold your hand.  It compels, demands, participation.  And that is what all electric media do they compel your involvement.  You become part of the situation they create.  Next time you’re out at dinner and a cell-phone rings observe what happens.  In a way it’s like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeBm46WJOxQ

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 110.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture 1 Comment