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 June, 2011

How to laugh at ads.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The Will Rogers effect.      

“Will Rogers discovered years ago that any newspaper read aloud from a theater stage is hilarious.  The same is true today of ads.  Any ad put into a new setting is funny.  This is a way of saying that any ad consciously attended to is comical.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  In other words …

If you’re going to study ads you can’t afford to pay too much attention to them.  As an exercise try not to pay too much attention to this ad:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 228.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

Death of the hard-sell

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The new cool TV world!      

“Since the advent of TV, the exploitation of the unconscious by the advertiser has hit a snag.  TV experience favors much more consciousness concerning the unconscious than do hard-sell forms of presentation in the press, the magazine, movie, or radio.  The sensory tolerance of the audience has changed, and so have the methods of appeal by the advertisers.  In the new cool TV world, the old hot-world of hard-selling, earnest-talking salesmen has all the antique charm of the songs and togs of the 1920s.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Working against and with the medium.

An ad from the old hot world:

And the new cool world:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 228.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
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Who can predict the future?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The arts!      

“The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation or more, has long been recognized.  In this century Ezra Pound called the artist ‘the antennae of the race.’  Art as radar acts as ‘an early alarm system,’ as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychological targets  in lots of time  to prepare to cope with them.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  What’s coming is here.

If you want to find out what the future will bring, what the next new thing will be, says McLuhan, you should check out what’s happening in the world of modern art.  What an insane idea!  Or is it?  Stranger things have happened.  Consider this snippet from a 1993 episode of Homicide:  Life on the Street:            

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Technology 1 Comment

How TV works (on us)

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Clothing and style.

“Clothing and style in the past decade have gone so tactile and sculptural that they present a sort of exaggerated evidence of the new qualities of the TV mosaic.  The TV extension of our nerves in hirsute pattern possesses the power to evoke a flood of related imagery in clothing, hairdo, walk, and gesture.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  In the sixties everything was changing.

Why?  People asked.  What was going on?  McLuhan had answers.  TV explained it all.  His fans raved.  His critics were stupefied.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 328.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 11th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments

Whose hand is on the scalpel?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The involvement of TV.      

“In closed-circuit instruction in surgery, medical students from the first reported a strange effect – that they seemed not to be watching an operation but performing it.  They felt they were holding the scalpel.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  What does McLuhan infer from this?

Hold onto your scalpel: Because TV creates “a passion for depth involvement in every aspect of human experience”  it naturally “creates an obsession with bodily welfare.”  Ergo:  “the sudden emergence of the TV medico and the hospital ward as a program.”  A trend that continues today with House and Nurse Jackie, not to mention the scalpel-detective crossover shows CSI, NCIS et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.      

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 328.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 10th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education No Comments

You’ve got to suffer if you want to be a senior executive.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  He only gets the noise!

“Electricity  … has made the harmonizing of production schedules as rigorous as that demanded of the members of a large symphony orchestra.  And the satisfactions are just as few for the big executives as for the symphonists, since a player in a big orchestra can hear nothing of the music that reaches the audience.  He gets only the noise.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Do you have an ear for Management?

Only McLuhan with his preternatural sensitivity to noise could take the idea of a business executive being like a player in a symphony orchestra and turn it into a nightmare.   Despite what you thought the problem with being a senior executives isn’t that  you’re lonely at the top it’s that you can’t get a moment to yourself.  If you think about it that’s what Dr. Henry Mintzberg has been saying years about the Manager’s job, it’s chaos.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 355.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Education, Management No Comments

War has many hells.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The cold war in 1984      

“If the cold war in 1964 is being fought by informational technology [photography, movies, and TV], that is because all wars have been fought by the latest technology available in any culture.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The Afghanistan war in 2010

The latest technology is still being applied in war today.  One example of this reality of war made the news in 2010, when the New York Times reported that the American military were deploying PowerPoint with devastating results. 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 339.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Technology No Comments

Alcohol’s history!

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Tribal man can’t take it.      

“Tribal societies cannot tolerate alcohol.  The literate man needs stimulants to pull himself together, privately or socially.  His visual culture fragments and isolates him.  The tribal man is so integral, and so involved socially, that alcohol sends him berserk.  Women are in somewhat the same position.  Being more integral, they need no stimulants, except a man.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The nutty Professor McLuhan

Everyone who reads McLuhan will run across passages of pure lunacy, such as this one.  Fortunately, the times McLuhan stays on the rails compensates for the times he goes off them.   Those who read McLuhan must be willing to put up with the occasional appearance of the nutty professor.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 240.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
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Let your fingers do the walking! (Or is it running?)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Remember the ad?      

“Remember the New York Telephone ad?  ‘Let your fingers do the walking.’  In the computer age the role of the pedestrian is taken over by the pushbutton.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eaikf34WN-A&feature=related

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The prescient Professor McLuhan

Do your thumbs deserve a break today? 

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 236.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 4th, 2011
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Beware the toothy smile!

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  So many questions.

“This ad raises a multitude of structural questions.  The mouth is the all aggressive organ.  Teeth are the most menacing of all human appointments because of their lineal order.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Don’t like that idea?

No matter, as McLuhan would say, he has others.  But a smile can be a very powerful weapon …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7JB68sLGY8&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 220.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 3rd, 2011
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