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.

1930s and 40s

To disagree is to think

Marshall (July 1948, age 37).  To disagree is to think (Cogito ergo disputandum)

I wish someone would disagree with me.  No one does that here in Toronto.  They’re all zombies, sleepwalkers.  Whatever you say they agree with you and go on just as they were before.  Agreement is the feature of this age.  

Me (October 2009, age 57).  Come on, disagree with me (Disputio ergo sum)

I wish someone would disagree with me too.  Agreement said McLuhan was the characterizing feature of the late 1940s (which in the US and Canada was the beginning of the 1950s).  Have we entered a new 1950s?   Today, and especially at our universities, the willing subjugation of the individual to the group is – and has long been – the norm on questions of politics, gender, and diversity. 

As we approach the end of the first week of postings, anything you disagree with?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  See you here tomorrow.        


READING FOR THIS POST

The Letters of Marshall McLuhan.  Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and Wiliam Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 198-199.

William H. Whyte.  The Organization Man. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1956, pp. vii-xvi.

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 2nd, 2009
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The necessity & impossibility of creating a group

Marshall (July 1948, age 36).  The necessity & impossibility of creating a group

Talk is vital to my thinking and writing.  It seems impossible, but absolutely necessary, to gather a group of 10 competent people around me here in Toronto to enable me to talk, think, and write.  Even in New York, Paris, or London.  It would be impossible. 

 Me (October 2009, age 57).  The impossible happens

By 1953, with the help of a Ford Foundation grant he obtained with a group of two: himself and the anthropologist Ted Carpenter, who he met in 1948, McLuhan put together a group of 5 around him to think, talk, and write about culture and communications: Ted Carpenter, Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Harley Parker, Tom Easterbrook, and Carl Williams. Five was enough for the group to come up with “the crucial discovery,” as Philip Marchand says, “that media are extensions of the human body and of the nervous system.”

Do you want to be part of a group to think, talk and write about business, culture, and communications?  Let’s have a conversation.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  See you here tomorrow 


READING FOR THIS POST
The Letters of Marshall McLuhan.  Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and Wiliam Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 197

Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.  New York; Penguin Group, 2008 

W. Terrence Gordon, Marshall McLuhan:  Escape into Understanding. Toronto; Stoddard, 1997, pp. 160-165.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger.  Cambridge: Mass.: MIT Press, 1989, pp. 124-137.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, October 1st, 2009
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Art is necessary

Marshall (December 1947, age 35).  Art is necessary

If you haven’t developed sensibility in contemporary art – where everything hits you all at once from all directions – you can’t understand the minds of the middle ages and you can’t understand your teenager’s minds.  Artists live, medieval men lived, your TV kid lives in acoustic space.

Me (September 2009, age 57).   Surround yourself with art  

More than half of the people in the world today live in acoustic space.  If you’re running a business and you’re over 50 you need to surround yourself with contemporary art to develop the sensibility you need to understand the people who work for you.

If you’re younger, you probably need to build up a visual perspective, to understand the people you work for.  How?  Listen to radio (NPR, CBC, BBC) as McLuhan recognized so long ago, it’s a visual medium. 

Do you do anything to develop a visual perspective?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  See you here tomorrow       


READING FOR THIS POST
The Letters of Marshall McLuhan.  Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and Wiliam Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 190

Sorry, Out of Gas:  Architecture’s Response to the 1973 Oil Crisis.  Edited by Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini. Montreal: Canadian centre for Architecture, n.d.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
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Exams create paralysis

Marshall (April 1946, age 35). Exams create paralysis

Exams have a “paralyzing [effect on the] independence of mind.”  That wrangler Keynes learned this first hand at Cambridge. I’m learning it second hand at Toronto. I want to take “a practical critical” approach to literature but my students have been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to salivate at the prospect of recall not independent thought.

Me (September 2009, age 57). You can start creating and stop being paralysed

If you manage people – are you teaching your people to make creative contributions to the enterprise, or are you teaching them to pass annual performance reviews, quarterly tests and other exams? 

If you work for someone else – are you learning how to make creative contributions?  Or are you learning how to pass annual performance reviews, quarterly tests , and other exams?  

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. See you here tomorrow


READING FOR THIS POST

The Letters of Marshall McLuhan. Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 190

Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman. London: Macmillan, 2003, pp. 83-84.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
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30 years ago today Marshall McLuhan was silenced by a stroke

After the stroke, for the remaining 15 months of his life, the expert on communications who startled the world in the 1960s with “the medium is the message” could not read, write or speak except for words like yes, no, oh boy.

Marshall (May 1946, age 35). Literature can’t be taught

“One can only train sensibility [in it. …] That [anyone can say that it can or] … should be taught … is the first fact to be exploded with the maximum amount of noise.”

Me (September 2009, age 57). Management can’t be taught

Management is another subject that can’t be taught. It cannot be accurately talked about or described in words or pictures. It can only be done or not done. Like literature we can train sensibility in it, and coach people to do it better, but the idea that it can and should be taught like multiplication, map reading, and morse code needs exploding.

What other subjects can’t be taught? How much time and money are we wasting trying to teach the unteachable?

If you find this blog interesting send it to someone you know or talk about it, or talk to me about it.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  See you here on Tuesday, September 29

Reading for this post
The Letters of Marshall McLuhan
.  Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye.  Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 187.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 26th, 2009
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Communication, Culture, Education, Management, Vol. 1 1 Comment