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.

1970s and 80s

McLuhan is back, but for how long?

Marshall McLuhan is news once again. Today is the second day of McLuhan week in Toronto. And for at least this week all things McLuhan will seem fresh. Especially on Thursday, July 21, which is McLuhan’s 100th birthday. What would McLuhan have thought of the celebrations? Probably very little.  He had work to do. 

Here is a post I wrote on McLuhan and celebrity you may want to take a peek at again.

Cordially Me

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Culture No Comments

Still going on going

The question that anyone coming to this blog is bound to ask is: What’s so fascinating about Marshall McLuhan?  Why are his ideas still worth thinking about today, so long after his two big books – The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media – came out in the 1960s ?  For me the hook isn’t the big statements that admittedly still resonate in our digital age “the medium is the message’ or “the global village,” or “pattern recognition;”  it’s the small, seemingly inconsequential observations he came out with that force you to think freshly about the world.  A case in point, in the interview I posted yesterday Marshall McLuhan asserts that children pay close attention to ads on TV because the’re better made than the shows.  Stunningly fascinating.  Here for example is one of those ads children were watching in the 1960s.

And if they’re paying close attention to it, you’ve got to ask yourself, “What are they learning from it?”  And “Who aren’t they paying attention to and learning from?”  In other words, what you learn most from McLuhan is what he pushes you to teach yourself.

Cordially, Marshall and me

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, 1970s and 80s, Culture, Education 1 Comment

Hello I must begin my going

As the end of this blog and McLuhan’s 100th birthday on July 21 draws near I should try to sum things up, to make clear what it is I have been trying to do, and where  I think I have succeeded and where I have not.  But as the mosquito said on entering the nudist colony – a joke Marshall McLuhan liked to tell – “I don’t know where to begin.”  So let me begin on the beginning of the end with something that may or may not be appropriate, an interview of McLuhan on Australian television recorded on June 19, 1977 when Mcluhan was 66.  Here he is shifting from idea to idea, throwing out an idea and then moving on much as this bog has done. And as I am now doing. 

Tomorrow I will pick up where I have left off.

Cordially, Marshall and me   

 

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
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The strange new world of management

Marshall McLuhan (1972, age 60)  Welcome to the unknown.

“With the acceleration of change, management now takes on entirely new functions.  While navigating admidst the unknown is becoming the normal role of the executive, the new need is not merely to navigate but to anticipate effects with their causes.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58)  Meaning?

You can not escape the future, sidestep it or go around it.  To succeed in it you must be part of it; you must make it happen.  Exhilarating isn’t it?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Mark Federman and Derrick De Kerckhove, McLuhan for managers: new tools for new thinking, 2003, p. xiii.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Business, Management No Comments

Where do you live?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 58).  Most people prefer the past.         

“There are very many reasons why most people prefer to live in the age just behind them.  It’s safer.  To live right on the shooting line, right on the frontier of change, is terrifying.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The man of the “absolute present.”

According to Derrick de Kerckhove, who knew McLuhan in the 1970s and is a long-time student of media, “[Marshall McLuhan] lived in what I call the absolute present.  Absolutely there.  Entirely in the moment.  In a way that I can’t even imitate.  Artists are like that.  Great artists are; they have this quality of just being there.”  Which perhaps is the same quality that is required for great comedy:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Forward Through the Rearview Mirror:  Reflections on and By Marshall McLuhan, edited by Paul Benedetti and Nancy DeHart, 1996, p. 137.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
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You must remember this!

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  At very high speeds.    

“Well, when things change at very high speeds, a need for continuity develops.  You see, you’re in such complete discontinuity at high speed.  Everything you’re looking at now is gone in a second and our demands are to hang on to older things.  So the antique stores and the love of taking the varnish off old tables, revealing their original state, and that sort of thing is a passion today.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  We must forget to think. 

McLuhan suggests that when information is coming at you at very high speeds, as it certainly is today, you must learn to forget it as fast as you can.  “In order to think,” he says, “you have to forget most of what you are experiencing in order to relate it to earlier things that you knew, otherwise you can’t infer anything from what you are seeing.”  In other words, welcome to the …     

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 7th, 2011
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The aggression of ads

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  Watch out!    

“Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness.  A demand that you yield your private consciousness to public manipulation.”

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

Be aware.  Look into the abyss, but be aware.     

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Friday, May 6th, 2011
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The TV thing.

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  Mental pollution!    

“The TV thing itself is very, very polluting.  It goes right into the nervous system.  The problem is how literate is your society, your family circle.  Your child is coming out of an intensely literate world, so he can take a fair amount of TV without too much harm.  But to the ordinary kid without a lot of literacy, TV will just turn off any possibility of left hemisphere.” 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What now? 

A bleak vision.  Today there are more ordinary kids than ever before.  Without literacy to protect them logical thought may be on the ropes.  What is required is a champion.  If only it were this easy. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
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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

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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

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 29th, 2011
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