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.


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


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


Michael Hinton Saturday, June 25th, 2011
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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



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

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 9th, 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


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

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


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


Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.


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


Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
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The importance of the businessman’s lunch

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Have you noticed?

“In daily affairs, the increase of oral preference and awareness today appears in the new importance of the businessman’s lunch as an occasion of serious business.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  How serious?

For McLuhan the new seriousness of the businessman’s lunch was evidence of the way the electric age had shifted “the entire business community” from print to conversation.  Here is an example of how serious the conversation could get:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Counter-Blast, 1969, p. 71.


Michael Hinton Friday, April 15th, 2011
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The far-seeing Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Unbelievable?    

“Surely, it is not unbelievable that decision-makers are totally out of touch with the world they live in?”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Surely not.


 Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 104.


Michael Hinton Thursday, March 10th, 2011
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The CEO in the electronic age

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The higher you go the less of you there is.    

“As any executive climbs up the echelons of the organization chart, his involvement in the organization becomes less and less.  At the top he is a dropout … .”


Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Which would seem to present a problem.

But then, perhaps not, according to this expert:


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 30.


Michael Hinton Saturday, February 26th, 2011
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To hell with your point of view

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Are you ready for it?

Having a point of view would seem to be a good idea.  Presumably it is what blogs are all about.  Yet there is a problem with them, as Marshall tells us.

Marshall McLuhan (January 13, 1966, age 54).  It closes down exploration.

As I was telling my friend Tom Wolfe, “When you try to find out ‘what’s going on’ a point of view is not very useful.” The man with a point of view has no need to search for  answers, he is convinced that he already has them.  Rather than learn from the events that pass before his eyes, he spends his days emotionally reacting to them.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 332.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
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I just don’t understand.

Marshall McLuhan (1960, age 49).  Try the Coleridge method.

People can be a great mystery.  Why do they think what they think?  Or do what they do?  The key is to understand them.  But how?  As I have often told my son Eric the Coleridge method (see his Biographia Litteraria) is most efficient.  To find out what someone knows start with what they don’t know and work from there.

Me (July, 2010, age 57).  OK, let’s try it.

Eric McLuhan notes that “Going the other way, it can take you as long (or nearly) to learn a man’s knowledge as it took him.  Life is too short!”

What does this method tell us about Marshall McLuhan?  There are two things McLuhan often professed ignorance of:  small talk and numbers.  What do these areas of ignorance tell us about what McLuhan knew?  The absence of small talk implies the presence of big talk, suggesting that McLuhan was comfortable in the world of abstractions.  The blank in numbers suggests, perhaps, that McLuhan’s explorations in understanding media were qualitative rather than quantitative.  That is when he said TV had changed the world he was not saying it had changed a great deal because of TV.  He was simply saying it had changed.  He implied that it may have changed a great deal, but he had no way of telling how much.

What do you think?  Is the Coleridge method helpful in understanding McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Reading for this post

Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, Who Was Marshall McLuhan? 1994, p. 242.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
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