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.

Technology

Down Memory Lane (part one)

Today and for the next four days I’m going to feature some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.  Submitted today for your approval Marshall McLuhan on the invention of the fire engine :

Cordially Me

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, July 12th, 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
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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
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Remembering is distorting

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Bartlett proved it long ago      

In Remembering Bartlett, who was a don in Cambridge, uncovered a remarkable fact.  People don’t remember things as they were; they distort them.  And the farther back they try to remember things the more distortion there is.  

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  How much of what you remember is a distortion? 

Does this not explain the experience we all have that others memories are different from our own?  And the necessity of telling family stories over and over again if the story is to be preserved?  And the ultimate futility of the ritual:  for unless the story is recorded in some way, on tape or in writing, it will change, and if it is recorded the story is not what you thought it would be.  It is a re-membering, a distorting.   

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 186.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 1st, 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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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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The death of the handshake.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Ortega y Gasset saw it going.

“Ortega y Gasset saw the handshake as on its deathbed.  Since TV in the United States, people tend to seize both hands and buss one another.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Chalk another one up to TV.

This is classic McLuhan.  Discover an apparent change in culture and attribute it to TV.  Then move on and let someone else sort it all out.  Not always easy to see how this one has played out.  As this clip shows, today the handshake is back.  Or maybe not.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 109.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
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Dear old global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The family hour.      

“The new age of electric software and information involves everybody in a single human family once more.”

 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Not to everyone’s amusement. 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 94.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 14th, 2011
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Man the machine.

Marshall McLuhan (June 22, 1951, age 39).  The unseen effect of modern machinery.

“Ever hear [that] modern radio quiz program.  The quiz-master sez every 3 seconds: ‘Are you ready for the next question?’  The 2 dollar, the 4 dollar, the 64 dollar question?  Only machines get ready for questions.  The knobs have to be turned.  Then comes the slug for the slot.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Are you ready for the next question?

Some machines are better prepared than others:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 227.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 10th, 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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