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 quest for identity

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The importance of slang.

“Slang is verbal violence on new psychic frontiers.  It is a quest for identity.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Becoming the same?

That is the root meaning of identity, “absolute sameness.”  The use of slang identifies you as one member of a particular crowd.  You use it to declare your identity with that group.  The search for identity is a search for the group you are.  Which group are you?  Listen to yourself.  Listen to others.

Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 288.


Michael Hinton Saturday, April 2nd, 2011
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Elections in the electronic age

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Don’t ask and you will receive.    

“In the cool TV age, the office must chase the man, as in the pre-railway days of Jefferson and Washington.  Anyone seeking office is far too hot for the new cool electorate.”


Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Is Canada no longer in the electronic age?

There seems to be an awful lot of seeking going on in Canadian politics right now.



 Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 60.


Michael Hinton Thursday, March 31st, 2011
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What’s real?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The genuine fake!    

“In art, the genuine fake, Rembrandt or Vermeer, is just as valid as the real thing because it provides the same new awareness or perception.”


Me (March, 2011, age 58).  An observation McLuhan made about advertising …

When he said that advertising was getting so good you don’t have to buy the product to enjoy it. 



 Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 46.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, March 26th, 2011
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Marshall McLuhan on pay TV

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You become your own programmer    

“Subscription TV means audience participation in programming without benefit of ratings or sponsors.  Instead of a package deal, the viewer will get service.  Service as a matter of course and not a matter of crisis.”


Me (March, 2011, age 58).  What do you want?


Cordially, Marshall and Me



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


Michael Hinton Friday, March 11th, 2011
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Kids need new kinds of teachers

Marshall McLuhan (March 3, 1959, age 47).  The electric age creates a demand for new teachers.

“As we extend our educational operation by television and videotape we shall find that the teacher is no longer the source of data but of insight.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  With Google the demand for the new teachers increases.

What is needed, says Marshall, are “more and more profound teachers.”  That is “Two or more teachers [in each class] in dialogue with each other.” But are we still trying to do things the old way?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, “Electronic Revolution:  Revolutionary Effects of New Media,” address to American Association for Higher Education Conference, March 3, 1959, in Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 10.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
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From Marshall and Me will return after the 12 days of Christmas [plus] on January 11, 2011.

Meanwhile for your viewing pleasure some seasonal cave art from the twentieth century:

Cordially,  and a Happy New Year, Marshall and Me

Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
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How do you sling your slang?

Marshall McLuhan (November 2010, age 99). Down memory lane with Marshall and Corinne …

Corinne do you remember this?  ‘Slang offers an immediate index to changing perception.’”

“It certainly sounds like you, Marshall.”

“Of course it sounds like me, I said it.  And you typed it up and that’s how it got into Understanding Media. ”

“Did I?”

“Of course you did, behind every great man in the university is the sound of his wife’s typing.  The fascinating thing is that slang continues to be an immediate index to changing perception.”

Just listen to the internet kids talking.  Here’s a typical snippet:

  • He’s really, really, mad.
  • I’m like, ‘Hey, why are you like that?’
  • And he’s like, ‘whatever.’”

“What are they saying, Marshall?”

“Hard to say, there is an unmistakable 80s patina to it, but that doesn’t matter, focus on the medium, the words.  That’s the real message.   No one says saying or said anymore.  The verb to say is gone, replaced by like.  Conversation is getting cooler and cooler.  More and more involved and involving.  The internet has taken on the job TV was doing to us in the 60s and stepped it up several notches.  Visual man is waving good bye to his progeny.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Here’s some more talk to think about:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


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

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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What did McLuhan mean by that?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Isn’t it obvious?

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  Who’s looking at who?

In Understanding Media McLuhan says this old saying illustrates the fundamental principle “that distinguishes hot and cold media.”  That principle being that cold or cool media demand participation because they are low definition (providing little data) while hot media demand relatively little participation because they are high definition (providing much data).

If you’re wondering how this proverb illustrates this hold on to your hat.  McLuhan says, “Glasses intensify the outward-going vision, and fill in the feminine image exceedingly, Marion the Librarian notwithstanding.  Dark glasses, on the other hand, create the inscrutable and inaccessible image that invites a great deal of participation and completion.”  In other words, girls who wear dark glasses get the passes, not because they’re hot but because they’re cool.  And perhaps, also, boys who wear glasses don’t make passes, because they’re getting way too much information.  Seriously, somebody should study this.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 49.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
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Advertising and culture.

Marshall McLuhan (1977, age 66).  Try this experiment

Advertising (as figure) has much to instruct us about culture (as ground).  This is something you can explore in a plug and play fashion by looking at advertisements.  List as many different products as you can that are frequently advertised.  What picture does this list form of our culture?

Me (May 2010, age 57).   Let’s try it?

(This is another one of Marshall McLuhan’s exercises, which you can find in his book City as Classroom.)  Let’s try a variation on this experiment by looking at the products advertised in a recent issue of the New Yorker.  Here is a list of all of the products that appear in the ads that appear in the opening pages (inside cover to The Talk of the Town section) of the May 10, 2010 issue.

Vanguard investment fund

AT&T cell phone service

Novel by Isabel Allende

Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Continental airlines

New Yorker cartoon collection (The Graduation Collection)

Tiffany & Co. jewelry

Oil and natural gas exploration

New Yorker cartoon bank

Hyatt hotels

New Yorker T shirts

New Yorker cover prints

Chamber music concert at Lincoln center

Vintage golf photos

The magazine industry

U.S. Trust asset management

What’s your take on the culture described by these products?   How does this culture fit with your picture of the ‘real’ US culture?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Marshall McLuhan, Kathryn Hutchon, and Eric McLuhan, City as Classroom:  Understanding Language and Media , 1977,   pp. 7.

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Michael Hinton Friday, May 28th, 2010
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So what?

Marshall McLuhan (April 16, 2010, age 99). This is too much!

“Corinne, he’s at it again!  That Hinton bloke is going to be the death of me.”

“Marshall, you know that’s impossible.”

Me (April 2010, age 57).  The implications are profound

Clearly, Marshall McLuhan’s biographers have recognized that McLuhan’s brain surgery had serious and irreversible effects on Marshall McLuhan:  that he was fundamentally changed.  But they do not seem to realize – or want to realize – the extent to which McLuhan changed or what this change means for our understanding of McLuhan and his work.

Of all McLuhan’s biographers, Douglas Coupland comes closest to capturing the seriousness of the effects of the surgery.  But he does not go far enough or draw from it some basic conclusions.  (If you have been following this blog you know that my belief is that the surgery killed McLuhan’s genius.)  Here, I think, are three of those conclusions:

  1. Reading McLuhan is difficult, but the true McLuhan is to be found in the essays and books he published before the surgery of November 1967.
  2. Reading McLuhan is far more difficult in the essays and books published after his surgery because they were stamped by the influence of the surgery and that of his colleagues and co-authors.
  3. The best way to understand McLuhan (conversation not writing was his strength) is to attempt to hear him speak in interviews, letters, and the memoirs of the people who knew him.  As always, I believe, it is best to pay more careful attention to McLuhan in the years before his surgery than after.

What implications of this for your understanding of Marshall McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan (2009)], pp. 182-83, p. 185

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 17th, 2010
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