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.

Vol. 1

More gold for the student of media.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Look for the small facts.

If you want to understand how media work the best place to look is under the light of small facts.  Forget about the big theories.  Work with small truths.  For example, have you ever noticed that in reading a newspaper you are drawn to the story you already know?  You go to a ball game, that’s the story you turn to.  You’re caught in a storm, that’s what you want to read about.

Why?  As human beings our minds delight in re-running experiences we’ve had in one medium through the frame of another.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Is it true?

Observe what you do.  What stories are you drawn to?

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 211.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 20th, 2010
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Gold for the student of media.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). “Now this is gold!”

“What is, Marshall?”

“Why simple facts like these.  Did you know that there are no telephone books in Moscow and no central switchboard for any government department?”

“No Marshall.  I didn’t.  Is it important?”

“Vital, I’d say.  You can keep your theories.  I’d read a hundred books to turn up two facts like these.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  These are the kind of facts that niggle away at you.

Are they true?  What do they mean? Do they matter?

One thing though they seem to describe the type of world large corporations are moving toward today.  A place without a telephone book.  A place where you phone and effectively no one is there to pick up and direct your call.  A place of one way communication.  Have you tried calling someone in one of the big banks lately?

This is a long clip, but you’ll get the message fairly quickly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Sm7jLNtmU&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 214.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 19th, 2010
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Doubts?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  “What did you say, Corinne?”

“Doubts, Marshall.  Do you have any?”

“Certainly.  I doubt that there are more than 5 of my colleagues at Toronto University that understand anything I’ve been saying about media.  I doubt I will ever be comfortable with these invasive new technologies.  I doubt that anyone but myself truly understands the importance of my work.”

“No, Marshall.  I mean with all the trouble in the world do you ever doubt there is a God?”

“Never.  Others can bother their heads about it.  I don’t.  It frees me to do so much.  It allows me to see the world for what it is.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Doubtless …

Marshall knew as a Catholic that no matter how things looked the world was the creation – the extension – of God and as such coherent and understandable.  No matter what he had to worry about He didn’t have to worry about that.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 58-59.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 18th, 2010
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Who lives in the city?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Look around …

Just as the horse was the real population of the nineteenth century city, the automobile has become the real population of the twentieth century city.  I admit it makes me uneasy.  Everything is designed for the care and convenience of the car.  The needs and wants of human beings are coming in at a very distant second.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Today, for the most part it’s still the same old story …

Human beings don’t live in the city, automobiles do.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 218.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 17th, 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

Reading

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

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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It took TV to really make the telephone’s stimulus pay off.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). Of course …

“In the 1920s, the telephone spawned a good deal of dialogue humour that sold as gramophone records.  But radio and the talking pictures were not kind to the monologue, even when it was made by W.C. Fields or Will Rogers.  These hot media pushed aside the cooler forms that TV has now brought back to a larger scale.  The new race of nightclub entertainers (Newhart, Nichols and May) have a curious early-telephone flavor that is very welcome, indeed.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD1MW-nyhxg&feature=related

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Is this where the internet has taken us?

Now we have a brand new race of entertainers turning the book into dialogue.  Very welcome, indeed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_EXqdJ4L7I

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 270.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 13th, 2010
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What’s wrong with our schools?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“In education the conventional division of the curriculum into subjects is already as outdated as the medieval trivium and quadrivium after the Renaissance.  Any subject taken in depth at once relates to other subjects.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). No wonder kids drop out …

Nothing makes sense.  It’s too superficial.  Math in math class.  English in English class.  Science in science class.  We need to mix things up.  And give it a purpose.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 347.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 12th, 2010
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Who will pause today to remember the technologies that have fought for our freedom?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  War loves a new technology.

Today the cold war is being fought with information technology.  That is not new.  Recall that in the Second World War the allies relied on the information technology of their day to fight the war.  Remarkable though it might seem to us, space was made in the landing craft on D-day to transport filing cabinets to the beaches of Normandy.   What is new today is that the technology we rely on is the technology of our electric age.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). War still loves new technology

Let us pause this Remembrance Day to think about the technologies that we use to fight our wars.  Today, in the late electronic age, these weapons, such as smart bombs and Twitter,  rely even more heavily on information technology.  The question that presents itself – particularly to those of us who believe as McLuhan did that technology pushes us around more than we do it – is whether these technologies have a bias for war or peace?  Let us hope peace.  Meanwhile here is some evidence to help you make up your mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNUWwgvBQvQ&feature=related

 

And take a look at this.

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 339.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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The big switch.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“[T]he movie has excelled as a medium that offers poor people roles of riches and power beyond the dreams of avarice.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Ah one can dream …

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 291.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
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TV isn’t good company.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). The observant Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan loved observing a medium in action.  You squint.  You turn your head.  And suddenly you see it.  A break-through.  Here he is on the way TV works.  (You may not agree with him.  Especially those of you who when traveling on business turn in the early morning to The Today Show for companionship.  And yet there is something to McLuhan’s idea – as there is with most of his ideas – that is worth thinking about.)

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“It is not pleasant to turn on TV just for oneself in a hotel room, or even at home.  The TV mosaic image demands social completion and dialogue.”

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Eb2fWmBDrmc&feature=related

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 292.

And this.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
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