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.

For whom does the bell ring?

Marshall McLuhan (1960, age 49) For your information some questions

“Is the telephone extremely demanding of individual attention? Is it abrupt, intrusive, and indifferent to human concerns?”

Me (June 2011, age 58) Well?

These are just two of the questions in Marshall McLuhan’s 1960 “Report on Project in Understanding New Media” which was intended as a high school textbook on media studies and wound up being the first draft of his 1964 best seller Understanding Media. It is probable the book would have flopped as a high school textbook, but the questions have much to teach anyone who is willing to tussle with them. For example these two beg the answers, yes and yes. Knowing this will you always be so eager to call knowing what effect you’re having?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

McLuhan:Hot and Cool, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn. New York, 1967, p. 157

Tags:

Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication 1 Comment

1 Comment to For whom does the bell ring?

  • natinja says:

    “Report on Project in Understanding New Media” is some kind of linearised transcription of Verbi-Voco-Vocabulary which is basically a mashup of many ideas and topics found in various essays published in Explorations. “Gutenberg Galaxy” and “Understanding Media” are a major deviation from this format, but these two books will follow a similar fate with “Counterblast”.

    Actually, a text book did come out from “Understanding Media”, “City as Classroom”, under the initiative of Eric McLuhan and to which MMcL refers in his letters as a Joycean approach to media studies for young people. Given the pretty good shape of the copies I found on the second hand market, this text book didn’t meet the reception it deserved. The approach is interesting though since it deals with the figure and ground aspect of media studies: first the students analyse the figure, the properties of the medium, and then move on to probe the hidden ground, the effects of the medium. “City as Classroom” also introduces the “Laws of the Situation”, which will be called later on the “Laws of Media” in a book targeted to adults.

    Strangely enough, “Explorations”, “Counterblast” and “City as Classroom” receive pretty much no attention from MMcL’s scholars, critics and proponents, meanwhile these books contain some of the major themes that are pretty dear to MMcL in a more readable format than his oft-quoted best sellers.

  • Leave a Reply