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.

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
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education, Management, Vol. 1 No Comments

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