May 25 meeting

May 25 McLuhan Centenary Celebrations Committee

Minutes prepared by Bob Logan

Next meeting June 29 at 3 pm at the sLab – Suite 600 – OCAD 100 McCaul

We had an extremely productive meeting with committee members coming through with interesting suggestions but more importantly volunteering to make meaningful contributions. Those in attendance in alphabetical order were: Zan Chandler, Helga Halberfehlner, Peter Jones, Alex Kuskis, Marnie Landon, Bob Logan, Gisela McKay, Gale Moore, Marie Nazar, Phil Rose, and Robin Styba.

There are a total of 66 members of the Committee and the number continues to grow as people find out about the Celebrations by word of mouth. The Committee would not work if everyone came to all the meetings but those that cannot make every meeting are still there to provide help when needed. There is a core group that attends all the meetings so there is continuity. Some of our 67 members live outside of Toronto in other countries but are planning their own celebrations, which will link with ours.

Today it was decided that we are organizing the McLuhan Centenary Celebrations and celebrations is pluralized because we envisage events and exhibitions throughout 2011, the Centenary year in Toronto and elsewhere. Events are being organized in Copenhagen by Mogens Olesen and in Barcelona by Carlos Scolari. Cristina Miranda in the Basque country of Spain and Elena Lamberti in Bologna are also considering events to be confirmed. Since the meeting on Tues contact was made with a group based in Amsterdam and Berlin planning a series of events for the Centenary called McLuhan in Europe. A full report will be made at our next meeting. There will also be a conference in Bruxelles in Oct. 2011 where Bob Logan will be a keynote speaker at along with Paul Levinson, Graham Harman, and Peter-Paul Verbeek.

Gale Moore had an informal meeting earlier in the day with Seamus Ross who said there was some discussion about holding an academic conference. Dominique Scheffel Dunand, director of the McLuhan Program at U of T has recently coordinated a series of events on McLuhan for Contact so it could build from this. However, it’s early days… and Gale advised, speaking on behalf of herself alone… that this coordinating group let each of the major activities establish themselves as nodes in a network so that they can proceed autonomously while remaining loosely coupled and mutually supportive.  Gale urged Bob to speak with Dominique and Seamus directly about their ideas… and coordinate activities involving U of T through them.

Following Gale’s advice we will help Dominique and Seamus in publicizing their events and offer whatever help they need in both their conference and the restoration of the Coach House. We will co-ordinate with them so that our activities mutually support each other and welcome them to our committee meeting whenever their busy schedules permit.

Gale Moore will work with Joel Alleyne on the Friends of Liss Jeffrey Panel. If there is a conference, this might be part of that; options still being explored.

We talked about an independent McLuhan film festival in 2011 with an association with the Hot Docs and TIFF festivals asking the organizers of those festivals to have one or two screenings associated with McLuhan. Helga Halberfehlner with her Hot Docs affiliation will head up the McLuhan film festival initiative.

Another aspect of the celebrations will be McLuhan’s relationship to art and artists who he characterized as the antennae of the race. Two committee members associated with Gallery 1313, Marie Nazar and Robin Styba will take the lead on this initiative. Perhaps we will be able to entice the AGO to do something. Dominique will probably be able to help with this initiative given the excellent McLuhan Contact Photo show she organized this spring.

The suggestion was made and supported that we should do something around McLuhan and advertising given The Mechanical Bride and Culture is Our Business treatments of this topic. The name of Gottschalk was mentioned.

Someone brought up the name of Steve Mann and an event on wearable technologies as part of McLuhan’s notion of technologies as extensions of humans. This led to the suggestion of our celebrations as Extensions of McLuhan. Followed by the idea of the McLuhan Galaxy. In this context a panel was suggested to discuss the scholars that McLuhan influenced such as Walter Ong, Neil Postman, Tom Wolfe, Tony Schwartz and the younger generation of McLuhan scholars such as Strate, Levinson, Rushkoff and Paglia. It was even suggested that the Frankfurt Communications School be represented as a contrast with McLuhan’s approach.

Phil Rose talked about McLuhan and music and will take the lead on this. It was suggested to involve R. Murray Schaefer and to commission a musical composition in honour of McLuhan.

Moses Znaimer name came up along with the TV museum he initiated as a possible participant.

It was suggested that other McLuhan children in addition to Eric be involved and that this was best left to Eric to invite them.

Alex Kuskis will take the lead on a McLuhan and education panel with assistance from Bob Logan who taught at OISE.

Peter Jones will take the lead an event(s) on McLuhan’s influence on dialogue

Marnie Landon talked about the Einstein Centenary celebration at the Perimeter Institute and has agreed do some research to report back on what they did. We talked of possible fund raising with RIM and Open Text. Marnie also suggested involving high school students and will take the lead on that initiative,

It was suggested to involve Wired magazine who made McLuhan their patron saint and look into McLuhan’s influence on the development of digital technology and perhaps consider an iPad app based on The Medium is the Massage and Counterblast. Perhaps Apple might support our efforts. Gisela suggested we also approach Google. She also mentioned McLuhan’s involvement with Hans Selye.

We talked about developing a communications strategy and branding the Celebrations. Marie Nazar has volunteered to act as communications lead and to prepare a putative communication strategy for discussion at the next meeting. She said we need to prepare a press release sooner than later. We also need a logo for the Celebrations. Any volunteer? Maybe a McLuhan type font. We even explored a cursive font based on McLuhan’s meticulous cursive writing style. Eric, do you have a sample of his handwriting we could use to create such a cursive font set. Greg Van Alstyne, a graphic designer, who volunteered to help create a visual identity will be called upon to help with communications.

Helga Halberfehlner will take the lead in documenting the Celebrations making use of assets at Ryerson. She plans to involve Bruce Elder and Isabella Prushka-Oldenhof.

Marnie will try to involve Don Tapscott.

We will explore support by the City of Toronto.

We will start on a calendar of events that does not conflict with other 2011 Toronto festivals and the Media Ecology Assoc AGM in Edmonton.

We need a project manager for this project. Any volunteers?

Zan Chandler has identified an opportunity for us to apply for funding from Canadian Heritage, which she will help us to apply for.

The committee through consensus decided that in addition to the objective of celebrating the centenary of McLuhan’s birth that we would also use this year to re-establish regular gatherings of those of us interested in discussing those topics that form the heart of McLuhan studies including both literary themes and the impacts of both media and technology, in other words, re-institute the Technology and Culture Seminars that McLuhan conducted in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Hopefully we would be able to gain access to the Coach House for these seminars but if not there elsewhere such as at the sLab where our Committee meets. Hopefully these gatherings could be co-ordinated with the activities of the McLuhan Programme at the U of T and with other programmes in communications and media at various universities and colleges in the Toronto area.

A second objective that the committee committed itself to was the establishment of a McLuhan Museum in Toronto, McLuhan’s intellectual home. Naturally the idea of the Coach House as a place to house such a museum was entertained if the U. of Toronto and St. Mikes wanted to use that facility for that purpose. Perhaps another space at the U of T or elsewhere might also work. But in the spirit of McLuhan’s notion of a museum without walls we felt that a physical location was not an absolutely necessity. The members of the committee felt that we could begin working towards such a museum by collecting and/or cataloging McLuhan artifacts that could be housed in different places in the city such as the McLuhan archive in the iSchool Library in the Bissell Building. We thought of creating a McLuhan passport that visitor could use to visit sites in the city associated with McLuhan to be duly plaqued such as the Coach House, The Kelly Library (a plaque is already being planned for this site), the McLuhan Way, Wychwood Park, and the house he first lived in on St. Mike’s campus. Gisela McKay suggested a Web site pointing visitors to artifacts and sites associated with McLuhan. She volunteered to take the lead on this idea, and to help Joel Alleyne with creating a Web site for the Centenary project and also to gather some McLuhan assets that Liss Jeffrey had put in place with her activities. In terms of artifacts the McLuhan family no doubt has the largest collection of artifacts and their participation in such a project would be essential for the realization of a McLuhan Museum.  Barcelona has a Picasso Museum and a Miro Museum, Pittsburg a Warhohl Museum, Prague a Kafka Museum and Copenhagen the Niels Bohr Office totally in tact as he left it at the Bohr Institute. Toronto needs a McLuhan Museum, which the Committee in consort with the family and the U of T will work towards.

The Committee also agreed that we would help in anyway we could with the restoration of the Coach House by working with those at the U of T responsible for this undertaking including fund raising in consort with the family and the U of T.

A request was made by some members of the committee: when sending a private email such as a notice that you cannot attend a committee meeting do not use the Google Group email address but send your notice to Bob Logan off line at We want to keep the Google Goup channel free for notices of interest for the whole group. Thanks.

Finally, I personally want to thank all those that have volunteered their services, offered their help and joined this Google Group. 2011 will be a year to be remembered thanks to your efforts and participation.