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.

Sensible people don’t get it.

Marshall McLuhan (July 10, 1964, age 52). Copernicus had no common sense.

This morning as I was shaving it struck me that sensible people look at media with pre-Copernican / pre-Galileo / pre-Newtonian spectacles.  After all is it sensible to believe that the earth we are standing on is round?   That it is spinning at a rate of 1000 miles per hour?  And that the force that brings an apple to the ground explains the tides and the passage of the moon in the night sky?  Why then should anyone believe TV is changing us?   

Me (March 2010, age 57). The medium is the message.  Again…

We are back to “the medium is the message.”   It is sensible to think that electronic media are like windows we look through.  They can distort our vision but they cannot change what we see.  But media are not passive planes of glass.  They reach out to us and into us rearranging the world to suit their needs – cities, roads, buildings, rooms – and rewiring our consciousnesses.

It is not sensible to think about media this way.  Our senses tell us the opposite, that we control our media.  That they’re simple tools we pick up and put down as we will.  McLuhan believed that media change us.   This is an idea most people will reject.

What do you think?  Do media change you?

Speaking of ideas some may find hard to accept, a new biography of McLuhan by Douglas Coupland is now in the bookstores.

I will be reading Coupland’s biography of McLuhan with two questions in mind (Thanks to Douglas John Hall, Professor Emeritus of Theology at McGill for this approach): (1)  What is it that Coupland wants to present, praise, or build up about McLuhan and his work?  And what is it that he wants to deflate, criticize, or pull down?   More on it later this week once I’ve had a chance to read it.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.306

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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