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.

Business

What has TV done?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  To give but one example

“Nobody seems to know much about why the paper-back book flopped in the 30’s and succeeded in the 50’s.  But it is a fact which probably has some relation to TV …”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What else?

TV he suggests in one shotgun blast of speculation in Counterblast may also explain “the unexplained popularity of highbrow paperbacks,” the strange ability of “the young [to] … respond untaught to rock-and–roll,” the new importance of “the quick briefing by experts [in business] or the making of deals at lunch,” as well as the rise of “the roundtable, the frequent conferences and group brainstorming.”  To McLuhan, it would seem, anything new in the late 50s and early 60s was probably the result of TV.  His critics threw their hands up in dismay.  His fans rifled through Understanding Media for explanations.  And McLuhan?  What did he do?  He went on to dream up more things TV could be doing without our knowing and left the explanations to others.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 98-99.

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments

Business talks!

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Talking is a labour-saving technology!

“The executive who has many decisions to make must resort to the speedy oral conference with specially briefed experts.  The sheer quantity of information entering into such frequent decisions could not possibly be presented in linear, written form.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Hence, the popularity of the single page report!

The purpose of the single page is not to record everything that needs to be said.  It is to remind the reader of everything that needs to be said later and in greater detail.  And as this clip suggests not all that is said needs to be recorded.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
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Where is advertising heading?

Marshall McLuhan (May 8, 1967, age 55).  “Quite simply …

The ad will become a substitute for the product, and all the satisfactions will be derived informationally from the ad, and the product will be merely a number in some file somewhere.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  And why not?

If as Mad Men teaches advertising is about happiness.

And happiness cannot be bought.  It can perhaps be learned.  And where better to learn than through ads?  For example, here is where you can learn the lesson that it is better to give than to receive.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Predicting Communication via the Internet (1966),” interview with Robert Fulford, May 8, 1966, on CBC’s This Hour Has Seven Days in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 101.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 4th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture 1 Comment

It took a while, but the future is here.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  A prophecy.

“Shortly it [film] will under TV pressure, go into its portable, accessible … phase.  Soon everyone will be able to have a small, inexpensive film projector that plays an 8-mm sound cartridge as if on a TV screen.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  And few will realize things have changed.

Except, of course, for artists.  And some of them will not be happy about the change.  For example, David Lynch:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 291-92.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
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Who is doing the teaching?

Marshall McLuhan (1951, age 40).  The ad men.

“The thoughtful observer will find some cause for dismay in the disproportion between the educational budget of the advertising industry and that for the education of the young in school and college.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  And what are they teaching?

This for instance.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, 1951, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, January 15th, 2011
Permalink Business, Communication, Education No Comments

TV: Reaching out to touch someone near you

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  The effect of TV.

Have you noticed the way children in grade school read these days?  The same way they watch TV:  too close, too involved, too slow.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Something’s happening here…

But what it is ain’t exactly clear

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man, 1964, p. 308

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Technology No Comments

The ridiculousness of advertising (continued)

Marshall McLuhan (July 5, 1954, age 42). The reason why.

As I said yesterday it is remarkable how quickly an ad objectively examined strikes one as ridiculous.  The question is why?  Obviously it has to do with the conditions that favour objectivity.  Old ads are easier to view objectively.  And ads intended for other cultures.  They shock us into awareness of their ridiculousness while the ads of our culture today remain unnoticed, invisible.  Whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  You’re not a fish are you?

Submitted for your objective consideration and possible merriment three more ads:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 130.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

The artistry of advertising.

Marshall McLuhan (May 26, 1964, age 52). Dear Diary:

No one seems to realize that advertisers are every bit as much artists as the Symbolists poets are.  That is they aim at certain effects and their artistry is to produce those effects in our minds.  I’m not praising them when I say they are artists or advertising is artistry.  I am simply stating a fact.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Is this art?

This, I believe, is Marshall’s and my 296th post.  As the 300th post in this blog draws near I am tempted to address only the most important, most significant, ideas in the McLuhan cannon.  But then I asked myself what would Marshall have done and I realized this would be a most unMarshall thing to do.  Instead, therefore, we will press on with whatever comes to hand.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 116.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
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The fascination of advertising.

Marshall McLuhan (March 26, 1930, age 18). Dear Diary:

Today at the library I was leafing through some back issues of the Saturday Evening Post from  the twenties when it struck me.   The most fascinating reading is in the advertizing.  The ads capture the age more surely, speak its assumptions more assuredly, work their way into our minds more deeply than any other literary form.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  The ads still draw us in.

What is it about advertising that draws us to it?  Pick up a magazine from 30 or 40 years ago and the articles may leave you cold, but the ads continue to fascinate.  As is evident in Marshall McLuhan’s writing – most notably in Culture is our Business and The Mechanical Bride – there is much to be learned about people and communication from advertising.  Here, for your fascination is an ad from the golden age of television:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messanger, 1989, p. 40.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 27th, 2010
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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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