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.

Communications

Time gentlemen (and ladies) please!

It is time to say good bye to Dr. Herbert Marshall McLuhan – media explorer, theorist, prophet, and celebrity. This blog began in September, 2009, on the anniversary of the stroke that took away his power to speak and ends, today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Each post, this is number 452, has looked at one of McLuhan’s observations, ideas, thoughts, opinions, or experiences.  I am saying good bye to Marshall now not because there is nothing left to say, but because it seems to me a good time to move on. I have had the wondrous experience of viewing the world for a time through Marshall’s eyes and I thank you for joining me in this attempt to understand him better.  It has been at various times thrilling, disciplining, and surprising, an adventure, a job and an obsession, but I have never found it dull. And that’s the way I want to keep it.

Before I go here is one last idea of Marshall’s to ponder: “The media,” he wrote to Walter Ong in November 1961, “as extensions of the sense organs alter sensibility and mental process at once.”  But, he adds, we are unaware of what they are doing because of their “hypnotic aspect… . Each is invested with a cloak of invisibility.” Faced with such powerful forces is it any wonder McLuhan was never completely successful in his quest to understand media. But then that is the fate of every great philosopher.  He sometimes got it wrong.  But when he was right, boy was he right!

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. I have been fortunate to recieve the help, support, and encouragement of many people.  I would like to thank, especially, Deborah Hinton, David Hinton, Ramon Campos Salazar, Jeff Swann, Michelle SullivanJulien Smith, Mitch Joel, and Michael Edmunds.

Reading and listening:

Lament for Marshall McLuhan, composed and played by Sebastien Joseph [then 15 years old]

My essay on Marshall McLuhan

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan and William Toye, 1987, pp. 280-281.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, All categories 8 Comments

Sound trumps sight.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Whitehead’s observation.    

I ran across this observation of Whitehead’s in his admirable “Dialogues” some years ago and commend it to your attention:  “With the sense of sight, the idea communicates the emotion, whereas with sound, the emotion communicates the idea, which is more direct and therefore more powerful.“

 

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Let’s explore this idea.

Which of these do you find more powerful?

 

This?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAUPt9SX2qk

 

Or this?  The same clip, but play it with the sound turned off

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAUPt9SX2qk

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 146.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

Why is the news so hard to understand?

Marshall McLuhan (March 3, 1959, age 47). The news is coming at high speed.

“When the news moves slowly, the [news]paper has time to provide perspectives, background, and interrelations for the news, and the reader is given a consumer package.  When the news comes at high speed, there is no possibility of such literary processing and the reader is given a do-it-yourself kit.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Are you surprised?

Perhaps, as Marshall suggests, you don’t understand because you need to find new ways to understand.

Pattern recognition for example.  At any rate, is it a surprise you don’t when you keep expecting the consumer package and what your given is a do-it-yourself kit?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uDaj4EU70A&feature=related  

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Electronic Revolution:  Revolutionary Effects of New Media,” address to American Association for Higher Education Conference, March 3, 1959, in Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 8.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication 1 Comment

At a loss what to do with dinner guests who overstay their welcome?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Here’s what I do.    

After dinner is finished I leave the table to read in my study.  Now it is possible that a guest may not take the hint and instead follow me.  At this point I have found it is necessary to act decisively.  As I pass the living room couch I pick up a book from the dozen or so I have stacked on it, turn around sharply, and hand it to my guest saying, “I think you may enjoy this.”  Works every time.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Now that’s an idea!

Here’s another way to present it. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 12th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication 1 Comment

Mea Culpa!

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  How could I have got it so wrong!

Last year, I posted a blog in which I imagined Marshall’s pleasure at the prospect of the word “McLuhanism” appearing in the Oxford dictionary.  However, apparently, I underestimated the later McLuhan’s paranoid tendencies.  According to the journalist Barbara Rowes who wrote a profile on McLuhan for People Magazine in 1976, which I have only recently run across, far from being pleased “McLuhan considered the prospect sourly.”

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  My exact words, if I remember correctly were …

“I can just imagine what that word is going to mean.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines “McLuhanism” as “The social ideas of the Canadian writer H. Marshall McLuhan (1911-80), such as that the effect of the introduction of the mass media is to deaden the critical faculties of individuals.”

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 11th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture 1 Comment

McLuhan escapes from the 19th century.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  To set the scene.

I admit it, I’m a creature of habit.  Up at 4 am to read the New Testament in Greek, Latin, French, German, or English in my green bathrobe.  On the white kitchen wall phone a bit after 5 to discuss new breakthroughs in media studies with a colleague, today it’s Barry Nevitt.  Shocking to realize it, but do you know no one in media studies realizes it’s not possible to prove anything?  You can only disprove things.  “It’s really quite enraging that nobody has ever thought of this before.”  Back upstairs for a quick catnap.  Then dressed (Hawaiian shirt and slacks) and down to the kitchen for breakfast at 8.  My custom at table was to read the New York Times while Corinne rustles me up either a beefsteak, rare, or an egg on whole wheat toast with honey – depends on the day, I like to alternate – when one day I realized I was spending too much time reading the bloody newspaper.  You see “the complicated lay of the Times is 19th-century.  To get through the whole damn thing would take at least a week.  In the electronic age people want information quickly.”  That’s when I made my move.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  What did McLuhan do?

He switched to the Toronto Globe and Mail.  There are, you see, many ways to time travel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w5coGE5fm0

Some of them quite exhausting.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology 1 Comment

What’s new pussy cat?

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Apparently quite a lot …

On June 25, 1967, forty-five TV control rooms around the world joined together to create by satellite the world’s first global TV program.  In Toronto Marshall McLuhan was asked by the CBC’s Stanley Burke “Can you say what message the medium has around the world this afternoon?”  Here is his answer.

Marshall McLuhan (June 25, 1967, age 55).  And yet …

“Everyone will look at this program as if it were something they had already seen before with just a little addition of this or that.  Because that is the inevitable way we look at everything. It’s the same old thing with a little item or two added.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  Many people we imagine have never seen anything new ever.

 

Reading:

Or rather viewing: http://bit.ly/aDWkXA

 

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Technology No Comments

Newspapers don’t make news.

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 53).  You do.

“The only connecting factor in any newspaper is the dateline… . When you enter through the dateline, when you enter your newspaper, you begin to put together the news – you are producer.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  If so, it doesn’t matter that Sarah Palin couldn’t name a paper she’d read:

Their names are irrelevant.  If you don’t like the sense Sarah Palin makes of the stories that flash past her eyes don’t blame it on the newspapers she reads or doesn’t read.  It’s not what she reads but what she does with what she reads.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Address at Vision 65,” in Essential McLuhan, 1995, p. 227.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology No Comments

What are you watching?

Marshall McLuhan (1966, age 55).  The old medium.

A new medium creates an environment that most of us cannot see.  For example TV is for the most part invisible.  As a result you don’t watch TV you watch the old media it contains.  In an essay I wrote in 1966 I put it this way:  “What we see on the late show is not TV, but old movies.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  To watch TV then you need to watch YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q7QFOhuPaU&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “The Relation of environment to Anti-Environment,” (1966), reprinted in Marshall McLuhan Unbound, Ginko Press, 2005, p.18.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology No Comments

Is he right or is he wrong?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59). The microphone.

“The radio and public address microphones killed off political oratory. You can’t orate into a microphone. You have to chat. And the chat invites the interlocutor and the panel group.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58). Or can you?

Or is this the exception that proves the rule?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUP_ISA030c&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:
Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1970, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology 1 Comment