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.

Electronic media

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
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Did McLuhan fear success?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It would be more comfortable.      

“At the beginning of his very flattering essay on myself in The Pump House Gang … Tom Wolfe has a drawing of me which at once suggests another title for his essay (“What if he’s right?”), namely, “I’d Rather be Wrong.”  

 Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The important thing is to understand 

“I am resolutely opposed to all innovation, all change,” he said in an interview on the CBC in 1966.  “But,” he went on to say, “I am determined to understand what’s happening because I don’t choose to sit and let the juggernaut roll over me.” What about you?  Do you ever wonder that in your race to keep up with what’s new in the world you are actually being run over?  Try turning the gadget invasion off for a while and see what happens.  The world will still be there when you get back and maybe you will too.  There are worse things …    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ury5b-qtI1Y

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 212.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
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All has changed since TV.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  We are pre-Gutenberg.      

“We are tribal again.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And now what? 

We continue to be constantly changed.  Shaped and reshaped by the internet, google, electronic books, Wikipedia, twitter, and a hundred other gadgets.  And as in McLuhan’s day it all seems so ordinary as if nothing particularly important is happening.  Unless, of course, you understood that the medium is the message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mES3XJiEQR8&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 124.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s 1 Comment

The new learning

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Pattern recognition.      

“Today, again, after a period of classified consumption, learning in a comprehensive world is becoming play, pattern recognition, discovery.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What do you do when you hit play? 

Learn of course.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
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Have you ever noticed? (Part 1)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have wondered why …      

“Ads are more interesting than essay articles.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Now that you mention it. 

McLuhan says the reason why is that ads fit better with the electric world in which we live.  In the electric world of TV, radio, movies, and, now, the internet, e-mail, texting, facebook, and twitter, everything is coming at you at once, squeezing out narrative and points of view.  Ads unlike the narrative essay that goes from past to present to future exist in “an inclusive present.” This may or may not be bumph.  But you have to wonder as you flip through a magazine or watch TV why the ads are sometimes more interesting than the main attractions.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 19th, 2011
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The first ‘software’ generation.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).      

“Now is the the first ‘software generation.  The TV youngsters are the first to be divorced from the old dominant hardware of books and machines.  This generation was baby-sat by TV  They watched it from their playpens.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And the result? 

As Marshall goes on to say they grew up fast:  “Gray at three, they had seen the gamut of adult violence and confusion in every part of the world.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 64.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 12th, 2011
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Man the machine.

Marshall McLuhan (June 22, 1951, age 39).  The unseen effect of modern machinery.

“Ever hear [that] modern radio quiz program.  The quiz-master sez every 3 seconds: ‘Are you ready for the next question?’  The 2 dollar, the 4 dollar, the 64 dollar question?  Only machines get ready for questions.  The knobs have to be turned.  Then comes the slug for the slot.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Are you ready for the next question?

Some machines are better prepared than others:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 227.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
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You must remember this!

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  At very high speeds.    

“Well, when things change at very high speeds, a need for continuity develops.  You see, you’re in such complete discontinuity at high speed.  Everything you’re looking at now is gone in a second and our demands are to hang on to older things.  So the antique stores and the love of taking the varnish off old tables, revealing their original state, and that sort of thing is a passion today.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  We must forget to think. 

McLuhan suggests that when information is coming at you at very high speeds, as it certainly is today, you must learn to forget it as fast as you can.  “In order to think,” he says, “you have to forget most of what you are experiencing in order to relate it to earlier things that you knew, otherwise you can’t infer anything from what you are seeing.”  In other words, welcome to the …     

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 7th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Culture, Technology No Comments

The new threat?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  The new.    

“As the most completely book-minded people in the world, North Americans would seem to be moving into new orbits of experience for which their bookishness has not entirely prepared them.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What is to be done?

Continue to explore.  To discover how media as media work.  Bring understanding to the rescue.  That I imagine is what Marshall would do.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

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The importance of the businessman’s lunch

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Have you noticed?

“In daily affairs, the increase of oral preference and awareness today appears in the new importance of the businessman’s lunch as an occasion of serious business.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  How serious?

For McLuhan the new seriousness of the businessman’s lunch was evidence of the way the electric age had shifted “the entire business community” from print to conversation.  Here is an example of how serious the conversation could get:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counter-Blast, 1969, p. 71.

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 15th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Management, Technology, Uncategorized No Comments