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.

Global village

Dear old global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The family hour.      

“The new age of electric software and information involves everybody in a single human family once more.”

 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Not to everyone’s amusement. 

YouTube Preview Image 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 94.

Tags:

Michael Hinton Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Technology No Comments

TV has made cities obsolete.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Shezamm!

“The INSTANTANEOUS global coverage of radio-TV make the city form meaningless, functionless.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Everything is now here, wherever you are.

Or as McLuhan also put the idea: “Any highway eatery with its TV set, newspaper and magazine is as cosmopolitan as NEW York or Paris.”  And, as you will note in the clip below, some highway eateries are more cosmopolitan than others.

YouTube Preview Image

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counter-Blast, 1969, p. 12 and 13.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Uncategorized No Comments

Consider yourself one of the family

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  What’s new?    

“The new age of electric software and information involves everybody in a single human family once more.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  And what a family!

And getting disfunctionaler:

 YouTube Preview Image

And disfunctionaler:

 YouTube Preview Image

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 94.

Tags:

Michael Hinton Saturday, March 5th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Technology 1 Comment

Where to from here?

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Not done with McLuhan

Welcome back.  The last 300 posts of this blog have explored a large number of the ideas of and about Marshall McLuhan.  I have not counted, but the number must be far more than 300.  For most people, however, there are only two ideas – the medium is the message and the world as a global village – and neither of these ideas now almost two generations old since they were first announced in the 1960s is very well understood, which is odd.

Why?  Who was he?  What did he really mean?  Was he really that bad a writer?  What did he really think?  Was he serious?  Was some of what he said just bullshit?  What was he really like?  How can he be better understood?  What does it matter now after all these years?  These are questions I have tried to answer in the first 300 posts of this blog, and I’m not yet finished answering.  We are, I think, not done with McLuhan.  In the year ahead I will continue to talk about his ideas; to go slow; to look at them one by one, to wonder at them and about them, and in this way to celebrate and pay tribute to him.  If he is right and media change us, understanding how they do this is vitally important.

YouTube Preview Image

If you wish to be part of this conversation please leave your comments.

Cordially, Me

Reading

Neil Postman, “Forward” to Philip Marchand, Marshall Mcluhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. vii-xiii.

Tags: , , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Permalink All categories 2 Comments

The g-g-g-global village is out to get you

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Who put the geewiz in the global village?

If there is one thing everyone knows about Marshall McLuhan, it is that he said we have been recreated by electronic technology in “the image of a global village.”  It is tempting to look at this idea of a global village as a positive vision of the essential oneness of all peoples on this planet.  To see our global village bathed in an electric glow in the night skies as a warm, safe, and supportive place.   To experience the good vibrations that come as we listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

YouTube Preview Image

This was the temptation I almost fell prey to yesterday.  But McLuhan had a very different thing in mind when he talked about a global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1977 age 65/66).  We are going tribal!

YouTube Preview Image

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967, p. 67.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, September 24th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Critics!

Marshall McLuhan (June 1, 1960, age 48).  There’s no such thing as bad advertizing?

That’s what they say, but having read what Robert Fulford had to say about me in Maclean’s, I’m beginning to have doubts.  At the very least Fulford’s the exception that proves the rule.  It’s actually amazing, as I told him myself, that he gets anything at all out of Understanding Media because he obviously doesn’t Understand Me.  I have a theme that governs everything I write, namely that for 5,000 years western man thought in the way print taught him to.  Splitting things up.  Fragmenting the world. Analyzing. Putting things in order.  Being logical and rational.  Now, with the advent of the electric age, all this has changed.  Welcome to the re-tribalized, acoustic, global village.

Me (December 2009, age 57).  Critiquing the critics

Robert Fulford wrote that Understanding Media was “arrogant, sloppy, repetitious and brilliant.”  A view which is both right and wrong headed.  This perception of Understanding Media as a large dollop of error and held together by a drop of brilliance was a common response to McLuhan in the 1960s.  (Around the same time, Richard Schickel wrote in Harper’s “his critics are infuriated by his ideas … but some think he has one of this continent’s most brilliant minds and that his theories foretell our real future.”)  But it is not Fulford or Schickel’s 45-year old responses I want to talk about.

Let us consider some of the current critics of McLuhan, beginning with the writer of a recent blog, who I will not name.  This critic wrote – I paraphrase to protect their anonymity- that 99 percent of what McLuhan wrote is bullshit, and the remaining 1 percent is pure genius.  And that is all.  They do not give an example of anything in McLuhan’s cannon they think is bullshit and explain why it is bullshit.  Nor do they give an example of an idea of McLuhan’s that they think is brilliant and explain why it is brilliant.  Remarkably, or perhaps unremarkably, this type of criticism of McLuhan is not unusual.  In fact this is a fairly typical response to McLuhan on the internet:  gossipy, intellectually lazy, and insulting.

(To be continued)

Can you give me an example of something you think is bullshit in Understanding Media and explain why it is bullshit.  Also, and more challengingly, can you give me an example of one thing in the book besides “the medium is the message” or the world is becoming a “global village” you think is brilliant and explain why it is brilliant.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 300.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

Nowadays there is no conversation at all

Marshall (June, 1951, age 39).  Nowadays there is no conversation at all

I was writing to Pound about this.  Nobody wants to talk.  Not business men.  Not teachers.  Everyone distrusts talk.  They’re afraid of what they will discover.  That they’re lives are vacuous.  That’s why they turn the mirror to the wall.

Me (October 2009, age 57).  Conversation still isn’t happening

Talk was the way McLuhan thought things through and thought things new, by talking it out.  His conversations tended to be one sided.  (Someone once said that McLuhan was very polite in conversation.  He always waited for your lips to stop moving before he started to speak.)

Conversation can mean many things: “talk, intercourse, communion, communication, discourse, conference and colloquy.”  But the meaning I have in mind is an exchange, a give and take, a two way street.  If it’s all one way it’s not an exchange; it’s an unloading, a filling up, a release, an exploration, a lecture.  It can be therapeutic, you can learn things, but it’s not an interaction.  Interactions are potentially dangerous things.  As McLuhan suggests you may find out things you don’t like.  There may be winners and losers.  Something new may be revealed and what’s new is not typically comforting and comfortable.

What kinds of conversations do you have?  How many are really just the sharing of feelings?  How many degenerate into lectures.  When you lecture who learns more, you or the person you’re lecturing to?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

PS:  See you back here on Tuesday October 13th.

Reading for this post

The Letters of Marshall McLuhan. Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 227.

“Conversation,” in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary. Second edition, 1958.

Tags: , , ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

Papyrus and the Roman Empire: The story continues

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  Don’t underestimate the power of papyrus

Finkelstein (see yesterday’s post) has no interest in the truth.  He’s another one of those small minds entranced with facts.  One should never let the facts get in the way of a good story.  Empire rises and falls because of papyrus is definitely a good story.  To be sure the causal relationship I have in mind is more what Aristotle would have called material and formal cause than efficient.  But no mater, if Finkelstein would only open his mind and start thinking he’d see that not all is as he thinks it is.

Michael Hinton (October, 2009, age 57).  Don’t overestimate the power of papyrus

I asked two economic historians about the papyrus story:  Abraham Rotstein, Professor Emeritus in Economics at the University of Toronto and Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Professor Rotstein who was a member of McLuhan’s speaking circle in the 1960s (more on this later) told me that he doubted whether papyrus provided much of an explanation for the rise or fall of the Roman Empire.  At any rate he said he didn’t think it was in Gibbon.  Professor McCloskey pointed out that even if the Romans were cut off from supplies of Egyptian papyrus they could have obtained it by trade with India.

What you might ask has this to do with my life?  What is McLuhan trying to say?  Surely not that he is making a contribution to our understanding of ancient history.  But rather I think to our understanding of our own age. What biases in time or space do our dominant means of communication have? Innis [see yesterday] believed papyrus favoured the growth of Empires in space and the parchment codex growth over time. Is the Internet more like papyrus or the parchment codex? What about Facebook?  What about Twitter? And other forms of social media?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Finkelstein, Sidney. Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan.  New York: International Pub., 1968, pp. 13-17.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 100 and 134.

Innis, H.A. The Bias of Communication, (1951) Second ed. Toronto: U. of T. Press, 2008, pp. 47-49.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, October 30th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

The Roman Empire rose and fell because of papyrus?

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  Don’t underestimate the power of papyrus

I owe my understanding of the power of papyrus to H.A. Innis.  It was Innis who told me about it at one of our 4 p.m. gab sessions in the basement cafeteria of the Royal Ontario Museum.  Empires that cover great distances are only feasible if they can take advantage of a medium of communication that allows easy and cheap communication over long distances.  Hence the obvious point that without papyrus the Romans could never have built their far flung empire and the end of their empire was assured with the scarcity of papyrus.    

Michael Hinton (October, 2009, age 57).  Don’t overestimate the power of papyrus  

Papyrus is a fibrous plant from which the Egyptians and Indians made a kind of paper.  H.A. Innis made the basic point in Empire and Communication and in The Bias of Communications that the basic mediums of communication available to a society, culture or Empire influence or bias what is possible for those societies, cultures and empires to be or become.  The argument is that without a light and easily transmitted medium like papyrus the Roman Empire would have been impossible.  To earlier Empires other things were possible.  Stone and clay allowed the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, for example, to last for a very long time, but they restricted their geographic spread.    

In 1968, Sydney Finkelstein wrote that McLuhan should be required to post the following disclaimer in his books:  No statements … are necessarily to be taken as true or not.  Any agreement between what this book says about history, and what happened in history, is purely coincidental.  On the subject of papyrus and the coming and going of the Roman Empire, Finklestein is particularly scathing. “Does McLuhan mean that the Roman generals were able to dash off quick papyrus messages to their soldiers like, ‘Don’t hurl your javelins until you see the whites of their eyes?’?”  And on the fall of the Empire, he says even if papyrus was a factor, surely factors that were more important that McLuhan ought to acknowledge are: “the internal collapse of Rome’s slave-holding economy and the invasions of the Germanic tribes, who refused to be enslaved or exploited.”  And he says it is remarkable that McLuhan asserts the fall came in the 5th century at the hands of “the Mohammedans” who cut off the Romans access to supplies of papyrus from Egypt.  Remarkable because Mohammed was not born until the 6th century and the Mohammedans were not powerful enough to cut off access to Egypt until the 7th century.  

What are we to make of McLuhan’s idea here about the power of papyrus?  Is Finklestein right that on papyrus and the Roman Empire McLuhan has given us a pack of lies and mistruths?  (To be continued tomorrow)

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading for this post

Finkelstein, Sidney. Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan.  New York: International Pub., 1968, pp. 13-17.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 100 and 134.

Innis, H.A. The Bias of Communication, (1951) Second ed. Toronto: U. of T. Press, 2008, pp. 47-49.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Students pay too much when they buy essays

Marshall McLuhan (The 1960s, age 48-58). Cheap educations are costly

I went to the University of Manitoba and obtained a B.A. in 1933 and an M.A. in 1934.  I then decided the best thing to do next was start all over again.  In 1934 I went to Cambridge, England to study for my second B.A..  I then went on to win my union card as a teacher by studying for the Ph.D. at Cambridge, which they granted me in 1943.  You might think this is a lot to pay in time and money for an education.  It isn’t.  As I like to say the problem with a cheap education is that you never stop paying for it.    

Michael Hinton (October, 2009, age 57).  Students are paying dearly today for cheap educations  

Here is an advertisement that appeared in the October 13 issue of The Link a Concordia University student newspaper. 

PROFESSIONAL ESSAY HELP.  Research, writing and editing. Writers with post-graduate degrees available to help!  All subjects, all levels.  Plus: resumes, job applications and entrance letters!  1-888-345-8295  www.customessays.com

I e-mailed a request to custom essays for a 1000 word essay on the subject “Marshall McLuhan on the cost of a cheap education,” stipulating that I wanted it to be worth at least 80 percent.  I got 6 bids from writers for an essay that would get me 70 percent.  I don’t know at what price, but it seems likely the price would be between $100 and $200.  Tony Keller a student investigative journalist at York University obtained bids of between $100 and $400 for a 1,750 word essay he ordered on “America’s war on Moustaches.”

Is this good value for money?  What is the real cost of buying an essay?   

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading for this post

Keller, Tony.  “Need to Cheat?  On a Budget?  Visit Essay Bay,” Macleans.ca On Campus, March, 2008.

Marchand, Philip. Marshall McLuhan: the medium and the messenger, 1989, pp. 19-47.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Culture, Education, Vol. 1 1 Comment