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.

Hot and cool 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.

Tags: , ,

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

Death of the hard-sell

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The new cool TV world!      

“Since the advent of TV, the exploitation of the unconscious by the advertiser has hit a snag.  TV experience favors much more consciousness concerning the unconscious than do hard-sell forms of presentation in the press, the magazine, movie, or radio.  The sensory tolerance of the audience has changed, and so have the methods of appeal by the advertisers.  In the new cool TV world, the old hot-world of hard-selling, earnest-talking salesmen has all the antique charm of the songs and togs of the 1920s.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Working against and with the medium.

An ad from the old hot world:

And the new cool world:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 228.

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

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.

Tags: , ,

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

The ‘missing link’

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

“The ‘missing link’ created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Indeed I have, now that you mention it.

In Saturday’s post I asked what you thought McLuhan would say is the explanation for the greater interest in the ‘missing link.’  Notwithstanding Michael Edmunds thoughts, which you may want to take a look at in the comments on that post, I’m going to plump for a simpler answer.  The great chain of being is a completed whole, full of information, and therefore hot.  The missing link, on the other hand, is a gap in the chain of evolutionary development, cool, and therefore more involving and more interesting.   Like these sign off audio clips are more involving than the complete shows they followed …

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

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

Tags:

Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments

Have you ever noticed? (Part 3)

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

“The ‘missing link’ created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Here’s your chance to try and think like McLuhan. 

What do you think McLuhan would say is the explanation for greater interest in the missing link than the great chain of being?  See Tuesday’s post for the answer.  Meanwhile this may help inspire you to solve this mystery.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

Tags:

Michael Hinton Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Permalink Communication, Culture 1 Comment

Have you ever noticed? (Part 2)

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

“Isolated news items are more interesting than editorials.”

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

McLuhan’s observation seems bang on.  The editorials in a newspaper are not as interesting as the news items.  As with ads McLuhan says the news item wins out because it has no single point of view.  It is all about the present.  It is in tune with the our electric age.  This may be bumph, but as observations go is remarkably astute.  Editorials are not what newspaper readers want.  Why do newspapers devote so much space to them?  Is this any way to run a newspaper?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Friday, May 20th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology No Comments

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.

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments

Why is TV so involving?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Because it compels involvement.

“Visual space is a continuum.  … Tactile space is an interval.  Hence beat and rhythm. … It is the interval whether in music or mosaic or in poetry that compels involvement until we become part of the situation.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Huhh?

This is the kind of statement that drove McLuhan’s critics mad with rage.  What was he saying behind the McLuhanisms such as visual and tactile space?  Perhaps that it is not by chance, as he hints in Culture Is Our Business that The Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was such a hit with 60s TV kids.  The song reaches out to you and you reach back to it.  It really does want to hold your hand.  It compels, demands, participation.  And that is what all electric media do they compel your involvement.  You become part of the situation they create.  Next time you’re out at dinner and a cell-phone rings observe what happens.  In a way it’s like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeBm46WJOxQ

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 110.

Tags: , ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture 1 Comment

Cool PR?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Thank your enemies.      

“The only cool PR is provided by one’s enemies.  They toil incessantly and for free.”

 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  For example? 

Jack Layton.  There cannot be many Canadians who do not now know who Jack Layton is.  Thanks to his enemies tireless efforts to discredit him many voted NDP in the recent election.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 88.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Friday, May 13th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Culture No Comments

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.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments