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.

Medium is the message

What you are seeing is what you (think you are) getting

“Today young lawyers in setting up offices are advised to keep books out of sight,” says Marshall McLuhan in a richly idea-laden essay published in Explorations over fifty years ago.  Why? Because the absence of books. he continues, sends the message “You are the law, the source of all knowledge of the law, so far as your clients are concerned.” In other words, the office is the message.  Today on the third day of McLuhan week  in Toronto a panel discussion will take place on “the changing format of the book and the future of reading.”  I wonder whether any one there will bring up this idea of McLuhan’s?  For if digital books succeed in kicking traditional books to the curb surely one of the more powerful effects of this shift will be to make the practitioners of all the professions seem to be even more knowledgeable than they were before.  It will be as if every professional has been given an invisable teleprompter to use in their offices.

Cordially Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “The effect of the printed book on language in the 16th century,” [1957] reprinted in McLuhan – Unbound, (02), Ginko Press, 2005, pp.9-10.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
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The miniskirt is the message.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Its tribal!    

“Miniskirts are not fashion.  They are a return to tribal corporate costume.  In tribal societies men and women wear the same short skirts.  There is no change . … The miniskirt is not sexy.  Sex does not interest tribal man as a theme.”

 

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  We can learn a lot from this about McLuhan.

But not a lot, I think, about the miniskirt.  Here is a man with a theory.  Electric media is turning us into tribal beings.  Each new thing that comes along, such as the miniskirt, must be part of this pattern.  As Marshall liked to say, “with the miniskirt the end is in sight.”  The end that is of rational, print-oriented, visually-biased man.  Take a look for yourself. What do you think? Sexy or not sexy?  

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 304.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
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Welcome to the classroom without walls.

Marshall McLuhan (March 3, 1959, age 47).  Have you turned on your teacher today?

“One effect of the commercial movement of information in many media is that today we live in classrooms without walls.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Education is a snap.

You want answers?  Your wish is the medium’s command. . .

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, “Electronic Revolution:  Revolutionary Effects of New Media,” address to meeting of the American Association for Higher Education, March 3, 1959, in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 7.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
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So you think you’re creative?

Marshall McLuhan (August 24, 1964, age 53).  Education as we know it is obsolete.

Naturally we must experiment with alternatives to book-based, classroom instruction.  Here are a few of the questions – which I mentioned to a reporter for the Toronto Star – that I am wrestling with now which may well bring about a breakthrough:

  • How well could you learn economics in a rowboat in an alligator-infested swamp?
  • Or in a bamboo hut in a tropical forest?
  • Or in a triangular-shaped pink room in downtown Toronto?

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

How did he come up with such incredibly odd but brilliant ideas?  Here’s one answer:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

David Thompson, “How to learn economics in a rowboat,” Toronto Daily Star, August 24, 1964.

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Michael Hinton Friday, January 28th, 2011
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Why do men like Westerns?

Marshall McLuhan (1951, age 40).  It’s their security blanket.

The world is changing so fast men are unsure of exactly what their role is.  “For millions of such men horse opera presents a reassuringly simple and nondomestic world in which there are no economic problems.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  The medium as medicine or poison?

In the Western violence is a natural, peaceful, and healthy way to release tension.  Here we see clearly what a man’s role is, what he’s got to do, and that when he does it the world is a better place for it.  This weekend in Arizona we saw what can happen when an unstable man in the real world takes this kind of role playing for role modeling.  The medium must take part of the blame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFhu7Jq9Tr0

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, 1951, p. 156.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, January 13th, 2011
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What the bell!

Marshall McLuhan (March 27, 1967, age 55).  The ringing, the ringing!

“Mrs. Stewart, if that phone rings one more time I’m going to go stark raving mad.  That was from another kid with a bad case of the giggles who asked me to tell him the message.  There it goes again.   I’m going deaf with the ringing.”

“Professor McLuhan, I’m going to do what we should have done two hours ago.  There!”

“Silence.  Merciful Mary, how did you do it?”

“A little trick my husband told me about he saw in Popular Mechanics.  Put some carpet between the bell and the hammer.”

“Mrs. Stewart, you are a genius.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58). The power of the press

Marvin Kitman’s comedic review of The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore appeared in the New York Times on March 26 1967.  Among other things, Kitman said, “With all the zeal of a convert, I would like to urge everybody not to buy this book, in either the paper medium or cloth medium.  McLuhan argues forcibly that the invention of television makes books obsolete.  Anybody who purchases a McLuhan book is playing into the hands of McLuhan’s enemies in the intellectual establishment; high sales figures can only tend to discredit him as a modern thinker.”

As Marshall McLuhan and his secretary Marg Stewart were soon to discover, it was funnyman Kitman who was responsible for the unending ringing of his number.  For Kitman also told his readers that if you really want to get McLuhan’s message you needed more than a medium, such as the telephone, you also needed “to establish a connection.  [And that] Marshall McLuhan’s telephone number at the University of Toronto is 416-WA 8-3328.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marvin Kitman, “Get the Message?” The New York Times, March 26, 1967.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dmqqUGFCzg&feature=related

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.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
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Is nothing sacred anymore?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Marshall says no.

Another of the powers of print according to Marshall McLuhan is to take the sacred, the spiritual out of man and nature.  If true, print has much to answer for:

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities.  The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 176.

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 22nd, 2010
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Successful media are very successful.

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Don’t underestimate successful media .

In Understanding Media Marshall McLuhan reminds us not to underestimate the power of successful media to work their way into every crack and cranny of our culture.  He does not think he needs to argue the case.  A word to the wise should be enough.  Consider for example the continuing power of the automobile to influence our lives.  I imagine as the flood waters rise on this globally-warming world we will be calmly raising our highways rather than saying good bye to our cars:

 

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“Once a new technology comes into a social milieu it cannot cease to permeate that milieu until every institution is saturated.”

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, October 21st, 2010
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What do you suspect?

Marshall McLuhan (February 27, 1962, age 50)  The power of TV …

“When we hear that Life magazine is in trouble, or that the motor car industry is running scared, or that the text-book industry, like the school system, is in the process of total restructuring, few people are inclined to suspect that all of these changes and a great many more are directly due to the impact of the TV image on the American senses.”

Me (September, 2010, age 58)  The power of the internet …

Likewise today few suspect the real power of the internet to reshape our lives.  But some do:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w4NcZEQ1n4&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 287.

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 1st, 2010
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