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.

Television

Ads are naturally dramatic.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Isn’t it obvious?      

“Since highly skilled and perceptive teams of talent cooperate in the making of an ad for any established line of goods whatever , it is obvious that any acceptable ad is a vigorous dramatization of communal experience.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Or, at least …

Lively musical theater:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 17th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s 1 Comment

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.

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

Whose hand is on the scalpel?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The involvement of TV.      

“In closed-circuit instruction in surgery, medical students from the first reported a strange effect – that they seemed not to be watching an operation but performing it.  They felt they were holding the scalpel.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  What does McLuhan infer from this?

Hold onto your scalpel: Because TV creates “a passion for depth involvement in every aspect of human experience”  it naturally “creates an obsession with bodily welfare.”  Ergo:  “the sudden emergence of the TV medico and the hospital ward as a program.”  A trend that continues today with House and Nurse Jackie, not to mention the scalpel-detective crossover shows CSI, NCIS et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.      

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 328.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 10th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education 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.

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

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.

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

The death of the handshake.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Ortega y Gasset saw it going.

“Ortega y Gasset saw the handshake as on its deathbed.  Since TV in the United States, people tend to seize both hands and buss one another.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Chalk another one up to TV.

This is classic McLuhan.  Discover an apparent change in culture and attribute it to TV.  Then move on and let someone else sort it all out.  Not always easy to see how this one has played out.  As this clip shows, today the handshake is back.  Or maybe not.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 109.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Technology 1 Comment

The TV thing.

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  Mental pollution!    

“The TV thing itself is very, very polluting.  It goes right into the nervous system.  The problem is how literate is your society, your family circle.  Your child is coming out of an intensely literate world, so he can take a fair amount of TV without too much harm.  But to the ordinary kid without a lot of literacy, TV will just turn off any possibility of left hemisphere.” 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What now? 

A bleak vision.  Today there are more ordinary kids than ever before.  Without literacy to protect them logical thought may be on the ropes.  What is required is a champion.  If only it were this easy. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture No Comments

Is TV hurting the Liberal’s and NDP’s chances in the election campaign?

Marshall McLuhan (April 24, 1979, age 67).  Yes!

“We have an election underway here in Canada and the issues include separatism, as well as jobs and inflation.  All of these are hot issues.  That is to say, they are completely unsuited to the TV medium.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  The McLuhan strategy.

And today we also have an election underway.  And while the issues have changed, Marshall’s observations remain relevant.  If TV is unsuited to the selling of hot issues then the party that avoids the issues on TV is most likely to win.  Not surprisingly, McLuhan had another idea, too: hot issues could be pushed on a hot medium like radio.  If McLuhan is right, this could be what is required for a Liberal or NDP victory. Hot sell on radio, cool engagement on TV.  But can any of the opposition leaders beat the Harper stare?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 545.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Politics No Comments

TV kids and rock-and-roll.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  They go together like horse and carriage!    

“It is not strange that the young should respond untaught to rock-and-roll as an interpretation of their world of accelerated stress and change.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Untaught?

Yes and no.  What about the classrooms without walls of movies, TV, and ads?  But of course that is what Marshall must have meant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41lign3VBZo

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Education No Comments

What has TV done?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  To give but one example

“Nobody seems to know much about why the paper-back book flopped in the 30’s and succeeded in the 50’s.  But it is a fact which probably has some relation to TV …”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What else?

TV he suggests in one shotgun blast of speculation in Counterblast may also explain “the unexplained popularity of highbrow paperbacks,” the strange ability of “the young [to] … respond untaught to rock-and–roll,” the new importance of “the quick briefing by experts [in business] or the making of deals at lunch,” as well as the rise of “the roundtable, the frequent conferences and group brainstorming.”  To McLuhan, it would seem, anything new in the late 50s and early 60s was probably the result of TV.  His critics threw their hands up in dismay.  His fans rifled through Understanding Media for explanations.  And McLuhan?  What did he do?  He went on to dream up more things TV could be doing without our knowing and left the explanations to others.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 98-99.

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture No Comments