A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

The importance of the unimportant.

Marshall McLuhan (December, 1970, age 59).  Cavett’s right!

Today, Dick Cavett made a remarkable observation.  He and I were talking on his TV show and he asked me why it was that when people come out of a movie it takes them a while before they start talking to one another.  It’s as if they’re overwhelmed by what they’ve seen.  Film is a private rather than a corporate affair.  One does not have this kind of experience watching TV.  TV is corporate rather than private.  It encourages talk.

Me (July, 2010, age 58).  But, does it matter?

The experience Cavett talks about of leaving a movie theatre at a loss for words is I think a common one.  We’ve all had it.  And it was the exactly this type of real world observation that fascinated McLuhan and which he loved to talk to people about.  (Others being that radio is a visual medium, the telephone a non-visual medium, and children like to watch TV close up.  Still others that radio as background “noise” at work is not visual.  People tend to shout on cell phones.  And listening to music with ear buds while running or biking can blind you to the visual.)

These seemingly unimportant experiences may be the keys to understanding the effects of media.  At least McLuhan was drawn to them.

What do you think?  Was McLuhan on to something.

Are there other seemingly unimportant media effects have you observed?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Listening for this post

The Dick Cavett Show, December 1970.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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