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 maddening Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan (1967, age 65/66).  In conversation with Howard Gossage

“Marshall,” said Howard Gossage, “tell me something.  Do you have to be such a maddening writer?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ll be reading along and at first it’s great.  “I find that [my] … independently arrived at theories not only are confirmed by, but fit neatly into [your] … far broader structure, it is very heady stuff indeed.  And then wham.  You hit me with one of your probes.  Something that requires 5,000 words of explanation and you give me none.”

“Howard, if I stopped to explain everything I said I’d never get anywhere, besides there has to be something for the reader to do.”

Me (June 2010, age 57).   So what’s a man, or a woman, to do?

Perhaps the only thing you can do when you hit a probe [a question or statement designed to stimulate thought or insight] is to grin and then decide whether or not to do your work.

Here are some McLuhan probes:

People will not accept war on TV.  They will accept war in movies.  They will accept it in newspapers.  Nobody will accept war on TV.  It is too close. (1973)

The ideal show on pay TV would be a great composer rehearsing a symphony, not playing his symphony. (1967)

The TV image is the first technology to project or externalize our tactile sense. (1961)

TV is a service medium only during a crisis. (1970)

The TV as a today show is a continuous present.  There are really no dates. (1971)

Do any of these probes still “madden”?  What if in each one the word “TV” were replaced by “Internet” or “FaceBook”?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Howard Luck Gossage, “You can see why the mighty would be curious.”  In McLuhan: Hot and Cool.

Probes: Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, Essential McLuhan, 1995, pp. 294-295.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Leave a Reply