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 measure of Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (May 6, 1966, age 54).  Really?

Well, how’d I do Corinne?

You were magnificent Marshall.  But surely Patrick Watson was exaggerating when he said that “no one can make sense out of more than ten percent of what” you say.

Me (June 2010, age 57).  A test

While Marshall McLuhan was renowned for being difficult to understand to say that 90 percent of what he says is incomprehensible does seem an exaggeration.  Granted Patrick Watson’s aim was to be controversial when he said this on the CBC television program “This Hour Has Seven Days.” (May 6, 1966)  But this is as good an excuse as any to make the point that Marshall McLuhan is not as difficult to understand as is commonly thought.  Or maybe he is.

Here by way of a test is a bit of what Marshall McLuhan had to say on the program.

[The interviewer, Robert Fullford, asks.]  “Has [the world] changed because of TV?”

[McLuhan replies:] “Television gave the old electric circuitry that’s already here a huge extra push in this direction of involvement and inwardness.  You see, the circuit doesn’t simply push things out for inspection, it pushes you in. It involves you.  When you put a new medium into play, people’s sensory life shifts a bit, sometimes shifts a lot.  This changes their outlook, their attitudes, changes their feelings about studies, about school, about politics.  Since TV, Canadian, British and American politics have cooled off almost to the point of rigor mortis … .”

What do you think?  Is 90 percent of this something “no one can make sense out of?”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Who Was Marshall McLuhan, edited by Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, 1995, pp. 135-36.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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