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 problem with points of view

Marshall McLuhan (June, 1964, age 52). Observe!

Why do people assume that to write about something that you must have a point of view?  Robert Fulford makes this mistake in his review of Understanding Media, which at long last has been published.  I’m an observer not a point of viewer.

Me (February 2010, age 57).  It’s hard to observe when you’re judging.

Marshall McLuhan often denied he had a point of view, which struck his critics as odd.  Surely they said you must have some idea about what it is you are writing about.  But that is not what Marshall McLuhan was denying.  What he was saying is that as much as possible he tried not to make value judgments about the world, but instead observe it.  “A point of view,” says the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, “[is] a mental standpoint from which a matter is considered.”  Marshall McLuhan believed that to have a “mental standpoint” is be on a slippery slope to judgment.

What if you carried a note book around with you in which you kept a record of your approval or disapproval of every person, place or thing you encountered in the course of the day?  Would this be a good day or a bad day?  What kind of person would an impartial observer consider you to be?  Creative, observant, and involved?  Or critical, judgmental, and arrogant. Would you have actually seen anything that day?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.300

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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