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.

Was Marshall McLuhan’s thinking impractical?

Marshall McLuhan (February 9, 1967, age 55). No!

I had a grand time chatting with U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey when I was invited to a dinner in Washington.  I told him that America was losing the war in Vietnam on TV.  Unlike newspapers, TV is a totally involving medium.  TV coverage of the war, our first TV war, is alienating the American people.  He seemed to be listening, but I’m not sure that he really was.

Me (April 2010, age 57).  No!

According to Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan’s most recent biographer, the last thing you should look for in the work of Marshall McLuhan is usefulness or practicality.  “There are, perhaps, no practical political, religious, or financial applications to Marshall’s work,” he writes. “It could even be argued that it should be seen as a rarefied artifact unto itself, an intricate and fantastically ornate artwork that creates its own language and then writes poetry with it.”

And yet what McLuhan says about TV seems to have a practical aspect to it.  If McLuhan is right and TV is a deeply-involving cool medium.  Then businesses and politicians need to be careful how they use it.  Hot subjects (for example war, strikes, and natural disasters) may well be too hot for TV.  You may argue with him, but this is a practical application of his thinking.  More on this tomorrow.

What hot subjects are showing up on the TV monitors in the halls where you work?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan, Toronto, Penguin, 2009, pp. 142-43.

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 342.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Was Marshall McLuhan’s thinking impractical?

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    Below Mc points out the e-world predicates living each moment as if it’s your next. seem practicle to me
    “At electric speeds of information movement, it is precisely these intervals that invite the dealer in
    “futures” to gamble. Instant information reveals a wide diversity of new patterns of change;
    which entice everybody to anticipate changes to come. Ordinary people are thus inspired with the
    mania which is born of perception, not of the connection, but of the interval between the now and
    the rapidly approaching new situation. This becomes a way of living “as if every moment were
    your next.”

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