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.

Wiseguy or wise guy?

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 66).  Of course it’s obvious …

“What do you think, Marshall?  At the same time as we are chatting here, just the six of us,* America’s biggest communication conference, led by S. I. Hayakawa, the semanticist, is meeting across town at the San Francisco Hilton with over 1,000 people in attendance.”

“Obviously, it’s unimportant.  In the time it takes to get a 1,000 people to agree on anything conditions will have changed.  With the conditions changed the conversation will be pointless.  They’ll be meeting for the wrong reasons on the wrong questions.  Under electronic conditions of high speed change this is inevitable.”

(*Tom Wolfe, Howard Gossage, Gerald Feigen, Mike Robbins, Herbert Gold, and Edward Keating.)

Me (July, 2010, age 57).  What should be done?

As usual McLuhan’s wiseguy banter raises serious questions.  Under electronic conditions of high speed change are large conferences likely to be a waste of time.  A disquieting thought given the number and size of such conferences that continue to be held today.

Is McLuhan right on this one?  What is your view?  Are large meetings inevitably focused on the wrong things?  If so, what forms and methods for holding conferences are likely to be most effective?  Is the “unconference” the meeting of the future?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Tom Wolfe. “What if he is right,” in McLuhan: Hot and Cool, 1967, pp. 44-45.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Wiseguy or wise guy?

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    The point of meetings would be as an antidote to
    tactility , syricretistic integration of synaesthesia, coenaesthesia, and the extension of the nervous system we’ve undergone…
    creating a return to orality and maybe even literacy re the printed proceedings. That would be the by product of the face to face.

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