Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)

  1. "The World is a Global Village," May 18, 1960

    Medium: Television
    Program: Explorations
    Episode: Teenager
    Broadcast Date: May 18, 1960
    Hosts: Alan Millar, John O'Leary
    Guest(s): Marshall McLuhan
    Duration: 8:44

    The book is no longer "king," says Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College. McLuhan studies the effects of mass media on behaviour and thought. In this CBC report on the teenager, he discusses how our youth facilitate the global shift from print to electronic media. Television has transformed the world into an interconnected tribe he calls a "global village." There's an earthquake and no matter where we live, we all get the message. And today's teenager, the future villager, who feels especially at home with our new gadgets — the telephone, the television — will bring our tribe even closer together.

    • At the time of this interview McLuhan was working on The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which the idiom "global village" first appeared. It was his most prominent book next to Understanding Media (1964).
    • McLuhan warned that the future global village would be wrought with violence. He figured the electronic process would force people to "re-tribalize," placing excessive stress on individuals and traditional identities.
    • He wrote a draft of The Gutenberg Galaxy in less than a month and the book was published shortly after in 1962. It examines the effects of the printing press on thought and space. McLuhan maintained it lessened the need for manuscripts, put monks and scribes out of work and developed a correct spelling usage.
    • His first book, The Mechanical Bride , published in 1951, maintained that advertisers exploited images of women to sell products.

  2. McLuhan Predicts World Connectivity

    Medium: Television
    Program: Take 30
    Broadcast Date: April 1, 1965
    Hosts: George Garlock, Paul Soles
    Guest(s): Marshall McLuhan
    Duration: 3:25

    We waste too much time racing from home to office, says Marshall McLuhan, an English professor at the University of Toronto who's becoming known internationally for his study on the effects of media. Society's obsession with files and folders forces office workers to make the daily commute from the suburbs to downtown. McLuhan says the stockbroker is the smart one. He learned some time ago that most business may be conducted from anywhere if done by phone.

    McLuhan's prescient knowledge: In the future, people will no longer only gather in classrooms to learn but will also be moved by "electronic circuitry."

    • McLuhan's prediction of a world connected by electronic circuits came true in 1995 when people around the globe began using the Internet, a secret computer network developed by the U.S. Defense Department in the 1970s.
    • After completing a Masters of Arts degree at the University of Manitoba (1934) and a literature degree at Cambridge University (1936), McLuhan was unable to find work at a Canadian university. He left for the United States in 1936, accepting a position at the University of Wisconsin and a year later moved to the University of St. Louis. • In 1939 McLuhan started his MA at Cambridge and by 1943 he completed his PhD in literature.
    • McLuhan originally considered studying engineering but decided against it when he excelled in literature.
    • McLuhan moved back to Canada in 1944 to teach at Assumption College, now the University of Windsor. Two years later he accepted a position at the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College, where he remained until he retired in 1979 after suffering a stroke.
    • During his time at St. Michael's, he took a one-year sabbatical from 1967 to 1968, accepting a chair at New York's Fordham University.

  3. A Pop Philosopher

    Medium: Radio
    Program: Other Voices
    Broadcast Date: June 22, 1965
    Host: Jim Guthro
    Guest(s): Marshall McLuhan
    Duration: 5:26

    The world's first expert on pop — the culture of mini-skirts and hula hoops — discusses his theories on "hot" and "cool" media. Marshall McLuhan adapted these references from the TV jargon "high" and "low definition." High definition means well-defined, sharp and detailed visually, such as a map. Low definition refers to indistinct images scanned by the eye, with which the viewer is left to fill in the blanks, such as a sketch. McLuhan says television is a cool or low definition medium, offering little information but the user participates with most of his senses. He explains that a book is a hot or high definition medium, presenting the user with lots of information at a level of lower sensory participation. Another of McLuhan's pop idioms "the medium is the message" borrows from the era's abstract artists who place the highest importance on the medium with which they work.

    According to McLuhan, television is the canvas for a new environment of all human association and perception.

    • McLuhan exemplified hot media as: radio, print, photographs, movies and lectures; and cool media as: the telephone, speech, cartoons, TV and seminars.
    • The CBC says McLuhan first verbalized the term "the medium is the message" in 1959 at a Vancouver cocktail party he attended after hosting a symposium on music and the mass media. But McLuhan said he coined the phrase two years earlier at a radio conference.
    • Attempting to calm those alarmed by the coming of TV, he said his words were, "You have nothing to fear at all. Your medium is unique, and the medium is the message and will relate to any new medium."

  4. McLuhan for the Masses

    Medium: Radio
    Program: Speaking of Books
    Broadcast Date: March 12, 1967
    Host: Robert Fulford
    Guest(s): Dennis Braithwaite, Robert Gray, Thelma McCormack, Dean Walker
    Duration: 8:00

    In 1967, University of Toronto English professor Marshall McLuhan publishes a book entitled The Medium Is the Massage. McLuhan, a punster who is comfortably self-mocking, makes a play on his own phrase "the medium is the message."

    The famed phrase was first published in his 1964 book Understanding Media. But his critics call the work a cop-out, simply a consumer version of the earlier publication.

    Toronto Daily Star columnist Robert Fulford (pictured left) disagrees, saying the book is very much in McLuhan's style. "You don't need to read all of it. You read bits and pieces. You [can] start in the middle of his book and go to the back."

    • The term "a McLuhanism" was coined to describe the professor's use of aphorisms. Lying on a couch watching television, McLuhan once explained a McLuhanism, "There's a sign hanging on a Toronto junkyard, which reads: 'Help beautify junkyards: Throw something lovely away today.' This kind of bizarre, would-be cynical and paradoxical sort of remark has, I think, some of the characteristics of a McLuhanism."
    • McLuhan's son Eric said his father used aphorisms and puns in order to preserve grammar and rhetoric. It was an attempt to warn of the destruction of literature even though his critics believed he promoted it.
    • In his 1998 book, McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand claimed "writing books was not McLuhan's forte" and suggested the professor relied on assistants and co-authors to piece together his notes for publication.
    • One biographer called 1967 the unofficial Year of McLuhan. That year, he was offered endless corporate speaking invitations, including from IBM, the American Marketing Association and AT&T, as well as three honorary doctorates to add to the two he already had. In March, NBC aired a report called "This is Marshall McLuhan," and he signed contracts with New York publishers for his books Culture is Our Business and From Cliché to Archetype.

  5. The Destroyer of Civilization

    Medium: Radio
    Program: CBC Monday Evening
    Broadcast Date: July 8, 1974
    Hosts: Malcolm Muggeridge, George Woodcock
    Duration: 1:33

    British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and Canadian historian George Woodcock (pictured left) discuss civilization and literature tonight in Vancouver. Does television mean the end of the book? Immediately, Marshall McLuhan's philosophies are brought into the discussion. They speak of McLuhan's theory that literature is finished. Muggeridge and Woodcock suggest that disseminating this idea contributes to the demise of the book and that McLuhan is an "actual destroyer of our civilization."

    • George Woodcock (1912-1995) was a Canadian historian, journalist and author who made radio documentaries for the CBC in the 1960s and 70s. He was well-known for his books on the history of anarchism. As a champion of literary values he founded the journal Canadian Literature in 1959. Woodcock refused the Order of Canada because he said he only accepted awards given by his colleagues and peers.
    • British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) worked in various capacities, including as a Washington correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and an editor for the Calcutta Statesman. He was known as an insightful media personality whose commentary often took on a cynical tone.
    • By the 1970s universities around the world invited McLuhan to guest lecture. He began travelling tirelessly but not without developing "a deep dislike of travel and dislocation of all sorts."
    • Speaking engagements included trips to the Bahamas, Fiji, Greece, Monte Carlo, New York, Puerto Rico and Switzerland.
    • Even though McLuhan had become famous globally, he had many critics. The New York Herald Tribune's review of Understanding Media stated that his work lacked quality.
    • Once, McLuhan tried to patch up an interview he suspected had not gone well with the Manchester Guardian. After the interview McLuhan said to the reporter, "We are fellow literates." The reporter replied, "I hope not."

  6. Growing up at the McLuhans'

    Medium: Television
    Program: 90 Minutes Live
    Broadcast Date: Dec. 13, 1977
    Host: Peter Gzowski
    Guest(s): Marshall McLuhan
    Duration: 6:59

    In Peter Gzowski's undergraduate days, freshmen slipped copies of Marshall McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride under dormitory doors. The fascination was with the raunchy title, says Gzowski, because the book published in 1951 was more about advertising and less about sex. Gzowski is an adoring interviewer today, having much respect for the professor who is the only academic in the world right now studying the effects of media. They speak about politics and Gzowski attempts to find out whether McLuhan failed grade six.

    • The title of McLuhan's first book The Mechanical Bride (1951) was inspired by Marcel Duchamp's painting The Bride Striped by Her Bachelors, Even.
    • Marshall's younger brother Maurice McLuhan told Derrick de Kerckhove, a student and assistant of the professor's, in a 1980 CBC Radio documentary that Marshall had failed grade six.
    • At the time of this clip, McLuhan remained a devout Roman Catholic, attending mass daily, though in a 1972 diary entry he wrote: "Cat-gut and cat-calls cum Gregorian. The mass gets longer, limper, lumpier."
    • McLuhan converted to Catholicism in university at the age of 25 after a friend asked him why he was not in the Church.

  7. It's Cool Not to Shave

    Medium: Radio
    Program: IDEAS
    Episode: Marshall McLuhan: What If He Is Right?
    Broadcast Date: Nov. 17, 1980
    Host: Derrick de Kerckhove
    Guest(s): Pierre Elliott Trudeau
    Duration: 2:11

    Both are intellectual, witty and iconoclastic. It's not surprising Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Marshall McLuhan are friends. In one letter to Trudeau, McLuhan wrote there was a subconscious reason the former prime minister has grown a beard while in Opposition. McLuhan believed it was because Trudeau wanted to cool his image several degrees. Trudeau agrees and explains how McLuhan suggested looking for a razor if he wanted to "hot up" his political image again.

    • McLuhan was also friends with Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and corresponded with Yousuf Karsh, Ann Landers and Ezra Pound.
    • McLuhan applied his hot and cool media theories to political candidates. He said Trudeau was "cool" because he had charisma and grace, whereas American president Richard Nixon who lacked charm, especially on television, was "hot."
    • Democrat Al Gore grew a beard and put on weight after Republican George Bush defeated him in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

  8. Homage to the Runner

    Medium: Radio
    Program: Stereo Morning
    Broadcast Date: Jan. 6, 1981
    Reporter: Sam Solecki
    Duration: 4:09

    "The Runner's" race ends on Dec. 31, 1980. Marshall McLuhan has died of a stroke in his sleep. His colleague Sam Solecki names him The Runner, the only one "on the move" while other professors published their "usually dull papers." The long-limbed McLuhan used to stride about the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College, flanked by students and faculty attempting to keep up with his constant flow of ideas.

    Solecki points out McLuhan was born in the early 1900s with the generation of giants — Donald Creighton, Robertson Davies, Northrop Frye — and says, "without him, our intellectual life will not only be duller but radically impoverished."

    • McLuhan had already suffered a stroke in the fall of 1979 that left him without most of his motor functions.
    • On the evening of his death, McLuhan had dinner guests and was in "great spirits," afterward smoking cigars and watching television.
    • When Marshall was eight years old, his paternal grandfather, James McLuhan, also died of a stroke. Marshall was often compared to his grandfather who was described as a person of remarkable intelligence with an insatiable curiosity, enjoying everything from philosophy to the polka.

  9. Understanding McLuhan

    Medium: Television
    Program: CBC Television News
    Broadcast Date: June 14, 1995
    Reporter: Mike Wise
    Guest(s): Paul Benedetti, Derrick de Kerckhove
    Duration: 1:33

    In 1995 Marshall McLuhan's idea of an interconnected world run by a circuitry system is no longer just a theory. A new medium called "the Internet" sounds a lot like McLuhan's ideas of world connectivity. In the 1960s the media theorist and University of Toronto professor predicted a system similar to the Internet. Derrick de Kerckhove, once a student and assistant of McLuhan's, says the information highway has caught up with us. In this CBC TV clip, de Kerckhove explains: "I think that McLuhan had predicted that. Had we all read McLuhan carefully ... we'd probably be faster and better, more ready to get on with it."

    • As early as 1964 McLuhan predicted there would be a "discarnate experience" with the electronic age. He believed people would develop relationships through electronic means alone.
    • In January 1996 Wired magazine listed Marshall McLuhan under its masthead with the job title "Patron Saint."
    • Derrick de Kerckhove worked with McLuhan at the University of Toronto's Centre for Culture and Technology.
    • The professor founded the Centre for Culture and Technology in 1963. After his death the centre remained open, run by his disciples, including de Kerckhove.
    • De Kerckhove has since translated McLuhan's From Cliché to Archetype into French.

Terence McKenna on Marshall McLuhan
  1. Riding Range with Marshall McLuhan(Duration: 60 minutes)
    Presented: At The Esalen Institute, Big Sur CA. (1995)

  2. Marshall McLuhan: Shamans Among the Machines (Duration: 60 minutes)
    Recorded 1999

The Medium is the Massage

1. Side A

2. Side B

Tracks 1-2 From the LP "The Medium is the Massage"
(Columbia Records, late 1960s)

The Medium is the Massage; with Marshall McLuhan.
Long-Playing Record 1968.
Produced by John Simon.
Conceived and co-ordinated by Jerome Agel.
Written by Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel.
Columbia CS 9501, CL2701.

The Medium is the Massage From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects is a book co-created by media analyst Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore, and coordinated by Jerome Agel. It was published by Bantam books in 1967 and became a bestseller and a cult classic.

The book itself is 160 pages in length and composed in an experimental, collage style with text superimposed on visual elements and vice versa. Some pages are printed backwards and are meant to be read in a mirror (see mirror writing). Some are intentionally left blank. Most contain photographs and images both modern and historic, juxtaposed in startling ways.

The book was intended to make McLuhan's philosophy of media, considered by some incomprehensible and esoteric, more accessible to a wider readership through the use of visual metaphor and sparse text. In its artistic approach it is considered cutting edge, even by today's standards.

The book's title is actually a mistake according to McLuhans' son, Eric. The actual title was "The Medium is the Message" but it came back from the printer with the first "e" in message misprinted as an "a". McLuhan is said to have thought the mistake to be supportive of the point he was trying to make in the book and decided to leave it be. Later readings have interpreted the word in the title as a pun meaning alternately "massage, "message," and "mass age". Its message, broadly speaking, is that historical changes in communications and craft media change human consciousness, and that modern electronics are bringing humanity full circle to an industrial analogue of tribal mentality, what he termed "the global village". By erasing borders and dissolving information boundaries, electronic telecommunications are fated to render traditional social structures like the Nation state and the University irrelevant. Prejudice and oppression are also doomed by the unstoppable pressure of instant, global communication.

While today it looks like a black and white copy of Wired magazine, and its prose reads more or less like boilerplate for any of the heady techno-utopian pronouncements of the 1990s, it should be noted that it presaged the development of the original ARPANET by two years, and preceded the widespread civilian use of the Internet by almost twenty. For this and other reasons McLuhan is often given the moniker "prophet."

There is also an LP based on this book, put out by Columbia Records in the late 60s and produced by John Simon, but otherwise keeping the same credits as the book.

3. Marshall McLuhan on the Dick Cavett Show in December 1970

Marshall McLuhan appeared on the Dick Cavett Show in December of 1970 along with Truman Capote and Chicago Bears running back, Gayle Sayers. Both Capote and Sayers participated in the discussion with McLuhan.

This recording was made on reel-to-reel audio tape in 1970 and directly transferred to computer in 2005. Unfortunately, the exact date of the show was not noted, except that the show did take place before Christmas.

All commercials and breaks were removed from McLuhan's appearance.

4. Speaking Freely hosted by Edwin Newman features Marshall McLuhan 4 Jan 1971, Public Broadcasting/N.E.T.

"Where would you look for the message in an electric light?" Spend nearly an hour with University of Toronto professor of English, Marshall McLuhan, as he discusses electronic technology, transportation, and communications. Also probing the issues of acoustic and personal space, McLuhan expresses his thoughts about print media and where it's headed. Author of several books including The Medium is the Message, Canadian-born McLuhan was also director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. Originally aired on PBS-TV, 4 January, 1971 at 8:00 p.m. (Philadelphia, PA area), McLuhan appeared on "Speaking Freely," hosted by NBC's Edwin Newman.

Download the file. Take notes. Observe how current and relevant much of McLuhan's message is in today's Internet world.

David Newfeld "The Medium in the Message"

An unauthorized recording. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Message album is a recording of McLuhan's voice with Newfeld's musical accompaniment.

Marshall McLuhan in UbuWeb Film
Marshall McLuhan Issue of Aspen Magazine

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