McLuhan: 100

The medium is the message … five words, plump and alliterative though they may be, are wildly inadequate … he was born in Edmonton, Alberta on July 21, 1911 … He speaks in canned riddles … Speech as organized stutter is based on time. What does speech do to space? … “Clear prose indicates the absence of thought” … Watching McLuhan, you can’t quite decide whether he was a genius or just had a screw loose … he gave us language that made “media” into a thing …

It feels wistful to imagine a time when people didn’t go about their daily routine with the assumption that at any moment another massive media technology will be dumped on us by some geek in California … “I’m going to be a computer when I grow up” …

“What if he is right”? … “Instead of the book as a fixed package of repeatable and uniform character suited to the market with pricing, the book is increasingly taking on the character of a service … and the book as an information service is tailor-made and custom-built” … First of all – and I’m sorry to have to repeat this disclaimer – I’m not advocating anything … “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment” …

an alchemical mix of his vast historical and literary knowledge, his bombastic personality and a range of behaviors we might now place on the very mild end of the autistic spectrum … McLuhan’s mind was probably situated at the mild end of the autism spectrum. He also suffered from a couple of major cerebral traumas …

First, that McLuhan never made arguments, only assertions … a fixture of culture both nerd and pop, which are increasingly the same thing. He is the patron saint of Wired … what mattered was merely the fact that you were watching TV. The act of analysing the content of TV – or of other mediums – is either sentimental or it’s beside the point … Annie Hallthe fastest brain of anyone I have ever met, and I never knew whether what he was saying was profound or garbage… He wanted his words to knock readers out of their intellectual comfort zones, to get them to entertain the possibility that their accepted patterns of perception might need reordering ..McLuhan was an information canary …

“He writes by paradox — that makes him hard to read (or hard on the reader),” wrote McLuhan … he loved Chesterton’s rhetorical flourishes, imbibed his playfulness, turned his impulse to try out new combinations of ideas into the hallmark of the McLuhan method … He became a daily Mass-goer …

There is absolutely no inevitability … what will be the psychic fallout of these technologies on our inner lives? … Like Marx and Freud, he was an intellectual agitator, a conceptual mind expander, the yeast in the dough …  James Joyce and Ezra Pound especially … The web. The web, with its feeds and flows and rivers and streams … That kaleidoscopic, almost psychedelic style … In that Playboy interview … a celebrity-seeking charlatan …

lost all hope “that the world might become a better place with new technology” …  people who classify McLuhan as a techno-utopian aren’t simply making stuff up … Resenting a new technology will not halt its progress … Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you’re in favor of it … And so eschatological hope appears as nothing more than an early manifestation of cyber-utopianism … Look at what these media are doing to our souls … “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit by taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left” …

Your question reflects the usual panic of people confronted with unexplored technologies. I’m not saying such panic isn’t justified … merely that such reactions are useless and distracting … “Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer” … But an understanding of media’s effects constitutes a civil defense against media fallout … someone who didn’t just have strong ideas but who invented a whole new way of talking … all a teacher can ever do is get people to think …

outlived his fame … he died in a state of wordlessness …

That’s what McLuhan did.

_______________________________________________________________________

In case it is not apparent, only a very few of these words are mine.  Sources:

Webs and whirligigs:  Marshall McLuhan in his time and ours by Megan Garber
Why McLuhan’s chilling vision still matters today by Douglas Coupland
McLuhan at 100 and McLuhan on the Cloud by Nicholas Carr
Why Bother With Marshall McLuhan by Alan Jacobs
Divine Inspiration by Jeet Heer
Marshall McLuhan:  Escape into Understanding by W. Terrence Gordon
McLuhan, Chesterton, and the Pursuit of Joy
McLuhan as Teacher by Walter Ong

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