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Marshall McLuhan - The Medium is the Message (multimedia collection)

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Marshall McLuhan multimedia collection:

1 torrent file to download the documentary called "McLuhan's Wake"- including all of the bonus interviews and documents for the film in mp3 and pdf format; 1 45-minute television program/biography from 1999; a 256kbps mp3 of a remastered CD copy of Marshall McLuhan's out of print LP record from 1968; the ebooks "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" and "The Medium is the Massage" by McLuhan in pdf; 4 avi files of the 2004 McLuhan International Festival of the Future; 2 lectures given by Terence McKenna discussing and elaborating the ideas of McLuhan; 1 casual recording of McLuhan with high-school students in the late 60s; 1 speech at an author's luncheon in 1966; 2 interviews with Marshall McLuhan in 1970 and '71; several audio-clips/pics/transcripts of his appearances on various Canadian Broadcasting Company programs from 1960-1981; Canadian musician/producer Dave Newfeld's version of "The Medium is the Message" from 1994; and various pictures and miscellaneous documents.




The medium is the message is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.[1] McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

For example, McLuhan claimed in Understanding Media that all media have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways; for instance, a passage in a book could be reread at will, but a movie had to be screened again in its entirety to study any individual part of it. So the medium through which a person encounters a particular piece of content would have an effect on the individual's understanding of it. Some media, like movies, enhance one single sense, in this case vision, in such a manner that a person does not need to exert much effort in filling in the details of a movie image. McLuhan contrasted this with TV, which he claimed requires more effort on the part of viewer to determine meaning, and comics, which due to their minimal presentation of visual detail require a high degree of effort to fill in details that the cartoonist may have intended to portray. A movie is thus said by McLuhan to be "hot" (intensifying one single sense) and "high definition" (demanding a viewer's attention), and a comic book to be "cool" and "low definition" (requiring much more conscious participation by the reader to extract value).[2] This concentration on the medium and how it conveys information — rather than on the specific content of the information — is the focal point of "the medium is the message."

More controversially, McLuhan postulated that specific content might have little effect on society. For example, it does not matter if television broadcasts children's shows or violent programming—the effect of television on society would be identical, and profound.

McLuhan understood "medium" in a broad sense. He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept of “the medium is the message”. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that "a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence."[3] Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself—the content—and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner.[4]

Hence in Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the "content" of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.[5] This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.[4] As the society's values, norms and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions[4] that we are not aware of.


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. It is fairly strange.


Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

(1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY, 1964; reissued MIT Press, 1994, with introduction by Lewis H. Lapham; reissued by Gingko Press, 2003 ISBN 1-58423-073-8) is a pioneering study in media theory written by Marshall McLuhan. In it McLuhan proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study — popularly quoted as "the medium is the message". McLuhan's insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. McLuhan pointed to the light bulb as a clear demonstration of this concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that "a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence."[1] More controversially, he postulated that content had little effect on society — in other words, it did not matter if television broadcasts children's shows or violent programming, to illustrate one example — the effect of television on society would be identical. He noted that all media have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways; for instance, a passage in a book could be reread at will, but a movie had to be screened again in its entirety to study any individual part of it.

The book is the source of the well-known phrase "The medium is the message". It was a leading indicator of the upheaval of local cultures by increasingly globalized values. The book greatly influenced academics, writers, and social theorists.


from T O P I A - Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies:

In partnership with Probe 2004, the McLuhan International Festival of the Future

Welcome and Opening Remarks
Jody Berland,
Associate Professor, Division of Humanities, York University and Editor: TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies

Innis and McLuhan: Environmentalists
Robert Babe,
Professor and Jean Monty/BCE Chair in Media Studies, Faculty of Information & Media Studies, The University of Western Ontario.

Innis and McLuhan are seldom cited in the environmentalists’ literature. Nonetheless, both can be understood as contributing substantially to what I call a “Culture of Ecology,” that is modes of analysis, symbolizing, and in the end acting that are broadly consistent with ecological principles.
I’ve noted elsewhere that Innis’s media/communication thesis foreshadowed important aspects of the ecological thought and media criticism of David Suzuki. Moreover, both his staples and media theses propose bi-directional interactions among the material environment, human thought and messaging, and human activity in the context of political/economic power and control--a holism positing radical interdependencies that is quite consistent with ecological thought, but at odds with incremental, partial analyses characterizing much of western mainstream thinking.
In terms of ecological modes of thought, McLuhan went even further than Innis, however, actually terming his mode of analysis an “ecological approach.” Electric media, he claimed, merge individuals and environment into an interdependent, simultaneous system. Moreover, McLuhan depicted human artifacts as extensions of the body and/or mind; for him, as for ecologists today, human nature evolves due to “extra-genetic” (cultural/technological) changes-- a position quite distinct from mainstream political and economic thought.
To attain a Culture of Ecology, a radical transformation in modes of thought is required. Innis and McLuhan are both beacons in this regard.

About Robert Babe
Robert E. Babe is the first holder of the Jean Monty/BCE Chair in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Authored books include: Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers; Telecommunications in Canada; and Communication and the Transformation of Economics. Just finished is a book manuscript entitled, Cultural Ecology.

McLuhan and Speed in the Age of Digital Reproduction
Bob Hanke,
Sessional Assistant Professor, Communication Studies Program and Joint Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, York University.

Marshall McLuhan offered a critique of media that probed, among other social and psychic consequences, the shift from the experience of time to the experience of speed. Simultaneity, instantaneity and the uncertainty and unpredictability of living in the global present were among his concerns from early on; accelerating speed became a significant theme in his later, lesser known, writings.

Instead of the evolution towards a global village of simultaneous social action and unified consciousness that McLuhan spoke of in the 1960s, during the 1970s he began to see new technologies of ultrarapid communication as giving impetus to greater acceleration with paradoxical effects and detrimental consequences. In his last posthumously published book The Global Village, he announced that we are no longer living in a community of speed, but at the “beginning of a speed of light society.” As technology penetrates the human and social body more deeply, McLuhan warned that we were not designed to live at the speed of light. The later McLuhan began to rethink his earlier technotopian views of computing in order to observe the satisfactions and dissatisfactions, positive and negative results, of living in a “speed of light society.”

About Bob Hanke
Bob Hanke’s work on McLuhan will appear in G. Genosko (Ed.), Marshall McLuhan: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 2005) and P. Grosswiler (Ed.) Transforming McLuhan: Critical, Cultural and Postmodern Perspectives (Hampton Press, forthcoming). His has recently written on the political economy of Indymedia practice (Canadian Journal of Communication, forthcoming) and co-edited TOPIA 11, a special thematic issue on Culture and Technology. He is a co-founding member of CAMERA--Committee on Alternative Media Experimentation, Research & Analysis. CAMERA’s first pilot video project is tentatively titled “Understanding Media Poll-itics.”

Is TV Still Sticky in the Age of a Digital McLuhan?
Gary Genosko,
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Sociology, Lakehead University.

At the end of the cathode ray tubes dominance of televisual hardware, new flat screens are emerging in domestic, commercial and public spaces the so-called plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode technologies (OLED). These sets are commercially valorized through new media rhetorics. Nothing of the tactile experience of the tube upon which McLuhan reflected seems to have been lost in the dying days of the reign CRT. But surely, after the ray gun, the “scanning finger” is lost to the projector. Is, then, digital TV tactile? Is TV still cool? Is McLuhan forever out of focus in the age of smart, high-definition TV?

About Gary Genosko
Gary Genosko is Canada Research Chair in Technoculture at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Recently, he edited the three volume collection Marshall McLuhan: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory, forthcoming from Routledge. He is editor of The Semiotic Review of Books, and coeditor of the special issue on Technology and Culture of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. His ebook, McLuhan and Baudrillard: The Masters of Implosion, is available from Taylor&Francis.

McLuhan and the Death of Art
Janine Marchessault,
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Film & Video, York University.

The great literary critic George Steiner once noted that McLuhan introduced us to a new form of cultural practice which he characterized as art that dies, that takes place in the temporal fabric of everyday life and disappears. This talk will be concerned with the kinds of ephemerality that interested McLuhan: advertisements, the live performance, the writings of James Joyce, and the media. It will consider the meanings of the ephemeral and the sacred in light of the commercial media that plagued McLuhans thinking and in the context of more recent global art interventions’ and synchronized political actions in the anti-globalization and peace movements.

About Janine Marchessault
Janine Marchessault is a Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization at York University where she is Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Video. She has recently completed a book on Marshall McLuhan, Cosmic Media (2004 Sage Publications). She is a founding editor of the journal Public and has co-edited numerous anthologies including Wild Science: Reading Medicine, Feminism and the Media (1999) (with Kim Sawchuk), Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women’s Cinema (2000)(with Kay Artmatage, Kass Banning and Brenda Longfellow) and Fluid Screens: Digital Aesthetics and Intermedia (with Susan Lord) (forthcoming).


Terence McKenna - 'Riding Range With Marshall McLuhan' and 'Shamans Among The Machines':

"Though the glory of our humaness is our spontaneous creativity, we too- as creatures of physics and chemistry and memory and hope, tend to fall into repetitious patterns. And these repetitious patterns are the death of creativity. They diminish our humaness- they diminish our indiviuality, make each of us somehow like cogs in some larger system. And we associate this cog-like membership in larger solus systems with the machines that we inherit from the age of the internal combustion engine and the age of the jet engine... you know, Marshall McLuhan said that we navigate our way into the future like someone driving who uses the rear-view mirror to tell them where they're going. It's not a very successful strategy for navigating into the future."

"Computers are minds that work in the realm of computation; and human minds are minds that work in the realm of generalization, spatial co-ordination, understanding of natural language, so forth and so on. Are these kinds of minds so different from eachother, pilgrims, that there is no bridge to be crossed? I would submit not- that infact the bridge between the human mind and the machine mind is symbolic logic, mathematics."

"I'm a full going, full hard-charging McLuhanist. And I really believe that the strengths and weaknesses of the world we've inherited, are strengths and weaknesses put there by print- and by the spectrum of effects which McLuhan called the "Gutenberg galaxy". The spectrum of effects spun off from print- and if you're not used to thinking in McLuhanist terms, it may not seem immediately obvious to you that phenomenon as different as the modern notion of the democratic citizen, the modern notion of interchangeable parts on an assembly line, the modern notion of comformity to canons of advertising- these are all spectrums of effect created by the linearity and the uniformity of print. It actually, in the late 15th century, reconstructed the medieval psyche into its proto-modern form. And we have lived within that print-constellated cultural hallucination for about 500 years- until the advent of various forms of electronic media in the 20th century."

"... print just a convulsive 500 year episode in the Western mind, that opened that narrow window that permitted the rise of moderm science, modern mathematical approaches to the analysis of nature- and then obliterated its own platform, its own raison d'etre, by allowing the growth, the appearance of the electronic technologies. And my... sort of supposition about all this... I'm not an apocalypterian or a pessimist- I may be an apocalypterian, I'm not a pessimist. I think that this is all very good. Obviously, continuing to run Western civilization on the operating system inherited from print, produces various forms of political and cultural schizophrenia, which allowed to run unchecked would become fatal; would create cascades of chaos and political destabilization that would become uncontrollable. Governments resist change, governments cling to technologies and social formulae that are already tried and true. In that sense then, all governments are incredibly anti-progressive forces."