Thursday, July 21, 2011

McLuhan Centenary

Due to the centenary of media theorist Marshal McLuhan, there has been a flurry of recent coverage and events on his work and life.

As a fellow Torontonian, media junkie, and as a student at the faculty now housing his program (University of Toronto's Faculty of Information) I feel connected to his work. I therefore attended three events this week hosted by the McLuhan Legacy Network and the McLuhan 100 that helped me decipher McLuhan and consider his ongoing relevance to understanding media and to my studies in particular. 

I thought of writing a long post to summarize my take-aways from these events and how McLuhan work sheds lights on current digital tech and trends. But other sources (including my post excepting Bob Logan's insightful article on McLuhan) have already done this effectively.

In the spirit of Marshall McLuhan, I'll share one-liners or aphorisms from these events. McLuhan was famous for these, such as "the medium is the message" and "if it works, it's obsolete".  As the sessions were panel discussions and invited audience participation capturing the speaker's name proved difficult - so my apologies for not attributing sources. All were quotations or rephrasings of McLuhan or commentary inspired by McLuhan.
  • Art is an early warning system. Artists are antennae of a race and prepare us for the coming onslaught.
  • With pervasive media are we amoebas pulled and stimulated by environment but ultimately torn asunder by it?
  • McLuhan is the patron saint of art schools for championing lateral thinking. 
  • If it ain't broke; break it!
  • Northrop Frye on said he avoided McLuhan as 90% of what McLuhan says is original and I'm not used to it!
  • An obsolete medium becomes art.
  • Media provides both a service and disservice. (So mobiles can help us stay in touch with elderly relatives but can be used as reason to avoid meeting them in person.)
  • McLuhan liked to use paradoxes to provoke discussion, but these vex and confuse people.
  • The next killer app is user experience.
  • Is the iPad a medium? It's amorphous. At one moment it can be an reader like a book or a keyboard like a piano. Is it a medium of its own or a mimic?
  • I don't do theories, but rather break molds.
  • Page turning on tablets is bad user experience. It's a transitory technique from an old medium that limits the new medium.
  • I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.
  • We now have a distributed medium with the Internet now we need distributed participation.
  • McLuhan conspired for his centenary be hottest day in Canada's history! Is this a sign of new hot medium coming?

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