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last updated: August 17, 2011

Narrative I: Multi-Culture

The logistic task was to bring awareness of McLuhan studies in particular (in connection with Prof. Marshall McLuhan’s Centenary), and even more importantly communication studies in principle, into the educational spaces of current teachers, teachers in the making, current academics educating the above, and current academics in the making. In other words, at OISE/UT.

McLuhan (1911 – 1980) is said to have felt strongly about educational programs and institutions at any level lagging disastrously behind as far as the implementation, and crucially in his case, the understanding of the ever faster and more ubiquitously advancing new technologies/media of communication. His generative book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man was developed from his report on understanding new media to the U.S. Office of Education.

The founder of Philosophy of Education, John Dewey (1859 – 1952), half a century his senior, was equally interested in upgrading education to be up to par with the latest advances in techno-science. He saw education as predicated on communication. Communication is pivotal point of interest in my explorations as it underpins. Apparently, it also serves as a discursive bridge between media-communication theories and educational philosophy, as their respective founders converge on its importance.

Furthermore,  among the strong  “native” research streams at OISE are multiculturalism and diversity/equity studies, so the question arose whether connections can be projected to those, in order to pave the way for communication-media explorations within the larger OISE community. It so happens that McLuhan et al. coauthored a book Culture Is Our Business, innovatively presenting an analytic-artistic perspective on American advertising, and thus on a substantive chunk of mass culture. Multiculturalism as the overcoming of ethnic-racial tensions and imbalances was not a priority discourse in McLuhan’s works, even if being part of the broader cultural landscape, it fell under the same category as advertising, both hinging on the same pendulum that swings between deterioration and amelioration of culture.

The generic concern for culture thus had an ally in pluralism–of points of view, traditions, styles. A title for the series of events was thereby arrived at :), allowing to add more analytic categories conceptualizing combinations of multiplicity and culture. The key role of communication would thus be axiomatic, and the educative formula of McLuhan et al.’s book title could serve as a symbolic vehicle, producing:


Elaborating on the taxonomy, the multitude falling under the umbrella term “culture” can encompass:

1. ethnic-national multiplicity (aboriginal culture) [multiculturalism]
2. biological-genetic variability (plant cultures) [biodiversity]
3. historical-generational distinctions (digital youth culture) [era/age/time of …]
4. disciplinary-occupational (academic culture, FB culture) [multi-/inter-/transdisciplinarity]

For curious historiographic data on the Culture Is Our Business book, which professor Eric McLuhan shared on an MLN panel, July 24, 2011, see Poster Exhibition section in this ES post.

Narrative II: Ecosonic School of Communication (ESC)

specially dedicated post coming up

last updated: August 17, 2011

For those who happened to miss the McLuhan display at Ryerson University, comprising over 80 types of communication media, a light brush with The Marshall McLuhan Ballad, though NOT with Sal Greco’s, shall we say, groovy video complement.

This one, posted on Vimeo by Randall Acronym helps along with their song lyrics.


Oh, and speaking of MM-related puns, “Winnipigeon” from today’s MLN panel title refers, of course, to the Master himself, who flew away from Winnipeg, plus was used to “flying” as a matter of course. On the authority of Prof. Richard Osicki, panel moderator, who also announced this year’s Award to father Pierre Babin, who co-auhtored a book with McLuhan, related to Catholicism. Check out the panel announcement, if curious enough.

Pub info, snatched for you from
Autre homme, autre chretien a l’age electronique by Marshall McLuhan and Pierre Babin
ISBN 2702302998 / 9782702302996 / 2-7023-0299-8
Publisher: Chalet
Country: France
Edition: Hardcover

For the full-length announcement, complete with poster image: PDF download

*Multi-Culture Is Our Business* events

OISE Library, ground floor, July 25 – July 29 Aug 2, 2011

The *Multi-Culture Is Our Business* events speak to the multi-cultural reality of an increasingly globalized world and mutually permeating academic-disciplinary and other epistemologies. At the same time, the series of events gestures to Culture Is Our Business, a book by University of Toronto Professor of English H. Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980), whose 100th birthday on July 21, 2011, is being honored by over two hundred events around the world, including in Toronto, during his birth date week and throughout 2011.

The OISE events for the week of July 25 – July 29, 2011, include two invited presentations, an exhibition of posters on the history of Indian Cinema, and round tables of improvised discussions of those attending on topics such as education, music and art, history, etc., across cultures—genetic or disciplinary. These events are partly sponsored by the Centre for Diversity and Leadership at OISE. Invited opening remarks from: Dr Alex Kuskis, OISE gradu-ate, Gonzaga University faculty; Dr Bob Scott, Ryerson University, Dr John Portelli, Professor, CDL-TPS/UToronto.

I. “Zooming in on Technological Mediation: The Bi-Dichotomous Approach”

Presenter: Yoni Van Den Eede, visiting doctoral resear-cher from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium, Department of Philosophy & Moral Sciences. He applies continental philo-sophy to questions of the social impacts of media and techno-logy, and is the author of  “‘Conversation of Mankind’ or ‘Idle Talk’?: A Pragmatist Approach to Social Networking Sites,” (2010) and “In Between Us: On the Transparency and Opacity of Technological Mediation” (2011). Yoni is the organizer of McLuhan’s Philosophy of Media – Centennial Conference, Brussels, October 2011.

UPDATE, post Yoni’s talk: Please note that the “In Between Us” article contains some of Yoni’s presentation for the Multi-Culture series.

Date & Time: Monday, July 25, 11 am – 12:30 pm, including 30 min discussion

II. “On Communication & Multiculturalism”

Presenter: Filomena Maria Avelina Bomfim, professor of Social Communication (Journalism), University of Sao Joao, Brazil. Her current research interests prioritize work on culture, technology and inter-disciplinarity, especially in view of McLuhan’s theories, more specifically, the McLuhan Tetrads as a methodology for research on new media. She has a number of presentations and publications, among which most recently a coedited volume titled (in translation from Portuguese) Regional Sound: The voices of Local People (2010), and a coauthored one in progress.

Date & Time: Tuesday, July 26, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm, including 30 min discussion

III. Exhibition on the history of Indian Cinema
Dates: Monday July 24 – Friday, July 29

UPDATE: Friday, July 29 & Saturday, July 30 (Applying to extend into Aug)

UPDATE: Well, only until Aug 2, but there will be other showings

IV. Round tables, with improvised discussion of “focal objects” (in Albert Borgmann’s sense)

Dates: July 25 & 26, following the keynote talk

My assigned McLuhan probe was to come up with a new metaphor for the time when we, allegedly, are past the writing stage in the history of the species.

I objected to the post-writing stage, since “writing,” like most anything is relative. On the “Paper or Screen” panel, the observations were brought up

  • that the “younger generations” are texting all the time–but is that “writing,” or a travesty–and what does the twitt(er)ing format do for us?!
  • that (according to a publisher panelist) long-form writing is what is becoming obsolete, which she takes to mean that the young are not learning how to develop, or follow, argumentation–which ultimately is making them unable to make citizen decisions, or take action, worthy of the name.

I cannot be the judge of the above, since it is not impossible that new forms of brain-mind processing are emerging, and accordingly, matching new forms of the way they display/are perceived are also developing.

My deepest current interest, as a student of philosophy of education–communication technologies–human fulfillment, is Human Relatedness to Self, Other, All of Existence. I ask, What is there, of our human potential, that is important to preserve, foster, unplug and worth carrying forward into the future–over and beyond whatever technologies we may be inflicting upon ourselves.

The shift in consciousness that has never stopped, so there is no question of “beginning,” may already be taking the desired eco-consonant direction, if, eg. Rifkin’s 700-plus pages The Empathic Civilization is on the right track. In any case, the notion of ecology in the sense of ubiquitous inter-relatedness, or systems thinking in the same discursive mode, have been circulating in academic and intellectual spaces for several decades at least. As far as the public, e.g. global warming (at least judging by local media discourses) may be contributing to an approximation of the above understanding of co-evolution and inter-relatedness–which CANNOT be suppressed/circumvented, but can be influenced by humans ecologically felicitously or not.

The etymology of Ecosonance covers the concept of all-pervasive ecology. Eco- –I’d say, instructively–comes from the Greek word for “house/home,” thus potentially projecting a symbolization of where you belong, where you come from and go back to for protection and sustenance, physical and spiritual. Combined with that is the  son root, shared by re-sonance, dis-sonance, con-sonance, a-sonance,  evoking “sound” and thus the more general concept of vibration. Vibration has by now become the closest term available to describe what seems to be “that on which” existence is predicated–physical, but (more and more into the mainstream of science) also what is traditionally thought of as mental-equals-nonmaterial, hence nonphysical.

Therefore, to the extent that awareness of the definitive role of the ecology of vibration is already permeating the social-epistemic imaginary (Lorraine Code-cum-Cornelius Castoriadis), and influencing action, one may issue a “diagnosis” of an Ecosonic Turn. That, obviously, would be the case, irrespective of how consciously or unconsciously the awareness augmentation may be taking place in each concrete case, say an occurrence or an individual.

ECOSONANCE would be the metaphor for the time when the social imaginary, certainly that of the “developed West,” is increasingly imbibed with the consequences of quantum mechanics, what Einstein called “its philosophy, not its math,” also general ecological awareness, also globalization (with its pluses and minuses), also a systems view of the world (benevolent per Ervin Laszlo’s book of the same name, hegemonic per Luhmann’s systems theory).

Axiomatic Relatedness can kill just as it can build: resonance destroys just as it enhances, dissonance intrigues just as it wrecks one’s nerves, etc., depending on degree and mode. This would appear to be calling on us–to the extent that conscious, rational decision plays a role–to come to understand and to channel our thoughts and actions in such a way as to be a benevolent rather than a destructive influence on human Selves, Others, All remaining Biotics and Abiotics.

A final thought would be to invite the reader to consider:

1. The legacy of McLuhan’s idea of media ecology, whereby media/technologies should be designed and used in a way that there would be no wasteful or straightforwardly harmful redundancies of function and usage. As I can hardly think of ANYthing that is not a technology and/or a medium, the extensions of Media Ecology Theory, under development since Neil Postman’s work, scale up to the order of all-encompassing Ecosonance.

2. Consider also the legacy of the ancient thought of the East, of Aboriginal and African cosmologies… The non-dichotomous worldview available from those rich sources is to a large extent what Ecosonance stands for.

As an illustration, a good reference to check out is Daniel Vokey’s chapter on Mahayana Buddhism in his 2001 book Moral Discourse in a Pluralistic World. If my synthesis is correct, incorporating Mahayana principles, he argues that there is a core of universality to human ethics and morality. However, it cannot be expressed in words, a.k.a. is non-verbal/non-linguistic, thus cannot be consciously rationalized, even if in all practical evidence it “is there.”

Re The Book of Probes (2003) Eric McLuhan (Author), David Carson (Author), Marshall McLuhan (Author), William Kuhns (Author). Gingko Press, currently the official publisher of McLuhan’s works.

I like the Amazon “Product Description,” so giving it below in full:

    Until now, no book has explored the full expanse of Marshall McLuhan’s thinking. Here we have assembled alongside his most prescient aphorisms excerpts from the full range of his astounding life’s work. One revolutionary book distills the wisdom and wit of the man who explained to us the “the medium is the message” and that we are “now living in a global village”, that “privacy invasion is now our most important knowledge industry” and that “obsolescence is the moment of superabundance”.
    Cover to cover, Anthology is not only one hundred percent McLuhan’s own words, these are McLuhan’s finest words. McLuhan called these bold perceptions probes and today they gleam like gems embedded everywhere in his life’s output – in his books, in more than 200 speeches, in his classes (especially the Monday Night Seminars), and most of all in the nearly 700 shorter writings that he published between 1945 and 1980. In recent years, his son Eric McLuhan and William Kuhns have combed through all these sources to compile and edit what has become Anthology – The Book of Probes.
    The collection is so fresh that most probes will be new to even the most avid readers of McLuhan, and opens a new portal to McLuhan’s mind, one that promises to change the ways in which we recognize and interpret McLuhan in the future. Readers will marvel at how the consistency, the clarity of concept, and the abundant wealth of observations, some made twenty or thirty years apart, dovetail to form a whole.
    Art Director and Designer David Carson presents McLuhan’s images with new insight, and has built a work of art that is reminiscent of those lasting works permanently commissioned and interpreted by new generations.

The McLuhan Legacy Network seems to have been carrying most of the honorous (wink) burden, admirably well. Check out their

  • Official blog, published by Dr Alex Kuskis, Gonzaga University faculty
  • FB page, managed by Maeve Doyle, University of Toronto

Among other high points:

July 20
Panel Reading and Publishing: Paper or Screen, with the participation of, eg, Jian Gomeshi, Q host, CBC Radio, followed by one on McLuhan’s Poetics: Modernism and Media, with the participation of, eg, Paul Hoffert, moderated by Bruce Elder, devout and deep-thinking McLuhanist, Ryerson University professor, Governor General Awardee for film making, among other distinctions.

July 21
Birthday gala. Eric McLuhan, first-born child and closest collaborator of Marshall McLuhan, received the 1st MLN Award for Promoting the McLuhan Legacy (paraphrasing), John Ralston Saul reeceived the 1st MLN Award for Penmanship and Social Engagement (my interpretation of the title). The previously introduced Michael McLuhan took the audience through several generations of McLuhan history through a slide show of photos from the family album.

The event was moderated by MLN co-chairs Bob Logan, emeritus professor of physics at UT & faculty at OCADU, and Joel Alleyne, doctoral student and instructor, iSchool/UT.

July 22&23
Installation at Ryerson University, curated by Sal Greco, Ryerson instructor, designer and camera wiz. Displays of over 80 media, interspersed (mostly) with McLuhan quotes. Also see-hear bites of the Master, as McLuhan is called by many.

July 24 – last MLN events day–so still a chance for Ecosonance readers to check here and go, perhaps (???)
Mass at St Basil Church, close to St Mike’s College, UT (a long story about McLuhan and his conversion and devotion to Catholicism, though I’d insist the Christian faith, rather)
Preceded by the last MLN panel, “Spirit of a Winnipigeon” (McLuhan did 2 uni degrees at U Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, before a PhD at Cambridge)

A couple of events through the City of Toronto’s McLuhan100:

July 18
The 2nd of many Monday Night Seminars, which McLuhan used to hold at the Coach House, led by journalist Jesse Hirsch, member of McLuhan100 Board.

July 21
A DesignMeets event at the Coach House, to my knowledge given to Prof McLuhan several years after he was appointed Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology, UT, superseded by the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology after his demise in 1980. Participants were given quotes of “probes” from McLuhan’s The Book of Probes to do what I’d call mind-searching on.

Another post about my own probe upcoming.

So, as Jian Ghomeshi signs off–adopted by a number of students on class blogs–2B continued

July 9, 2011 update: the imgs now

Toronto Legacy project commemorative plaque, grace a Heritage Toronto (click img to expand)

Toronto home 1955-1963

McLuhan home in Toronto 1955-1963


I’m still gearing up to look through the photos, edit and choose 1-2 (while finishing a paper on whether graduate programs should and can “swing,” a.o.t.), and June 27th is receding in the past. So, on with the blurb alone:

This year being Prof McLuhan’s centenary (b.July 21, Edmonton, Alberta), the City of Toronto set up a commemorative plaque in front of the first (perhaps?) home in which the family lived here. It is located in a lovely neighbourhood, on Wells Hill Avenue. Present at the ceremony were three of Marshall and Corinne McLuhan’s six children, Teri, Elizabeth, and Michael, and grandchildren Anna, Gwen, Arthur and Scott. Also in attendance were members of the McLuhan100 Committee, York University professors Dominique Scheffel Dunand (chair of the currently symbolic “McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology” at UofT), Paul Hoffert, B.W.Powe, and Mozilla’s executive director Mark Surman, who also MC-ed the event–admirably. After speeches by UofT President David Naylor and iSchool Dean Seamus Ross, it was the turn of Elizabeth, Michael and Teri to speak.

Elizabeth McLuhan, second youngest child, shared childhood memories of the neighbourhood, her friends and schoolmates…
Michael McLuhan, youngest child, mentioned that the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, of which McLuhan is a double (BA and MA) and distinguished graduate, dedicated a hall in his name, and the Winnipeg home of the McLuhans is property of the university and serves to host visiting scholars…
Teri McLuhan, third child, told the story of Glen Gould coming to visit the family in the wintertime, in a long black coat and galoshes. He would thrust his head into Marshall’s study, bark a greeting, then head to the piano and entertain the family playing, also chatting with the children. At some point he would get up and leave, and “12 min later,” Teri said, the phone would ring, and a familiar voice would ask to speak to “your father,” and Gould and McLuhan would talk for quite a while. Apparently, they made ample use of the telephone, which McLuhan theorized about, too.

  • Official Marshall McLuhan website
  • McLuhan home, Edmonton, Alberta URL — where he was born.
  • McLuhan distinguished graduate page, UManitoba URL — where he went to university, before doing his PhD at Cambridge, UK
  • Marshall McLuhan Speaks website — since Jan 2011.


July 2011


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