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Marshall McLuhan Lives

Marshall McLuhan Lives

Thompson on Hollywood

If you never studied Marshall McLuhan in school, you probably know him from his infamous cameo in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen pulls him out from behind a signpost to shame a fellow moviegoer who has been pontificating on McLuhan’s theories (below).

It’s been a hundred years since McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher of media and communications theory, was born. In honor of this centennial, a group of his devotees called the McLuhan Legacy Network (MLN), are marking this 100th birthday with their first ever week-long festival, called “Connecting the Visible with the Invisible.”

Despite its seemingly airy-fairy name, the festival’s main focus is in fact the impact of McLuhan’s theories on modern media. Although he wrote his most influential works in the 1950s and 60s, McLuhan’s most famous theory involved his idea that “the medium is the message,” a concept in which the way that information is transmitted is seen as equally important to the information itself.

Not surprisingly, the MLN festival, which will be held in Toronto from July 18-24, will include a focus on film and television. For the month of July, the Canadian Broadcasting Centre will present a program of rare films from its archives as an introduction to McLuhan’s work. The Toronto subway will also feature a video art piece called “Underground Tarot.”

Other festival events include a talk on technology’s role in mediating modern life, the significance of the growth in mobile and tablet computing, and the ongoing transformation of the publishing world from books to electronic media.

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Andrew McLuhan


Marshall gives a definition of “the medium is the message” in the second sentence of the first page of the first chapter of his book Understanding Media. No need to guess what he meant.



I wonder what McLuhan would make of today’s “delivery systems,” where people watch films meant for the big screen on tiny handheld devices and where people sit at their computers with the TV on in the background and insist they’ve “seen” whatever happened to be on TV at the time. Where everything’s reduced to YouTube.

By the way, film music composer Bernard Herrmann’s centennial was almost two weeks ago (June 29) and no mention of it here. I did a tribute to him on my blog:

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