Booklist 1sep12: McLuhan’s Massage

September 1st, 2012 | stuff2012

I’m adding to it.  Why am I adding to it?  I’m mad.  Also I really wanted to re-read THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, which I haven’t looked at since I was 20, probably.  It turned out I didn’t have a copy in the house.  (I have an ancient copy of UNDERSTANDING MEDIA in the attic, and the only image of that particular edition I could find online is here – )

The other night, iTunes DJ threw up an old Terence McKenna talk about Marshall McLuhan, called RIDING THE RANGE WITH MARSHALL McLUHAN – hey, here’s an mp3 of that talk – and I found myself thinking about him for the first time in years.

To give you a flavour of McLuhan – a Canadian media theorist and James Joyce scholar manque, here’s a snip from an interview he did with Playboy (yes, once upon a time people really did buy it for the articles) in 1969, talking about television:

By requiring us to constantly fill in the spaces of the mosaic mesh, the iconoscope is tattooing its message directly on our skins. Each viewer is thus an unconscious pointillist painter like Seurat, limning new shapes and images as the iconoscope washes over his entire body.

The iconoscope is tattooing its message directly on our skins.

This is, remember, 1969.  His major work was already done, at this point.  In the Seventies, he was lecturing at the University of Toronto, at the same time as writer/director David Cronenberg was attending.  McLuhan was dead by 1980, three years before Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME, with its grim McLuhan stand-in Brian O’Blivion was released.  And if you’ve seen that film, then you get the extra bleak irony there.

This is the edition of MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE I grabbed off Amazon. Nice clean cover design. I’ve been writing something as a spare-time, hobby kind of thing that’s intended to use a lot of infoviz — charts, graphics, etc.  And so, when the McKenna audio popped up, I naturally thought of it again, looked for it in the house, and then bit the bullet and ordered one.

Why on EARTH are McLuhan’s works not in ebook form?  That’s a sick gag to pull on the man’s legacy.

The title’s something of a joke: Marshall McLuhan’s buzzphrase was “the medium is the message” – this title was, it’s said, a production typo, and it amuses McLuhan so much that he kept it.

I may end up re-reading all of McLuhan – in fact, it occurs to me that I may never have read COUNTERBLAST or WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE.

 

#informationdiet


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis