Friday, September 16, 2011

Media at the Center - A McLuhan Centenary Symposium

Media at the Center
A McLuhan Centenary Symposium
Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus
McNally Auditorium
Law School Building
140 W. 62nd Street, Between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues
New York, New York
September 17, 2011
Free and Open to the Public

9:00-10:30 AM McLuhan at Fordham: A Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Lance Strate, Fordham University

Panelists: John Carey, Fordham University
Jacqueline Egan, QD Healthcare Group
Pete Fornatale, WFUV
Anthony Perrotto, Independent Video Producer
Paul Ryan, New School for Social Research

10:30-11:00 AM Break

11:00-12:00 AM McLuhan and Theology

Moderator: John M. Phelan, Fordham University

Presentation: "Marshall McLuhan's Theological Anthropology"
Joseph Kim, Lancaster Bible College

Discussants: Babette Babich, Fordham University
Eric McLuhan, University of Toronto
Paul Ryan, New School for Social Research

12:00-1:30 PM Break

1:30-3:00 PM McLuhan and New Media

Moderator: Janet Sternberg, Fordham University

Presentations: "Digital McLuhan"
Paul Levinson, Fordham University

"Understanding New Media"
Robert K. Logan, Ontario College of Art and Design

"Confessions of a Would-Be Twitter
Robert Blechman, St. George's University

3:00-3:30 PM Break

3:30 PM-4:30 PM Keynote Address

Moderator: Andrew McLuhan

"Media and Formal Cause"
Eric McLuhan, University of Toronto

4:30 PM-5:00 PM Reception and Book Signing
for Media and Formal Cause
by Marshall and Eric McLuhan

5:00-7:00 PM Break

7:00 PM Media at the Center

Moderator: Lance Strate, Fordham University

Screening: The Gutenberg Galaxy
1961 television program
produced in Detroit by Gary Gumpert

Panelists: Daniel Czitrom, Mount Holyoke College
Paul Grosswiler, University of Maine
Gary Gumpert, Urban Communication Foundation
Joshua Meyrowitz, University of New Hampshire
Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, University of Toronto

Monday, September 5, 2011

Secondary Literacy

I use the term "Secondary Literacy" to describe the cultural transformation being wrought by our interaction with the Internet. With a nod to Walter J. Ong, I am suggesting that the literacy demands of the Internet have required denizens of our Secondary Orality culture to revisit some of the tropes of primary literacy. This new type of literacy is shaped by influences of the electronic media just as Secondary Orality was not quite the same as Primary Orality.
If generations prior to my parents learned to read before they learned to attend to electronic media, and if my generation and generations going forward first learned to attend to electronic media before we learned to read, what of the generation that learns via web-connected computers before formal training in literacy?

I don't know exactly what the implications of the new literacy will be, but I think if we can look to changes in belief structures, balance of human senses, even neural brain mapping in the switch from Primary Literacy to Secondary Orality, we can begin to search for similar transformations as our culture moves to Secondary Literacy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Marshall McLuhan What Are You Doin'?

To my mind, Marshall McLuhan was doing what many of us in Neil Postman's early NYU Media Ecology program were doing: Trying to create a new language and a new structure for describing the true impact of technology on human society and human psychology. One term that comes to mind is "paradigm switch." Through puns, probes and metaphors McLuhan attempted to define how electronic media put us into a post-print paradigm. One problem: when you're in one paradigm, its hard to see it. Terms like "reductionist," "technological determinist" etc are the ways other people try to describe in their own paradigmatic terms what McLuhan was attempting. They were misinformed.

One reason I always bring up Claude Levi-Strauss (ad nauseam to some  peoples minds) is that he also straddled paradigms. In an cultural and  intellectual environment where it was easy to describe native peoples as "primitive" Levi-Strauss suggested that they were capable of a sophistication of  thought and a nuance of expression through their "mythology" equal to or perhaps  greater than our own. That doesn't mean "right," just complex. In his analysis of myths Levi-Strauss stumbled upon a great realization. It was the not content of the myths which contained their true meaning. It was the structure of the total mythic canon which contained the "message." McLuhan knew of Levi-Strauss and admitted his debt to him. (see James M. Curtis "Marshall McLuhan and French Structuralism" Boundary 2 1/1:134-46, 1970 and McLuhan's own note in Technology and Culture, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), 74-78.)

"I don't know who discovered water, but it wasn't a fish" McLuhan was fond of saying. He could have added that whoever did discover water was probably labeled an H2O determinist or an "airhead" by the other water dwellers.