McLuhan 2.0 Panel at Vidfest

Posted in Events, Technology

Dr. Eric McLuhan, son of Marshall McLuhan and taking after his father as a communication scholar, talked at Vidfest about digital media and the new culture created out of that. McLuhan’s panel was moderated by Michael Tippett of NowPublic.


Some highlights from the panel include:

  • Inattention is more potent than your attention, you have no defenses. It’s an area of vulnerability, of openness, by definition. Advertisers now compete in this area, since you have build up defenses against them grabbing your attention.
  • The message is small, the medium is enormous
  • Global village – coined to describe the effects of radio. People in instant proximity to each other. The fact that the bodies are spread around the world is irrelevant – it hasn’t constrained communication.
  • Since television, the global village was replaced with the global theater. The world is a stage, and you’re on it all the time. Everyone around is looking, not for jobs, but for roles to play. Role playing brings the idea of an audience – being observed by people. Your identity is connected with your roles for various groups.
  • Private identity means detaching yourself from people, but private identity is now useless, an encumbrance against the participatory world.
  • News is no longer factual, it’s participatory. It’s emotional.
  • Literacy is going out of style – it’s no longer a pre-condition to be in this world. It is not the only skill we need now.
  • Copyright, private ownership, is meaningless. Just like with private identity, it has no place anymore. Copyright started to become meaningless with photocopies, but the Internet made it obsolete. Enforcement is impossible.
  • Linear existence is no longer useful – people live in many spaces and times. They live mythically. For kids, this is very normal. 

The session was much more in-depth than my notes can convey, but my thought process was still pre-coffee at this point. I didn’t agree with everything that Eric McLuhan had to say, particularly with his convictions of "how things are" and that the "right" perspective is one outside that of the digital age (he does not use a computer). Although I have great respect for his ideas, I have always been argumentative with communications scholars (it was actually encouraged in my degree), and am of the school of thought that you have to live in the digital era in order to understand it.

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2 Responses to “McLuhan 2.0 Panel at Vidfest”

  1. Raul says:

    Even though McLuhan’s Sr.’s writing were way too convoluted, I can see myself agreeing more with his ideas than with McLuhan Jr.’s.

  2. I construed McLuhan’s comment about not having a computer as a joke. Admitted he didn’t have one with him in Vancouver, and went on to say he actually had a few computers back in Toronto, all up on a shelf. I read this as him just being facetious…?

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