Monday, May 3, 2010

New TVO Film: Marshall McLuhan on Social Networking and Reputation

In tandem with the 2010 "Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival", TVOntario is broadcasting a series of documentaries exploring the pervasive influence of photography on culture.

In a treat to kick off the month long event (May 2nd to May 30th), a never before broadcast 28 minute film entitled, "Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Tom Wolfe" is to be broadcast this Friday May 7, 2010 at 10:00 PM. As well, a second film, "Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Mike McManus" will air right afterwards at 10:30.

Don't tell anyone, but both films are already up at TVO's video documentary portal.

McLuhan's Place in History

McLuhan's takes are not dated, his perceptions still inform the future.

Marshall McLuhan is the father of the philosophy of media, as Freud was the father of modern psychology. Much like the biases in Freud's thinking having to do with Freud's subjective understanding of his own sexuality, I think there are subjective biases in McLuhan's landscape, specifically the idea of the post literate culture. McLuhan is the product of the Renaissance, the literate enlightenment that began with the printing press. He is slightly defensive about the forces dismantling that old meme. In the era in which he lived broadcast media is shaping the new electronic reality - it predates the internet and all the social tools we have created that re-enforce literacy.

While he says he doesn't think literacy will disappear, he constantly explains phenomena in the context of a literate/post literate meme. At points he makes what seem to me to be radical forecasts - like the tribalization of world culture, the dividing of humanity into intolerant boxes - these have at their centre, this subjective error.

McLuhan's journey of discovery is not a static model but an attempt to discover a formula that will explain the functioning of media and culture going forward - the mass of his ideas are absolutely viable today. I believe that until someone revisits McLuhan's entire body of work, maps his formulea and edits out his biases - he remains the leader in understanding new media.

Never before seen Film

The first film is shot in McLuhan's backyard* at number 3 Wychwood Park, Toronto. (*I seem to remember he lived on Campus at the University of Toronto - a reference instead to the global village?). The interview takes place in the summer of 1970 with the Futurist and the novelist Tom Wolfe lounging on lawn chairs in conversation about technology and culture.

As he and Wolfe volley concepts back and forth, McLuhan uses the word "Publics" to describe a media commons we understand today as an active thing, like Twitter, where news is produced by a wiki commons, where 140 character edits are vetted in a commons fact checker until a narrative is arrived at that doesn't change.

(See my Twitter/Snowpocalypse Story, "People Like to Talk About the Weather Using Twitter Lists". When President Obama dropped the Snowmageddon reference the mass media credited him instead of Twitter users who coined both terms in real time - although there's some debate about that.)

Further, McLuhan describes the idea that via mass media, Publics are participating at a deeper level in the media though an emotional investment in the story telling - a story that is after all, our story. Further still he says, consequently and consciously, the new Publics begin to participate in the creation of the news on the streets, that they will later go home to watch. In the present technological reality an example of this was the vetting process that, before the global demonstrations against the Iraq invasion in 2003, produced common slogans and united the peace movement world wide through email and Facebook.

Next, McLuhan takes us to the idea that people experiencing themselves broadcast, put on "A public", a mask that represents what the commons expects in the context of the story they're going to be told. We see this everywhere in mass communication; from Nixon's Checkers speech in 1952, to the current post modern pop stars and the "glitterati", who understand that the 'tribe' is the media, not the speeches, poems or melodies. Today we are on the verge of an adoption of these ideas, combined with social tools, being used by people, groups, corporations and governments all creating Reputations, or as McLuhan would say 'A Publics', that will propel them (or not) in business, politics and personal networks.

Here's a list of the upcoming broadcasts on TVOntario as part of the "Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival". TVO might want to use this nicely linked list in a title page about the Festival (or have I over-looked it?).

TVOntario Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Program List

May 2, 10:30 pm "The True Meaning of Pictures" (Jennifer Baichwal)
May 6, 10:00 pm "Stars by Helmut Newton" (by Julian Benedikt)
May 7, 10:00 pm "Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Tom Wolfe" ( 1970)
May 7, 10:30 pm "Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Mike McManus" ( 1977)
May 9, 9:00 pm "Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens" (Barbara Leibovitz)
May 13, 10:00 pm "What Remains: The Life & Work of Sally Mann" (Steven Cantor)
May 16, 9:00 pm "Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film" (Ric Burns)
May 19, 10:00 pm "Houses of Hristina" (Suzanne Raes)
May 20, 10:00 pm "Eloquent Nude" (Ian McLuskey)
May 20, 10:00 pm "Peppers and Nudes: The Photographer Edward Weston" (Joachim Haupt)
May 26, 10:00 pm "Dolce Vita Africana" (Cosima Spender)
May 27, 10:00 pm "The Women of Sanne Sannes" (Frodo Terpstra)


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