McLuhan in Space

McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography

RICHARD CAVELL
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677135
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  • Book Info
    McLuhan in Space
    Book Description:

    Demonstrates how McLuhan extended insights derived from advances in physics and artistic experimentation into a theory of acoustic space which he then used to challenge the assumptions of visual space that had been produced through print culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7713-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Sigla
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE: ʻSpaceʼ in McLuhan
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. PART ONE SPACED

    • CHAPTER ONE A Short History of Space
      (pp. 3-30)

      In 1973, Marshall McLuhan made a film for theGreat Minds of Our Timesseries calledPicnic in Space.¹ The film begins with static and McLuhan’s voice-over speaking about several kinds of space – visual, acoustic, Greek, Roman, enclosed, open, and so on. Then we see the title, against a blue background, cutting to McLuhan walking on a parking lot set against a backdrop of buildings in the Gothic academic style. McLuhan enters into an automobile and is filmed as reflected in its rear-view mirror. He speaks of how the Greeks never thought of the world as ‘coming in’² and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Mechanization and Its Discontents
      (pp. 31-48)

      The extent to which McLuhan’s encounter with Innis focused his thoughts on ‘the problem of space’ can be determined by examining McLuhan’s first extended work,The Mechanical Bride(1951), written in the period leading up to McLuhan’s decisive 1953 essay, ‘The Later Innis.’ In that essay, McLuhan adopts the historical focus of Innis’s space and time articulation, while distancing himself from Innis’s static characterization of these modalities. InThe Mechanical Bride, however, McLuhan, deeply influenced by Wyndham Lewis and Siegfried Giedion, figured space and time in binary opposition, while exhibiting an awareness of the inadequacy of this formulation. Thus we...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Physics of Flatland
      (pp. 49-68)

      In the work he produced afterThe Mechanical Bride, McLuhan developed a broad historical framework in which he situated mechanical culture in relation to the invention of printing, the oral culture that preceded print, and the emerging electronic culture. At the same time, he developed a dynamic methodology with which to analyse such changes – a dynamic of ‘immersion’ rather than ‘arrest.’ Giedion’sMechanization Takes Commandand Freud’sCivilization and Its Discontentsdemonstrated to McLuhan (though in different ways) that the notion of arrest was inadequate, both metaphorically and methodologically, to the dynamic of electronic ‘speed-up.’ This methodological insufficiency was...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Prosthetic Aesthetics
      (pp. 69-90)

      McLuhan developed his theory of space in three major phases. The first of these worked out the implications of mechanical space and its origins in print, a focus McLuhan maintained up to and includingThe Gutenberg Galaxy. In the second major phase, McLuhan explored electronic spacetime and its interaction with the senses, a focus initiated inThe Gutenberg Galaxyand followed through inReport on Project in Understanding New MediaandUnderstanding Media. This latter work, a revision ofReport, initiated a third and profoundly recursive¹ phase in McLuhan’s career in which he explored the implications of acoustic space, revisiting...

  6. INTERFACE: The Intellectual as Vates
    (pp. 91-98)

    It is generally assumed that McLuhan’s intellectual career was at its height in the 1960s (the era that Robert Fulford has called ‘The Age of McLuhan’),¹ what with his publication within a two-year span of the works (along with theMechanical Bride) that brought him international attention:The Gutenberg GalaxyandUnderstanding Media. It is likewise assumed that after the publication of these works, and definitively by the 1970s, McLuhan – ‘Canada’s Intellectual Comet,’ as Richard Shickel called him² – entered into a period of decline,³ his authority no longer recognized, his Centre for Culture and Technology closed by the...

  7. PART TWO SCAPED

    • CHAPTER FIVE Artiste de livres
      (pp. 101-135)

      McLuhan’s intellectual roots are generally placed in the Modernist literary idiom, with specific influences traced to Joyce, Pound, and Eliot (as in the studies by Theall [1971], Marchand, and Gordon), and to the New Critical methodologies that grew up around their work. Like Pound especially, however, much of McLuhan’s intellectual nourishment was derived from artists in the visual and musical realms; indeed, his first book,The Mechanical Bride, can be seen as a long meditation on Duchamp’sThe Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. These affinities take on a special significance when McLuhan is understood as not only a...

    • CHAPTER SIX Visible Speech
      (pp. 136-169)

      Daniel Belgrad’s elaboration of a ‘culture of spontaneity’ in the art (and theory) of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s might just as readily have been formulated as a ‘culture of orality,’ so powerfully did orality and its cognates of conversation, dialogue, and voice inform the period of American artistic production of which Belgrad writes. There was a significant interaction between a number of these artists (especially Charles Olson) and writers associated withTISH, a literary magazine published in Vancouver starting in 1961. As Frank Davey announced in the first editorial, ʻTISH is a moving and vocal mag.’¹ This theme was...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Art without Walls
      (pp. 170-196)

      The concept of ‘environment’ was of considerable importance to McLuhan in the work he produced afterUnderstanding Media, insofar as it was the domain of interfaces and had an orientation towards the material, embodied context of artistic (including media) production. With this term, McLuhan sought to convey the notion that the world around us, and the lived experience of it, had become artifactual through the effects of media, such that nature could be said to have collapsed into culture. In an environment in which everything tended towards the artifactual (in the same way that in the Mallarméan universe everything existed...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Borderlines
      (pp. 197-222)

      Throughout his career, McLuhan positioned himself as a Canadian; Canada was the counter-environment grounding his artistic/intellectual notions of the dynamics of spatial production. He emphasized this positioning in a statement he made late in his career about growing up on the prairies and the panoramas it had afforded him: ‘I think of western skies as one of the most beautiful things about the West, and the western horizons. The Westerner doesn’t have a point of view. He has a vast panorama; he has such tremendous space around him.’¹ Significantly, McLuhan expresses his insight spatially; he identified spatiality as a distinguishing...

  8. POSTFACE: McLuhan in Space
    (pp. 223-228)

    McLuhan was a theoristavant la lettreof the cultural production of space; until relatively recently, in fact, that term would have lacked a significant context of meaning. Although ‘spatial science’ began to emerge in anglophone geography in the years after the Second World War, as Derek Gregory has remarked,¹ it was not until the 1974 publication of Henri Lefebvre’sLa Production de l’espace(English translation 1991) that space became an issue within critical theory generally (as opposed to the more restricted literary-critical notion of spatial form), touching on a myriad of aspects within social and cultural production. (McLuhan, by...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 229-300)
  10. Details of Sigla
    (pp. 301-302)
  11. Index
    (pp. 303-322)