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McLuhan’s critical thought

Emanuela Patti and Matteo CiastellardiRe-cognizing McLuhan’s critical thought. In 2011 over 200 events worldwide have revitalized vibrant multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary debate around McLuhan’s thought, best known for his popular concepts such as ‘the global village’ and ‘the medium is the message’. Drawing on his most famous works, The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), we can readily understand why in the last sixty years his name has mainly been associated to media theory. In the last two decades, especially, the arrival of the Internet, the explosion of new interactive media, the convergence between old and new media and the development of innovative communication practices have indeed confirmed that Marshall McLuhan’s ideas and the approach of the School of Toronto are still as relevant and transformative today as they were fifty years ago when he foresaw how technology would transform humanity. We cannot but acknowledge the impact of media technology on culture and welcome McLuhan’s thought in every disciplinary field, since there is no subject area, as a socially intended form of knowledge, which is excluded from a technological environment.


100 years...

Eric and Derrick2011 has been the year of numerous celebrations for the McLuhan centennial. It is wonderful to see how, the world over, the life and works of Herbert Marshall McLuhan are being celebrated 100 years after his birth on July 21st, 1911. McLuhan was so much ahead of his time, that after a brief but enviable fame, he was forgotten even during the last ten years of his life. He died December 31st, 1980, and a few conferences were dedicated to him, mostly in Italy, and fewer in Canada. And yet, in July 1986, the Times Literary Supplement actually declared that, for a short while, Toronto, thanks to him and the School of Toronto (Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, McLuhan and his followers, some of whom are in this first issue, became the intellectual centre of the world.

It took the world almost 50 years to catch up with his extraordinary predicting abilities and verify the following two sentences from the first version of Understanding Media (1962):