& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Marshall McLuhan's centenary

Earlier this week, I attended a panel discussion on Reading & Publishing: Paper or Screen organised by McLuhan Legacy Network to discuss the changing format of the book and the future of reading, publishing and libraries.

The panel comprised “authors, publishers and aggregators” and included John Cruickshank, Publisher, Toronto Star; Susan Caron, Manager, Collection Development, Toronto Library; Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q Radio One, CBC; Nathan Maharaj, Merchandising Director, Kobo eReader; Alana Wilcox, Editorial Director, Coach House Press & Carolyn Wood, Executive Director, Association of Canadian Publishers.

The discussion while insightful, was also a “a game of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy,” with everyone generally agreeing that even if technology changes reading habits, the habit of reading won’t disappear altogether. Not surprising, considering it was a congregation of believers in the supremacy of reading.

A similar panel discussion at the 2010 Luminato on Fiction in the Age of E-Books (authors Katherine Govier and Paul Theroux, publisher Sarah MacLachlan, bookseller Joel Silver and journalist Scott Stossel) had reached the same sort of conclusion of being “torn between hope and nostalgia.”

McLuhan Legacy Network had organised a series of events between July 18 and 24, to celebrate the centenary of Marshall McLuhan (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980). McLuhan was a Canadian.

McLuhan’s prophetic insights into the media and society have shaped our thinking over the last five decades. For instance, aphorisms such as the medium is the message, the global village, information overload, all advertising advertises advertising, the future of the book is the blurb, remain embedded in our consciousness, nearly five decades since they were postulated.

And his frighteningly prescient prediction about the Age of the Internet

“The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual's encyclopaedic function, and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.”

No comments:

Post a Comment