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Marshall McLuhan: Art as Distant Early Warning System

“I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it”. – Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

While puffing on a cigar, communications guru Marshall McLuhan – once dubbed the Sage of Aquarius – holds court in April 1973 during one of his famous evening seminars at the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. The centre (of which he was director) was located in an architectural throwback: a coach house built in 1903. But McLuhan’s theories were forward-thinking and prophetic: he recognized that the world had become a global village in its electronic interdependence and divined the advent of the World Wide Web in The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962). And in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), he first posited that “the medium is the message,” pointing out that the medium’s structure – how it relays information, as opposed to the information itself – is what shapes society and our perceptions of reality. Read more.


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