McLuhan’s Philosophy of Media
Centennial Conference – Contact Forum
26-28 October 2011 – Brussels
Eric McLuhan, Robert K. Logan, Paul Levinson, Graham Harman, Peter-Paul Verbeek
Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): media theorist, cultural critic, provoker. Undoubtedly influential. Pitching phrases like ‘the medium is the message’ and ‘the global village,’ McLuhan rose to stardom in the 1960s, only to see his fame decay during the last decade of his life. Since the early 1990s however, his ideas have been gradually rediscovered by academics and pop culture alike. The digital revolution made him, retrospectively, a quite accurate analyst of the information era, even a visionary in the eyes of some. Within communication studies, cultural studies, sociology, and philosophy, his insights remain fertile ground for anyone trying to understand the interactions of humans, technologies, and media environments.
In 2011, McLuhan would have celebrated his 100th birthday. A perfect moment to look back as well as ahead. During this interdisciplinary conference, we will discuss McLuhan’s ideas from different perspectives and traditions. At the same time we wish to highlight an aspect of McLuhan that until now has been underexposed: his philosophy of media. Inasmuch as he reflected upon the workings and forms of media, McLuhan truly was a philosopher of technology, very much in the style of contemporary Anglo-American philosophers of technology: weaving together ontology, phenomenology, critique, and cultural observations into an eclectic patchwork bent on understanding media dynamics. And “media,” in McLuhan’s sense, could be anything made by humans, ranging from cars over political systems to ideas. Throughout this centennial celebration, we seek to investigate McLuhan’s “media philosophy,” in particular its relation to, relevance for, and place in philosophy and media studies. More specifically, but not exhaustively, the following topics could be discussed:
– McLuhan’s media theory and its relevance in the context of today’s media research
– General concepts in McLuhan’s theory of media, e.g., causality, rationality, spatiality, temporality, corporeality, extension
– “Is the medium still the message in the 21st century?”
– Metaphysics in McLuhan
– “Technologies-as-Extension” theories
– McLuhan’s use/critique of logic
– Parallels and connections between McLuhan’s media theory and other philosophical or philosophically inspired schools, e.g., phenomenology, structuralism, Thomism, idealism, linguistics
– The scope of McLuhan’s media analysis
– McLuhan’s interpretation and reading of philosophers and writers, e.g., Francis Bacon, Vico, Aristotle, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Shakespeare, the Bible
– The relevance and usability of the ‘tetrad’
Since we aim at an interdisciplinary conference, we welcome contributions from all academic fields.
A selection of the presented papers will be published afterwards.