Dennie Heye on Chapters 26 to 29 for #UMRG

Dennie Heye has written the following about chapter 26 to 29.


To be honest, it took me a while to get into McLuhan’s writing. It reminded me of the theoretical books and articles I read during my university studies – but with the difference that McLuhan makes you think at least once every chapter and his thinking is still valid after decades.

Below my mindmap based on the chapters typewriter, telephone, phonograph and movies for others to peruse. It’s an interactive (expandable) PDF of the mindmap, hopefully this works for all.

Click to download/open PDF

Click to download/open PDF

I have outlined the questions that I would like to offer for discussion below. Unfortunately I will not be present during next week’s call to take part in the discussion:

1. McLuhan states that the telephone has decentralized every operation and bypasses hierarchical arrangements in business. This made me think how e-mail instant messaging and now social media has continued this trend. to this day. But still many (older?) organisations are still run via hierarchical “command and control” structures, although everyone knows that these structures are not how things get done, communicated or decided. Why do organisations still put so much effort and “respect” in hierarchical (management) structures, when the current set of technology tools could lead to more transparent communication, better informed decision making and more fluid operations?

2. In the chapter about the telephone, McLuhan writes: “”In any given structure, the rate of staff accumulation is not related to the work” and “The work to be done is actually the movement of information”. I have always worked in complex, global, large organizations and I am sometimes amazed how much staff is involved in moving information around. We handle, reprocess, (re)validate, re-work, discuss, re-route information all day – just look at the job titles nowadays: process owners, business analysts, information architect, compliancy officer etc. .I wonder how much of this work is part of a “ritual” (or perhaps even busy work?) or actually work that is crucial to make the organization realize it’s goals?

3. On the last page of the chapter about the phonograph, McLuhan puts a great set of short definitions:

Telephone: speech without walls
Phonograph: music hall without walls
Photograph: museum without walls
Electric light: space without walls
Move / radio / tv: classroom without walls

How would McLuhan have defined the Internet in the above list?

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3 thoughts on “Dennie Heye on Chapters 26 to 29 for #UMRG

  1. Good questions, Dennie. I provide a historical context based on the thinking of the Toronto School of Communication (of which McLuhan was a key member) in the first chapter of my doctoral thesis, located here: http://valencetheory.pbworks.com/A+Brief%2C+3%2C000-year+History+of+Organization.

    And as a suggestion for your third question, how about “Internet: Cocktail party without walls” (which I think might have appealed to Marshall’s playful, satiric nature).

  2. Pingback: Discussing #UMRG Chapters 26 to 29 | Understanding Media

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