Archive for September, 2011

McLuhan’s Message

I’m going to be part of a seminar at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol on the 6th of October which is one of a series of events programmed to mark the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. The panel I’m part of will be discussing the phenomena of ‘walled gardens in the global village,’ with the panel description being:


McLuhan’s sense of the Global Village was not as a Utopian place, but an increasingly  tribal site of conflicts. Web 2.0 raises the fundamental issue of ‘walled gardens’, areas of segregation for commercial purposes (e.g. Facebook and iTunes). This panel debates the phenomenon of the walled garden and how other ‘plants’ may subsist or not in the digital world.

In addition to the live events, the Watershed has created a website which has some interviews with some contemporary theorists who engage with the legacy of McLuhan’s ideas along with a piece I’ve written titled ‘Technological Determinism and Neuroplasticity,’ which looks at ways that current evidence from cognitive science reflects on the debates between McLuhan and Raymond Williams about technological determinism in media studies.

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There’s a special issue of the open-access journal Fibrecultures out which explores a series of ideas around media ecologies, inlcuding contributions from the likes of Jussi Parikka, Matthew Fuller and Michael Goddard…

The special issue includes some really interesting perspectives on the emergence of media ecologies as a methodology for exploring media systems using neo-materialist theory and post-humanist politics.

This issue is an exercise in media ecology that is paradoxically unnatural. Instead of assuming a natural connection to the established tradition of Media Ecology in the Toronto-school fashion of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and the work of scholars involved in the Media Ecology Association (http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/), our issue stems from another direction; its theoretical orientation is more inspired by the work of Felix Guattari and engages with several overlapping ecologies that are aesthetico-political in their nature. It stems from a more politically oriented way of understanding the various scales and layers through which media are articulated together with politics, capitalism and nature, in which processes of media and technology cannot be detached from subjectivation. In this context, media ecology is itself a vibrant sphere of dynamics and turbulences including on its technical level. Technology is not only a passive surface for the inscription of meanings and signification, but a material assemblage that partakes in machinic ecologies. And, instead of assuming that ‘ecologies’ are by their nature natural (even if naturalizing perhaps in terms of their impact on capacities of sensation and thought) we assume them as radically contingent and dynamic, in other words as prone to change.

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