a way of understanding technological development sociologically
hermeneutics comes from 19c biblical study, interpretation.
there is something missing in these... a kind of politics of this interpretation, a politics of technical change.
why it matters that we think about technology in the ﬁrst place, this is missing from the tetrads.
Marshall McLuhan - CanadaAsACounter Environmen▯
Articulating a politics of meaning. Think back to Debord's Detournemen▯ and how the production of meaning is a
Emphasis on form over content in McLuhan's thinking. The message of a medium is another medium. The
medium is the message. etc. These adages point to form of a media over and above the content expressed by the
medium. We will see that Semiotics is also fundamentally about meaning, a formal theory of meaning.
People used to and still do talk about meaning by focusing on content: what are the main themes of this or that
The Politics of McLuhan's Thinking About Technology
Over the post war period there is a big debate happening in Canada and around the world concerning the rise of
american power and the rise and spread of american consumer culture and popular culture. People outside
American are trying to think about what it means that their children are listening to american music and wearing
american brands etc all these completely foreign and remote to their national context but these are the desires and
dreams our kids are being inundated with. Is it good or bad? most think bad, it is cultural imperialism, they are
colonizing us with their culture. Society of the Spectacle etc.
ie in Daﬀy Duck comic books a moneybags character comes and solves all the problem. the message being that
america will solve all your problems, american money/capitalism speciﬁcally.
this is what McLuhan is entering with his essays.
Think back to Maurice Charland's pieceTechnological Nationalis▯. If you say you dont want to be turned into an
american, we are canadian in some kind of way, then what is that canadian identity as opposed to the american
one. Charland's essay points out that Canadians have a myth of technological evolution/progress that has become a
form of canadian nationalism. That's one of our alternatives. McLuhan rejects that ideology, he doesn't want that
nationalism. That is the way Canadians think of themselves at the time, in this context of technological
nationalism. McLuhan takes a diﬀerent position. There is nothing uniquely canadian about technological progress,
it makes no sense to think of it as Canadian. He also rejects this linear evolutionary way of seeing technological
development anyway. It is true that Canadian's see themselves as Charland says, but McLuhan thinks we ought not
to. We need to ﬁnd something else that is 'canadian'.
Charland discusses the railroad as an ideological tool in nation building. (In talking about myth, Charland is using
this word the way Barthes theorizes it, and the way Levi-Strauss theorizes it.) Charland points out that the railroad
by itself didnt have enough mythical power on itself, so the state turned to the radio as a state project to create a
canadian identity (in fact the ﬁrst radios in canada were on the train!). By 1919 there are private radio stations
broadcasting in canada, but they are rebroadcasting american programming! in the 40s and 50s there are a range of
govt projects to keep out american culture. there is a broadcasting act of 1932 which founds something like a CBC
radio service. Charland points out two contradictions to this whole CBC project: on the one hand you have this
idea that the culture created will be canadian and yet the economics of how it is done in terms of a landscape of
private broadcasting (which is not made illegal, cbc is just one station in a landscape of american broadcasters) is
not canadian. the second contradiction is the technology itself, wihch becomes more pertinent with TV and
internet, where the technology is not canadian in any sense. so what does it mean to talk about digital media as
having some national cultural content to begin with, but then to say that this will be the carrier of canadian cultural content... all these attempts starting with the radio to mandat▯ a canadian culture using a capitalist
economic system and then a technology that is not canadian is all a contradiction. McLuhan had realized this and
saw that this whole project is bound to fail. it will not make a canadian identity. McLuhan thought this was a
Over the 40s and 50s the NFB the National Ballet the Canada Council for the Arts SSHRC the CRTC etc are
created and all have this mandate to foster a canadian identity in some form and help canadians tell stories to one
another abou ttheir own experience and in this respect serve as a dike against the sheer ﬂood of american culture
coming over the border.
Observe: CBC is told to provide content that is no▯ american. Doesn't say what is Canadian. It is just not american.