“The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic”: Birthday Boy Marshall McLuhan Meets Norman Mailer

Marshall McLuhan would have turned 99 years old today, and his status as the god-daddy of media studies still seems pretty rock-solid. I wasn’t previously aware of how often the Canadian theorist appeared on TV, and was especially unaware of his November 1967 duet with New York novelist Norman Mailer on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation show The Summer Way, bravely moderated by Ken Lefolii.

Recovered from recent treatment for a benign brain tumor he suffered while teaching in New York, McLuhan gamely tugs at a few of Mailer’s pretensions. Mailer is recently back from levitating the Pentagon with the Yippies, with the siege of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention in his future.

McLuhan pops off a bunch of gems, including:

The planet is no longer nature, it’s now the content of an artwork.

Nature has ceased to exist…it needs to be programmed.

The environment is not visible, it’s information—it’s electronic.

The present is only faced by any generation by the artist.

Communications maven Michael Hinton goes speculative on his hero’s televised meeting with the Jersey-raised boxer-novelist, but of course it’s best to just check the thing out yourself.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Nachmann
07:00 pm
Africa Rising: Grassroots-Tech and The Homemade Robot of Togo

Sidewalk wrought iron artisan James Mutahi works his homemade arc welder in Limuru, north of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Dominic Wanjihia. From Afrigadget.

Preparation for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (which starts in a couple of days) has drawn the West’s attention to the continent as a premiere sports and entertainment venue. But let’s also recognize that African countries have been quietly building a new set of infrastructures based on mobile and web connectivity, grassroots-tech ingenuity and turbo-micro-entrepreneurship.

Kenyan-raised Erik Hersman’s White African and Afrigadget are just a couple of the many blogs raising awareness about Africa’s long-running tech revolution, as epitomized by events like Maker Faire Africa. The below, from JustGiving’s YouTube channel and featured in Afrigadget, teases out some of the more everyday implications:



As a side-note: You may have read about the survivalist trend in America that mostly involves stocking up a panic room with guns, gold and Twinkies. Many populations in Africa continue to survive and innovate through the kind of emergency situations—natural disasters, economic devastation, military dictatorships, etc.—that your friendly neighborhood doomsayer can’t comprehend.  


Posted by Ron Nachmann
01:54 pm