Media Releases

McLuhan Thinkers Converge in Toronto

September 23, 2011

First International McLuhan Conference and Festival

TORONTO, ON — The legendary media theorist Marshall McLuhan will be celebrated in Toronto at the most significant gathering of McLuhan thinkers and creators ever assembled. Then I Now I Next: International Conference and DEW Line Festival runs from November 7 to November 10. Registration is now open.

The conference and festival is the centrepiece of a year-long celebration in honour of the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth (1911-1980). “Beginning early in 2011 with lectures, art installations, public events and media tributes, the city of Toronto and the University of Toronto continue to foster public engagement with the man who foresaw how technology would transform humanity.  Our goal is to infuse the city with this remarkable man and his global legacy,” says Seamus Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

The upcoming conference and festival allow Toronto to host the world. Coming to the city is a unique interdisciplinary group of Canadian and international experts on media and culture, drawn from the humanities, social sciences, and science and technology departments within universities, together with artists and leading public thinkers. Speakers and presenters hail from Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as McLuhan scholars from every Canadian province and territory. Held over four days, 100 speakers will deliver keynotes, panel presentations and debates, along with more than sixty academic papers presented thematically.

“McLuhan’s legacy is greater than a retelling of his work.  This conference is dedicated to working out trends McLuhan identified in far-flung fields, exploring the future as well as the past and the present of the intersection of art, academe and technology,” explains Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, Director of the Faculty of Information’s McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. “It’s the first time all four Toronto universities are collaborating on such a vision; the scale of it and the calibre of the speakers and presenters we’ve assembled are truly unprecedented. And the integration of a cultural festival into the conference line-up will allow academe and the general public to come together in discovering and celebrating McLuhan.”

Highlights from the conference line-up include:

  • Internationally renowned keynotes such as Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Faculty Director of Metalab at Harvard, who travels between fields of academe: IT (digitally augmented approaches to cultural programming); and art (for example, as a curator for the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Italian Pavillion of the 2010 Venice Biennale)
  • Explorations 1951-1957:  Reflections Upon the ‘Explorations’ Seminar and Journal is a key panel session contextualizing the movement later referred to as The Toronto School of Communication, exploring a special friendship and scholarly collaboration between Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Snow Carpenter (the anthropologist best known for his work on tribal art and visual media)
  • Linking McLuhan with the urban environment and his role as an activist is “Urban Mindscape” a point and counterpoint discussion inviting citizens to search for the invisible in order to make sense of their visible cities

Each conference day will be topped off with a cultural event and reception.  McLuhan resonates today equally with academia and the artistic community. In his famous quote from Understanding Media, McLuhan sums up his notion of artists as harbingers of cultural change: “I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”

The DEW line Festival offers visual art exhibitions and installations, lectures, film screenings and concerts in various locations across the city. The festival will close with a gala concert at Koerner Hall (details TBA). All are open to the general public.

Festival highlights include:

  • Strategic Arts Initiative 2.0: the return of the ground-breaking 1986 University of Toronto/University of Salerno first robotic telepresence art exhibition, inspired by the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defence Initiative
  • Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos: Artist Robert Bean’s installation 273@345 (brushing information against information) explores the influential relationship shared by composer John Cage and Marshall McLuhan. John Cage’s Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos is performed to this backdrop by local artists Casey Sokol and Andrew Craig
  • Media art and mixed media installations in 11 indoor galleries, 300 public space screens and 60 platforms throughout the TTC, all curated under the metaphor of artists as society’s harbingers of change

The Conference and Festival are a cooperative effort of many academic institutions and numerous cultural organizations from the city of Toronto, including and especially the Gladstone Hotel and Gallery, and Gallery 345. McLuhan100 Then | Now | Next International Conference and DEW Line Festival falls under the auspices of the McLuhan100 planning committee. It is co-sponsored by the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Celebrate Ontario, OCAF, and the City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture Division.

What: McLuhan International Conference and DEW Line Festival

When: November 7-10, 2011


Conference location: University of Toronto Chestnut Conference Centre

The DEW Line Festival takes place at various locations around Toronto


For more information, please contact:

Julia Howell

Kathleen O`Brien