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