Media Releases

Marshall McLuhan’s Pioneering Work Still Revealing Itself

October 5, 2016

What’s Next for the University of Toronto’s Centre for Culture and Technology?

Toron­to, ON – Mar­shall McLuhan is the most influ­en­tial thinker in Cana­da known glob­al­ly for pre­dict­ing social media, the Inter­net, crowd-sourced news, and real­i­ty tele­vi­sion.

At the height of his fame in the mid-60s, he hob­nobbed with John Lennon, Pierre Trudeau, Nor­man Mail­er, Woody Allen, and Bar­bara Wal­ters. A Cana­di­an edu­ca­tor, philoso­pher, and schol­ar who worked at the inter­sec­tion of cul­ture and technology—he is cred­it­ed with build­ing the foun­da­tion for our obses­sion with dig­i­tal media. His Cen­tre of Cul­ture and Tech­nol­o­gy, locat­ed with­in a small coach house on the U of T cam­pus, act­ed as a club­house where he mulled over ideas and cre­at­ed ques­tions prob­ing how peo­ple com­mu­ni­cat­ed.

So why is Prof. McLuhan’s work rel­e­vant now, 36 years after this death? Because we are still pro­duc­ing intel­lec­tu­al giants at the Uni­ver­si­ty Toron­to.

“Mar­shall McLuhan and his Toron­to School col­leagues helped accen­tu­ate U of T’s posi­tion as a glob­al cen­tre for cre­ativ­i­ty and lead­er­ship in the human­i­ties,” said Mer­ic Gertler, pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. “He remains a key fig­ure in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and media stud­ies, and the work of the McLuhan Cen­tre for Cul­ture and Tech­nol­o­gy is vital in engag­ing local and inter­na­tion­al part­ners in explor­ing the impli­ca­tions of his the­o­ries for the 21st cen­tu­ry.”

For a forty year peri­od until the 1970s, McLuhan was part of a remark­able intel­lec­tu­al cli­mate with­in and around the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to when schol­ars Harold Innis, Eric Have­lock, Glenn Gould, and Northrop Frye made up the so-called Toron­to School of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Their the­o­ries were instru­men­tal in draw­ing world­wide atten­tion to the idea that tech­no­log­i­cal engage­ment plays a fun­da­men­tal role in the struc­tur­ing of human per­cep­tion and cul­ture.

The Uni­ver­si­ty is still build­ing on the foun­da­tion of McLuhan’s work con­duct­ed in his mod­est “Coach House,” where he spent much of his 30-year career at U of T, now affil­i­at­ed with the Fac­ul­ty of Infor­ma­tion.

“The Cen­tre for Cul­ture and Tech­nol­o­gy is an intel­lec­tu­al cab­in in a for­est of city sky­scrap­ers where Her­bert Mar­shall McLuhan engaged the pub­lic in prob­ing the inter­re­la­tion­ship of tech­nol­o­gy and cul­ture and their effects on per­cep­tion and social order,” says David Nos­t­bakken, a McLuhan for­mer stu­dent and teach­ing assis­tant of McLuhan’s, cur­rent­ly the McLuhan Cen­tre strate­gist.

The Cen­tre, first estab­lished on Octo­ber 24, 1963, in the heart of St. Michaels’ cam­pus, was where McLuhan con­duct­ed Mon­day Night Sem­i­nars, class­es, and art exhi­bi­tions, bring­ing togeth­er schol­ars and researchers from all branch­es of sci­ence and human­i­ties in dis­course with the city and the glob­al vil­lage.

The present day McLuhan Cen­tre wants to recap­ture the glob­al imag­i­na­tion of his com­mu­ni­ca­tions the­o­ries. The resur­gence start­ed with the famous McLuhan “Mon­day Night Sem­i­nars” last year, where each week three spe­cial guests inter­act with a McLuhan Fel­low mod­er­a­tor, and engage the assem­bled atten­dees from the uni­ver­si­ty, the city, and from around the world .“City as Class­room” has been the broad theme, with the goal to engage aca­d­e­mics, the city, busi­ness, indus­try, civ­il soci­ety, the arts, and pub­lic and pri­vate inter­est.

The Cen­tre will fur­ther recon­nect McLuhan to the City of Toron­to, and build a larg­er glob­al vil­lage, start­ing with the Her­itage Board rec­og­niz­ing the Coach House’s place in his­to­ry through a plaque unveil­ing on Octo­ber 12.

For three days after, a glob­al con­fer­ence, Toron­to School, Then Now, Next, will explore the val­ue of lead­ing Cana­di­an thinkers and oth­ers, con­tem­po­raries that inspired the world.

“The goal is to explore how we inform inno­v­a­tive think­ing and intel­lec­tu­al provo­ca­tion in Toron­to, and secure Canada’s place in for­ward-think­ing and tech­no­log­i­cal recon­fig­u­ra­tions of cul­ture,” says Prof. Sea­mus Ross, Inter­im Direc­tor of the McLuhan Cen­tre.

“The con­fer­ence will fos­ter the mak­ing of an intel­lec­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty that serves as a source of knowl­edge­able ener­gy and encour­age­ment for future research con­nec­tions around the lega­cy of the Toron­to School,” says Pao­lo Grana­ta, McLuhan Cen­te­nary Fel­low and Con­fer­ence Chair.

Speak­ers include John Ral­ston Saul (Canada’s lead­ing pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al), Mark King­well (Phi­los­o­phy Pro­fes­sor), Joshua Mey­rowitz (media the­o­rist), Sara Dia­mond (Pres­i­dent OCAD Uni­ver­si­ty), Arthur Kro­ker (pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al), Eric McLuhan (inter­na­tion­al­ly known lec­tur­er), and Gail Lord (Lord Cul­tur­al Resources).

EVENTS PLANNED (for a full event list­ing, please see

  • Wednes­day, Octo­ber 12, 12:00–1:00 pm, Toron­to Her­itage Plaque Unveil­ing (McLuhan Cen­tre) with Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Coun­cil­lor and Prof. Mer­ic Gertler, Pres­i­dent, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, among oth­er speak­ers
  • Thurs­day, Octo­ber 13, 5:30–7 pm, Lec­tio Magis­tralis by Paul Elie on “Glenn Gould and Mar­shall McLuhan” and open­ing of a Mul­ti-Media Exhi­bi­tion “McLuhan on Cam­pus: Local Inspi­ra­tions, Glob­al Visions” (St. Michael’s Col­lege)
  • Fri­day, Octo­ber 14, 9–9:30 am, open­ing cer­e­mo­ny The Toron­to School: Then, Now, Next Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence (Vic­to­ria Col­lege Build­ing).
  • Sun­day, Octo­ber 16, 5:30–6:30 pm, Town Hall Meet­ing “Rethink­ing the Glob­al Vil­lage in an era of Cities and Soft Pow­er” at the Then, Now, Next Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence (Isabel Bad­er The­atre).

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Media Con­tact: Kath­leen O’Brien, Fac­ul­ty of Infor­ma­tion, U of T, 416.978.7184 or