Thursday, January 29, 2009

McLuhan Redux/Remix

So, I recently heard from Jamie O'Neil, an assistant professor of digital media arts at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. Canisius is a Jesuit school, like my own Fordham University--in traditional parlance, we are sister schools. And Jamie is a media ecologist who was prompted to contact me by my friend, sister media ecologist, and fellow Media Ecology Association board member Ellen Rose from the University of New Brunswick. That's in Canada, you know...

So, Jamie is also a performance artist, and he has an alias, Kurt Weibers, or I guess you could call it a stage name, pseudonym, or what have you. Here's the deal, in his own words:

Jamie O'Neil is a video/performance artist, writer and teacher. In 2002, he created the virtual identity of Kurt Weibers for usage online, in videos and live performance seminars. Kurt Weibers is the spokesman for Global Point Strategies, which developed Navel Software for organizational change, as well as numerous motivational presentations on topics ranging from creativity, listening, time management and synchronicity, to quantitative research methods for understanding culture. Kurt Weibers works as a reporter, business consultant in Norway and a DJ / VJ (on the side) the latter role being the reason for his involvement in the McLuhan Remix project.
This write-up is taken from his McLuhan Remix website, which is worth a look. It includes some explanation of the remix or mash-up phenomenon, and its relationship to Marshall McLuhan, as well as a short video essay entitled, naturally enough, McLuhan Remix, which is made up of three YouTube videos. You can play them continuously on his McLuhan Remix page, but I will also embed them here for your convenience, dear reader:

McLuhan Remix: Prologue 1/3

McLuhan Remix: The Medium is the Mix 2/3

McLuhan Remix: Epilogue 3/3

There's other interesting material on kurtweibers's Channel on YouTube, which you can explore if you care to.

The bottom line, for me, is not so much that McLuhan was prescient, but simply that he was identifying the characteristics of electricity, electrical technology, and the electronic media environment, much as Lewis Mumford had done before him. Most of what is being hailed as new and unprecedented about contemporary digital technology is, in fact, characteristic of electric technology in general, and was recognized by media ecologists like Mumford and McLuhan over the course of the 20th century. That is why McLuhan is more relevant than ever today, as we continue to electrify just about everything we can. You might say that what we are doing is in one sense expanding the electronic media environment, but in another filling it in or filling it out, or to put it another way, coloring in between the power lines. Remixed drinks, anyone?

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