Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On the Binding Biases of Time

Okay, time for the big announcement.  I have a new book out now.  It's called On the Binding Biases of Time and Other Essays on General Semantics and Media Ecology.  It's published by the Institute of General Semantics, and all of the royalties are being donated to the IGS.  Here's the cool looking cover, designed by Peter Darnell of Visible Works Design, and incorporating a cartoon image created by David Arshawsky especially for this book.

The book is available in both cloth and softcover, by the way.  As for the contents, here they are:

Chapter One            Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics
Chapter Two            Quandaries, Quarrels, Quagmires, and Questions
Chapter Three         A Systems View of Semantic Environments and Media Environments
Chapter Four           On the Binding Biases of Time
Chapter Five            Post(modern)man
Chapter Six              Defender of the Word
Chapter Seven         Paradox Lost
Chapter Eight          The Ten Commandments and the Semantic Environment
Chapter Nine           Tolkiens of My Affection
Chapter Ten             Poetry Ring
Chapter Eleven        Be(a)Very Afraid
Chapter Twelve        The Supreme Identification of Corporations and Persons
Chapter Thirteen     Healthy Media Choices
Chapter Fourteen    The Future of Consciousness

 And here's the write up:

On the Binding Biases of Time and Other Essays on General Semantics and Media Ecology consists of a series of explorations into our use of symbols, language, and media to relate to our environment, and how our different modes of perception and communication influence human consciousness, culture, and social organization.  These essays draw upon and integrate the perspectives of general semantics, systems theory, and media ecology, bringing them to bear upon a diversity of topics that include the future of consciousness, identity and meaning, the Ten Commandments, media literacy, The Lord of the Rings, and our relationship to time.  Throughout this volume, Strate grapples with the question of what it means to be human, and what the prospects may be for humanity's continued survival.  As he concludes in the title essay of this book:  "As a species, we are binders of time, bound up by our biases of time; we are moved by our consciousness of time, as we tell time, and as we tell ourselves that only time will tell; as we play for time, and as we pray, as we pray for time."

And as for blurbs, well, got some of those too:

A collection of essays that reads like a picaresque novel, On the Binding Biases of Time takes the reader on a journey into the heart of ecological thinking.  Lance Strate—an artist at the process of abstracting—delivers on his promise in the Introduction:  for people unfamiliar with the fields he deals with, he provides a very good summary and explanation.  But he does much more:  for readers well versed in these fields, he provides a GPS—not a map but an entire navigational system—connecting between general semantics and media ecology; between Korzybski, Johnson, McLuhan and Postman; the Ten Commandments and Tolkien; Groucho Marx, Goldilocks and Pete Seger; Heraclitus and postmodernism; World War I and 9/11; consciousness and the self; space and time. And he does this in his usual lucid prose, with a deeply touching poetic streak and wonderful sense of humor. If Neil Postman whom he quotes was right and "clarity is courage," Lance Strate gets the Medal of Honor.
—Dr. Eva Berger, Dean of the School of Media Studies, College of Management and Academic Studies, Israel

What a wonderfully compelling and utterly inviting entry point to one of the most significant conceptual frameworks of modern times. Lance Strate should be applauded for bringing Alfred Korzybski and general semantics into the contemporary conversation as never before.
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed, and Life Inc.

On the Binding Biases of Time is a very humane book authored by a thoughtful and insightful writer. Lance Strate brings to life the central concepts of general semantics, systems theory, and media ecology in brief, sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious essays. This volume provides a better, more engaging discussion of these complex topics than anything else published in the past quarter century. It is packed with important insights about communication, media, and living in today’s world. It also happens to be great fun to read.
—Michael Cole, Dr. Sanford I. Berman Chair in General Semantics at the University of California, San Diego

Aristotle was wrong. A thing CAN be both A and not-A—and this collection of essays, combining scholarly rigor and compulsive readability, is proof positive.  Highly recommended for discerning meaning-makers of every stripe: from the specialist to the student to the simply curious.
—Susan Maushart, author of The Winter of Our Disconnect

Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing Lance Strate deliver one of his keenly illuminating addresses will know what to expect in this volume:  daringly original extrapolations of the work of McLuhan, Korzybski, Tolkien (that's right), and a flurry of thinkers familiar and perhaps not yet familiar to you.  If you're in search of some intellectual stimulation, coming upon this book is your lucky day."
—Paul Levinson, author of New New Media, The Plot to Save Socrates, and Twice Upon a Rhyme

This intelligent and well-crafted collection of essays by Professor Strate provides an essential, complete and accessible context for understanding the contemporary intersection of general semantics, media ecology and the broad array of disciplines that fall under the umbrella of communication studies. On the Binding Biases of Time is a “must read” not just for those interested in the historical and conceptual evolution of these fields of study, but for all who want to understand how and why these disciplines are enjoying a theoretical and practical resurgence in importance and popularity for scholars and the general public nearly 90 years after some of these ideas were first introduced.  
—Ed Tywoniak, Professor of Communication, Saint Mary’s College of California

So, you can order it directly from the Institute of General Semantics, or through online booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the like.  Here are the links for Amazon:

So, that's pretty much it.  I hope you like it, but more importantly, I hope you order a copy.  And don't forget to ask your college library to order it too.  And if it's not too much trouble, some favorable comments and "likes" over at Amazon would be welcome as well.    That seems to be the thing nowadays.  New media, social media, you know the drill.  But nothing beats actually buying the book.  Except maybe reading it.  One or the other, well, preferably both.  It would make a great gift too.  Or required text for a class.  Just saying...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Media and Formal Cause in Effect!

And now this.  To follow up on my previous post, Media and Formal Cause, which provides extensive information about this important new book by Marshall McLuhan and Eric McLuhan, and which provided information about preordering the book, I'm happy to share with you the fact that it is now available for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and elsewhere on the old interwebs.  Here's the link for Amazon:

No good media ecology scholar should be without one!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Selections from Science and Sanity

So, I don't know if you've noticed that I haven't been posting all that much lately.  I know we tend to not notice things that are absent to the same degree that we pay attention to things that are present.  And I don't imagine that all that many people are waiting for my next post with bated breath (what does "bated" mean, after all you may be thinking if you have the kind of mind that goes off on tangents a lot, and if you have the kind of mind that is a bit on the dirty side, then no, it's not what you're thinking, it's short for abated).

So maybe you think I owe you an explanation, maybe not.  And maybe I think I owe you an explanation, and maybe not.  And maybe I actually do.  Owe you.  An explanation.  Or maybe not.  But here goes.

One reason I've been less active with blogging and other new media for the past several months is that I've been involved with several book projects.  One of them was the subject of my previous post, Media and Formal Cause.  And I'll have an update on that soon, by the way.  Another will be the topic of a separate post in the near future, and a rather exciting one at that.  But this post is devoted to a book that I worked on quite extensively, as Editor of the Second Edition of Alfred Korzybski's Selections from Science and Sanity:  An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.   With the unabridged version coming in at over 800 pages, this authorized abridgment first published in 1948 has been sorely needed, and especially prepared for classroom use.  Here is what the cover looks like:

Pretty snazzy, huh?  Special thanks to Peter Darnell and Visible Works Design on that.  

This book represents the launching of the New Non-Aristotelian Library series, for which Corey Anton is the General Editor, and this new edition includes forewords from Corey and myself, a new introduction from Korzybski biographer Bruce Kodish, and the addition of an abridged version of the preface Robert P. Pula wrote for the Fifth Edition of the unabridged work (yes, there have been five editions of Science and Sanity, which means that Selections needs three more to catch up!).

And here's a bit more about the book:

Selections from Science and Sanity represents Alfred Korzybski's authorized abridgement of his magnum opus, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. This second edition, published in response to the recent Korzybski revival, adds new introductory material and a revised index, providing an accessible introduction to Korzybski's arguments concerning the need for a non-Aristotelian approach to knowledge, thought, perception, and language, to coincide with our non-Newtonian physics and non-Euclidean geometries, to Korzybski's practical philosophy, applied psychology, pragmatics of human communication, and educational program. Selections from Science and Sanity serves as an excellent introduction to general semantics as a system intended to aid the individual's adjustment to reality, enhance intellectual and creative activities, and alleviate the many social ills that have plagued humanity throughout our history.

As for ordering a copy, you can get it from the Institute of General Semantics Store, or online from any major bookseller.  Below are direct links to get the book from Amazon, if you care to:

It's quite a selection, indeed, if I do say so myself.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Media and Formal Cause

I am very pleased to share with you the happy news that a book I've helped to usher into existence, working in an editorial capacity in conjunction with NeoPoiesis Press, is now in print and available for preorder (see below for the info).

Here's the scoop:  The title of the book is (drum roll please)...

Media and Formal Cause 

and the authors are (and this is very cool indeed, so another drum roll if you please)...

Marshall McLuhan and Eric McLuhan

So, check out the very cool cover as well:

And, to top it all off, I was privileged to have been asked to write a Foreword for the book, which I did.  Here's an excerpt from it:

On behalf of NeoPoiesis Press, I would like to express our great pleasure at being able to publish this important little book.  It is indeed quite fitting that our first venture outside of the realm of poetry and creative writing is a work that concerns itself with poetics and aesthetics, with the creative process, with poiesis both new and old.  Moreover, many have commented on the poetic nature of Marshall McLuhan’s probes and commentary, and this work, co-authored by Eric McLuhan, is no exception. . . .  as Buber indicates, there is a spiritual dimension to formal causality, as there is to all acts of creation.  But for those who prefer a more scientific outlook, let me simply note that formal cause corresponds to the systems view of Gregory Bateson, to the dissipative structures of physicist Ilya Prigogine, to the fractal geometry of Benoit Mandelbrot and the metapatterns of Tyler Volk, to the autopoietic systems of biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, and in general to the systems concept of emergence.

McLuhan, along with other media ecology scholars, has been accused of being a technological determinist.  And while technological determinism has largely been used as a straw man argument to dismiss McLuhan and others without due consideration, the deterministic language of cause-and-effect is easy enough to slip into, by force of habit, and for wont of easily accessible alternatives. Thus, we may end up with statements like, the stirrup caused feudalism as a shorthand, in the same way that we might say that evolution caused us to walk erect.  For media ecologists and biologists alike, we understand that that kind of language is a form of shorthand, and a kind of poetry, used to represent much more complex processes.  That complexity can be better represented by the concept of formal cause, rather than cause-and-effect (otherwise known as efficient cause); formal cause is the causality of emergent properties, the causality that media ecologists often have in mind when we consider the impact of technological change on individuals and societies, on communication, consciousness, and culture.  

Of course, what counts are the words that come afterward, and they include Eric McLuhan's Introduction, "The Relation of Environment to Anti-Environment" by Marshall McLuhan, "Causality in the Electric World" by Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt, with responses by Joseph Owens and Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, "Formal Causality in Chesterton" by Marshall McLuhan, and Eric McLuhan's extended essay "On Formal Cause" (not to mention a bibliography and index, if such things matter to you, they do out in the world of librarians and scholars).

That's all well and fine, you might be saying, but what about the blurbs?  After all, that is what McLuhan said would be the future of the book, and this book certainly does have a future, so here are some advance reviews for you:

A sage and perceptive quartet of essays which capture and extend a still quintessentially unique way of thinking about media, via patterns and connections that harken to the ancient world and redound to our present and future.
- Paul Levinson, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University; author of Digital McLuhan, and  New New Media

No one understood causality, whether Aristotelian or electric, like Marshall McLuhan. Now, in Media and Formal Cause, no one reveals understanding of formal cause in the digital environment better than McLuhan’s protégé son, Eric. In the foreword, Lance Strate writes that M. McLuhan’s Understanding Media was one of the most important books of the 20th century. For anyone who wishes to understand how things truly work, Media and Formal Cause is one of the most important books of the 21st. Arguably formal cause has been the least understood but and the most intellectually important of all of Aristotle’s four agents or processes of causation. This small volume proffers a large understanding of this formative, previously mysterious level of invisible creation. Three essays by Marshall (one with co-author Barry Nevitt) and a powerful new essay by Eric give new meaning to ye olde cliché, “like father, like son”. While reading writing that is engaging, encyclopedic, and electric, we discover that formal cause is not what you think... but it is vital to how you think.

- Thomas Cooper, Professor of Visual and Media Arts, Emerson College; author of Fast Media/Media Fast

In Media and Formal Cause Eric McLuhan updates an important part of his father’s work that is often overlooked, the quixotic role of causality in making sense of how new media change the way we construct our environment and our communication. How does novelty cause antiquity? When do effects precede causes? Read on, and you shall find out.

- David Rothenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Music, New Jersey Institute of Technology; author of Why Birds Sing and Thousand Mile Song

Like his mentor, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Marshall McLuhan was often accused of indulging in mere paradox. But Media and Formal Cause demonstrates the profound understanding that underlies the work of both Chesterton and McLuhan, the understanding that we live in a paradoxical world. Both McLuhan and Chesterton attempted to jar readers loose from what Cardinal Newman called "paper logic" into a recognition of the total situation in which we find ourselves. This very readable and accessible volume should greatly assist new readers of McLuhan and remind long time students of just how challenging and exhilarating his explorations were.

- Philip Marchand, author, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger

This insightful book entices the reader to engage the legacy of McLuhan. The paradox of formal cause resonates with our post-literate environment. The reader who truly wishes to understand media will recognize the value of these essays.

- Catherine Waite Phelan, Chair and Professor of Communication, Hamilton College; author of Mediation and the Communication Matrix

This well-chosen collection of essays is essential reading for anyone who wants to think critically about how to understand the pervasive role of media in our world. A provocative and highly innovative perspective on modernity is provided by the use of the notion of formal causation, while new light is also shed on the Aristotelian tradition in which the notion was first developed. This neglected conception of causality remains of profound importance today.
- Paul Franks, Senator Jerahmiel S. and Carole S. Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy, University of Toronto

Questions about the nature of causality have puzzled philosophers for a very long time. In this collection of papers by and about Marshall McLuhan, we see how these issues can gain new and wider relevance in today's media-focused age. The book illustrates and elucidates McLuhan's thoughts on formal cause, a concept that he believed could help us to grasp the complex relations between media and their effects. In addition to three of McLuhan's own characteristically challenging papers, the associated commentary from Eric McLuhan and Lance Strate help to clarify and contextualize these vital ideas for scholars, artists, and anyone else interested in the fundamental issues of human communication.

- Gerald Erion, Professor of Philosophy, Medaille College 

And if you, for some strange reason, find yourself asking who are these McLuhan fellows, well, here's a little something to tide you over before you go off making with the Google:

Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980) attended the University of Manitoba and there earned a B.A. and M.A. in English (1934). He then attended Cambridge University and received the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English (1944). 

He taught at the University of Wisconsin, the Saint Louis University, Assumption University (Windsor, 1944) and St. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto (Toronto, 1946-1980), where he headed the interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Technology. Besides many hundreds of articles in a broad variety of magazines and journals, he has written over twenty books. These include The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man; Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selected Poetry; The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man; The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of his Time; Voices of Literature (three volumes; with Richard Schoeck); Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations; The Medium is the Massage; War and Peace in the Global Village; Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (with Harley Parker); The Interior Landscape: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan, 1943-1962; Counterblast (designed by Harley Parker); Mutations 1990; Culture is Our Business; From Cliché to Archetype (with Wilfred Watson); Take Today: The Executive as Drop Out (with Barry Nevitt); City as Classroom: Understanding Language and Media (with Kathryn Hutchon and Eric McLuhan); D’oeil a Oreille, Autre homme autre chretien a l’age electronique (with Pierre Babin).

Posthumous publications include the following: Letters of Marshall McLuhan; Laws of Media: The New Science (with Eric McLuhan); The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century (with Bruce Powers); Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message; Essential McLuhan; Forward Through the Rear View Mirror: Reflections on and by Marshall McLuhan; The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion and Media; The Book of Probes; Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews; McLuhan Unbound; Theories of Communication (with Eric McLuhan); and the present volume, Media and Formal Cause (with Eric McLuhan).

Marshall McLuhan is recognized as the inventor of the field of media study. In Laws of Media, he showed the seamless relation between literary criticism and understanding new media and artifacts, and he demonstrated that the new tools for media study had dissolved the long-held division between the arts and the sciences. This book concerns one of the principal such tools.

Eric McLuhan received his B. Sc. in Communication from Wisconsin State University in 1972. He got the M. A. and Ph. D. in English Literature from the University of Dallas in 1980 and 1982. An internationally-known lecturer on communication and media, he has over forty years’ teaching experience in subjects ranging from highspeed reading techniques to English literature, media, and communication theory, and has taught at many colleges and universities in both the United States and Canada. 

He has published articles in magazines and professional journals since 1964 on media, perception, and literature, and assisted Marshall McLuhan with the research and writing of The Medium is the Massage, War and Peace in the Global Village, Culture is Our Business, From Cliché to Archetype, and Take Today: The Executive as Drop-Out. He is co-author: with Marshall McLuhan and Kathryn Hutchon, of City as Classroom (Irwin, 1977); with Marshall McLuhan, of Laws of Media: The New Science (University of Toronto Press, 1988); and with Wayne Constantineau, of The Human Equation (Toronto: BPS Books, 2010).

Eric McLuhan is the author of The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake (University of Toronto Press, 1997); Electric Language: Understanding the Present (Stoddart, 1998); and Theories of Communication (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). He is the co-editor of Essential McLuhan (Stoddart, 1995), and Who Was Marshall McLuhan? (1994; Stoddart, 1995), and the editor of The Medium and the Light (Stoddart, 1999); the academic journal, McLuhan Studies; and editor, for Gingko Press, of Understanding Media, Critical Edition (2003); McLuhan Unbound (2004); and The Book of Probes (2004), and was consulting editor for Voyager/Southam’s “McLuhan Project,” which produced Understanding McLuhan (1997), a CD on Marshall McLuhan and his work. 

So, where can I get a hold of this book, because I have to have a copy, you are no doubt asking at this moment.  And the answer is quite simple.  Media and Formal Cause will be available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major online distributors in the near future.

But I can't wait that long!, I have to have it now!, you might well be saying.  And who could blame you.  So, if you want to be the first on your block (or faculty office suite) to own a copy, you can do a preorder on the NeoPoiesisPress site on a link on the Media and Formal Cause page at the following URL:  http://neopoiesispress.com/58044.html

So head on over right now, and tell 'em I sent ya!