Monday, April 11, 2011

McLuhan, Marshall. Letter to J. M. Davey (Office of the Prime Minister). 22 March 1971.

Dear Jim:

I think you may be specially interested in my letter on hijacking a city, a business, a country, etc. Hijacking is a process made possible by high speed travel or high speed information movement. Conglomerates are probably a form of hijacking which I haven't specially studied.

It was on Sunday, The Feast of Our Lady, that I made what is perhaps the major discovery of my life, namely the fact that Western philosophers have never considered artifacts or technologies as entelechies. The idea of a vortex of energy created by extensions of man is totally alien to Western phil­osophy. Instead, concepts and classifications have been substituted for the perceptual study of effects. Percepts have been supplanted by concepts and classifications, which are static. It was, of course, our own phonetic alphabet that "wrote off" the entire study of processes and effects. It is not surprising then that Harold Innis was brushed aside and that my own work has been rigorously downgraded. It was the symbolist poets who began the study of effects minus causes. This is a technique indispensable to the developing of perception and the by-passing of concepts.

I am enclosing a description of a proposal that I made earlier to a friend in University administration. The possibility of a continuous seminar with a rotating nucleus of dialoguers could be useful in Ottawa as well as in any University. Once it is understood that for dialogue one must table one's ignorance, not one's knowledge, it is possible to make top level discoveries in any field, whether physics, mathematics, or the arts, or administration. It doesn't matter where one starts, as long as the problems are related to processes. For example, the problem of "rock" music in its relation to the English language on the one hand, and Negro dance on the other is currently yielding some very exciting discoveries among my students.

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