For media ecology scholars, the Coach House has always been a place of force. On October 20th, 2015, the McLuhans and Mcluhanists gathered in the Coach House, at the University of Toronto, to revitalize the “McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology” for the 21st century.
This name was initially used just on “a card pinned to the door of Marshall McLuhan’s office in the English Department”, back in 1963, according to Wikipedia. Here is a brief history of the Centre for Culture and Technology, better known as the Coach House:
“In the early 1950s, McLuhan began the Communication and Culture seminars, funded by the Ford Foundation, at the University of Toronto. As his reputation grew, he received a growing number of offers from other universities and, to keep him, the university created the Centre for Culture and Technology in 1963… McLuhan remained at the University of Toronto through 1979, spending much of this time as head of his Centre for Culture and Technology…”
“It then had no organized program for research or teaching, but gained in prestige from the world-wide popularity of Understanding Media (1964) and grew in McLuhan’s last decade in Toronto, assisted by Derrick de Kerckhove and McLuhan’s son Eric, who became a director of the McLuhan Program International. In 1994, the McLuhan Program became a part of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. The program’s curriculum is based on the works of Marshall McLuhan and other media theorists. In 2009, the Faculty of Information launched the Coach House Institute (CHI) as a clearly defined research unit under which the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology now operates.”
This October, the Coach House got back its historical title: the Centre for Culture and Technology (not the McLuhan Program anymore).
When I was there this June, the Coach House still had its old sign.
But now the Coach House has a new sign:
Michael McLuhan told stories about this place. In particular, he mentioned famous people who visited the Coach House in the 70s, including Pierre Trudeau, the then Prime Minister of Canada and father of just-elected Justin Trudeau.
Pierre and Justin Trudeau, 1970s.
“Was he a Liberal?” – asked Michael. “Many of them are Liberals,” responded Robert K. Logan, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and co-author of Marshall McLuhan.
Alex Kuskis, Adjunct Professor of Communication at the Gonzaga University,
who was recently awarded by the Media Ecology Association for his blog McLuhan Galaxy, is telling about McLuhan’s legacy.
Eric McLuhan, son and coauthor of MM, and his son Andrew (close to the door),
who helps him to process and organize Marshall’s archives.
Eric recalled his father being asked, in this room, “How to study media?” “Study language,” was Marshall McLuhan’s answer.
And here we are taking a selfie, numbed in McLuhan’s “zombie trance of Narcissus narcosis”… though still enjoyable, at least for me.
With Andrew McLuhan, Paolo Granata, and Rita Leistner,
the author of a fantastic book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan.
By the way, Eric McLuhan is launching his latest book ‘The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul: an Odyssey‘ at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology Friday, November 6th at 7pm. All are welcome to attend.
While Canada was celebrating the Liberals’ victory and greeting the next Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Dr. Logan told a story about McLuhan and Trudeau Sr., the Prime Minister in the late 70s. McLuhan invited the Prime Minister to one of his Monday night seminars at the Coach House. He was supposed to arrived with Trudeau and asked Bob Logan to lead the seminar. McLuhan wanted to surprise participants by walking in with such a prominent guest. But he himself was surprised when the Prime Minister entered to the room, looked at Dr. Logan, and said, “Hi Bob, how are you?” As it turned out, they knew each other.
Here in the picture, Dr. Logan shows how Pierre Trudeau entered
the very same room through the very same door,
while Andrew McLuhan, behind, photobombs.
Below is the story from Robert Logan’s recent book McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight.
“Let me relay one example in which he wanted to play a trick on his students. One day not long after I began working with him, Marshall asked me to host his weekly Monday-night seminar. He told me he was having dinner with Prime Minister Trudeau and he wanted to bring the PM to the seminar and surprise the group, so I was to say nothing about this. I kept my word. When I heard the motorcycles accompanying the PM approach the coach house where we held our seminar, I, and I alone in that room, knew what was about to happen. McLuhan strode into the room and exclaimed, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Prime Minister of Canada.’ Mr. Trudeau came into the room looked around to greet everyone, spotted me, and said, “Bob, hi! How are you?” Marshall’s jaw dropped, for he did not know that I was one of Trudeau’s policy advisors; I had never gotten around to telling him about my work in politics. He enjoyed the trick he played on the seminar group, and I enjoyed the one I played on him.” (Logan, Robert K. 2013. McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight)
On my way back home, miles away from Toronto, later that night, I met Eric and Andrew McLuhan once again and had another 15 minutes of memorable conversation.
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