Philosopher and Pioneer in the field of Media Studies
Cliff King, chair of WinnipegREALTORS® Citizens Hall of Fame program, is pleased to announce the selection of Marshall McLuhan as 2019’s inductee, posthumously.
“McLuhan’s coined famous expression is the ‘medium is the message’ and he also spoke about how technology would turn us into a global village”, said King. “A true visionary, McLuhan anticipated the world-wide web and was the forerunner and pioneer of media studies courses with his seminal work in 1964 entitled Understanding Media.”
Marshall McLuhan spent his formative years in Winnipeg right up until obtaining his Master’s Degree in English Literature in 1934 at the University of Manitoba. He would walk from his home at 507 Gertrude Avenue through Osborne Village to the U of M campus on Broadway Avenue. Through the village his name is synonymous with is the global village.
McLuhan was often referred to as a media guru and one who was highly sought after internationally to weigh in on how technology was and will reshape our thinking and behavior through new mediums of communication.
To understand just how far reaching and famous McLuhan would become in his field of expertise, a letter in support of Professor Marshall McLuhan’s nomination describes him as follows:
“Dr. Marshall McLuhan, Companion of the Order of Canada, has been internationally recognized and heralded as one of the most prominent and influential public intellectuals and philosophers of the second half of the last century. His work is one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory.
Dr. Marshall McLuhan’s genius, cultural influence, iconic importance and contributions have already been recognized and honored: publications in Newsweek, Time, New Yorker Magazine, Life Magazine, Harper’s, Fortune, Esquire and many others; Canada issues a stamp, a school was named after him, McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, a special collection named after him, awards, scholarships and university programs, as well as a hall at the University of Manitoba."
How many Winnipeggers get Google to do a Doodle on them as the global search engine company did in 2017 to celebrate what would have been McLuhan’ s 106th birthday? Wired Magazine named Marshall McLuhan its “patron saint” in its 1993 inaugural issue. And Marshall McLuhan played himself in Woody Allen’s 1977 Annie Hall movie.
McLuhan distinguished himself at an early age when he received the gold medal upon graduating with his B.A. Honors Degree in English and Philosophy in 1933. Upon receiving his Master’s Degree at U of M the next year he would pursue higher education at Cambridge University and concluded his time spent there with a PhD in 1942. He would go on to have a very successful career as Professor of English Literature at University of Toronto from 1946 until 1979 when a stroke befell him. In 1962, his non-fiction book The Gutenberg Galaxy received the Governor Generals Award and in 1970 McLuhan was bestowed with the Companion of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the understanding of the relationships between media and society. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Manitoba in 1967 and a Vatican appointment as Consultor of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications.
McLuhan never forgot his roots in Winnipeg. He affectionately called Winnipeggers Winnipigeons. He wrote of the Western skies and horizons as one of the most beautiful things about the West. He spoke of how Winnipeg had a real human scale where the individual still has a significant dimension. Legacies of his years in Winnipeg are the Marshall McLuhan Hall and Marshall McLuhan Initiative (MMI) at U of M, the striking mural “The Medium is the Message” by graphic designer Cory Clow at Red River College’s Exchange District Campus, his six-page chapter in The Greatest Manitobans by the Winnipeg Free Press and a cool homage to his roots in Winnipeg by placing a message on a vertical slat on the east side of the redone Osborne Bridge saying ‘Marshall McLuhan lived here’.
As McLuhan’s biographer Philip Marchand said in the text for the Marshall McLuhan Hall plaque, McLuhan was the foremost commentator on media and communications of the twentieth century.
Marshall McLuhan is an inductee who became famous for his sharp incites on culture and the world as it moved inexorably into a new era of electronic change. As Howard Engel states, “McLuhan created a whole new discipline of study about how technology restructures our patterns of reacting, feeling and thinking."
“Building on a solid foundation and fertile ground which Winnipeg provided McLuhan up until he left to pursue higher education and his field of expertise, it should not come as a surprise to Winnipeggers how their city has been an incubator for truly amazing citizens who are exceptional in their body of work,” said King. “Technology may be an enabler but McLuhan showed what the human mind is capable of producing and observing.”