Marshall McLuhan

McLuhan, Media, and Ministers

As part of the Transforming Theology Project over at Claremont, Tripp Fuller and Phillip Clayton are teaching a class called “Theology After Google.”  Given the content of the course, Tripp has been interacting with the Twitterverse and Blogosphere as part of the course content and prep.  He recently suggested that I throw a little somethin somethin together around the topic of the medium and message for modern ministers.  This video is that.

“The medium is the message” is probably the most oft-quoted line from Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan.  I bumped into McLuhan’s work years ago in my studies in communications theory and was utterly bowled over by his insight, wit, and bizarre eccentricity.  Heck, the title of this blog is even because of him.  Anywho, the issue (one of them anyway) with McLuhan is that he never wrote “the book” on anything. He never got all of his ideas into one place and came down definitively on anything, instead favoring short questions and comments that he called “probes.”  The fact that he did this intentionally makes it no less frustrating for same.  He said it was because The Print Age and linear, visual-rational, thinking was closing to be replaced with The Electronic Age’s emphasis on connective thought.  Consequently, his writing, even though published in the 50’s and 60’s  reads more like what would happen if you published the results of a 12 hour web-surfing spree, rather than a finely honed theoretically work.  That point of all this is to say that not as many academics have given him the credit I think he deserves because he wasn’t playing by the rules.  This (of course) I love.

Here I’m trying to re-articulate his probes “the medium is the message,” and of “retribalization” in the context of theology, specifically theology after Google.

I may or may not come back here and add to the text of this post, but I think I fairly well said what I needed to in the video, so please let me know if things are unclear, or if you would like a further articulation of something I said.  I am more than willing to clarify if I can.  Happy viewing, and please comment below.

Related Readings

Great read about how Google might be changing the way we think, “I Google, Therefore I Know.”

An interesting essay which has a long section about McLuhan’s retribalization is here.

An interpretation of  “the medium is the message” from a more “pure McLuhan” standpoint is here.

An article connecting McLuhan and hermeneutics is here.

Less related, but also of note:

An article dealing with McLuhan and revisionist theology is here.