McLuhan in UT President’s Report 1965

McLuhan’s 1965 report for the Centre for Culture and Technology is especially interesting in providing information about its initial advisory committee. Just as had been the case a decade earlier with the Ford Foundation seminar, the bulk of the committee was composed by a Winnipeg mafia of Easterbrook, Williams and McLuhan. Malcolm Ross was an old friend whom McLuhan had known for decades (beginning when Ross taught at the University of Manitoba in the late 1940s) and was then the Dean of Arts at UT. Easterbrook and Porter were the heads of their respective departments. Williams was a close confederate of UT president, Claude Bissell, and J.H. Sword was Bissell’s Executive Assistant. So McLuhan had managed to assemble a crew which at once featured friendships going back even 40 years in Winnipeg and yet was also very well connected politically within the contemporary UT community. (The image of McLuhan as a Lone Ranger academic outsider may be both constructed and mostly untrue.)

The Centre for Culture and Technology was founded in 1963 to advance the study of the effects of technology on society and culture. During the first two years the concern of the Centre has been to establish means of observing and measuring the psychic and social consequences of technologies old and new. During the first year much work was done on experimental designs. During the second year research funds were obtained to carry out an experiment based on these designs.

At the present time a team of researchers, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Cappon, has begun to measure the sensory preferences of the Toronto population. Having determined the existing levels (and, if possible, the changes in these during the past thirty years), they expect to shift their attention to Athens in order to determine the sensory levels of that population just before the advent of television. At present the function of the Centre must continue to be experimental rather than instructional. The probing of hypotheses concerning culture and technology naturally lends itself to interdepartmental dialogue. In this respect the Centre has been richly nourished by the participation of: Professors J. W. Abrams, Department of Industrial Engineering; A. Bernholtz, Department of Architecture; B. Bernhollz, Department of Industrial Engineering; Dr. Daniel Cappon, Department of Psychiatry; Professor Brian Carpendale, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Professor A. J. Dakin, Town & Regional Planning Department; Professor W. T. Easterbrook, Department of Political Economy; Professor J. M. Ham, Department of Electrical Engineering; Principal R. S. Harris, Innis College; Dr. John A. Hrones, Provost, Case Institute of Technology, Cleveland; Professor R. A. Lucas, Department of Sociology; Professor Thomas McFeat, Department of Anthropology; Dr. Richard Meier, Mental Health Research Institute, University of Michigan; Professor N. M. Meltz, Department of Political Economy; Professor D. M. Nowlan, Department of Political Economy; Mr. Harley Parker, Display Chief, Royal Ontario Museum; Professor Arthur Porter, Department of Industrial Engineering; Dr. Alan Thomas, Canadian Association for Adult Education.

The Centre has been strongly encouraged by a large enrolment of able graduate students from many fields.

A considerable subsidy (non-academic) has been given to the Centre to advance research and to aid in its publication. This subsidy has made it possible to consider a programme of student term projects directed toward annual publication.

The organizing theme of study in the Centre this past year has been “The Recognition of Change.” It is a theme that made it possible to carry on a dialogue with many other areas within the University. This was actually carried out with the co-operation of several departments. The great success of these occasions suggests the advantage of choosing similar themes in the future.

The advisory committee of the Centre is Professor W. T. Easterbrook, chairman, Department of Political Economy; Professor Arthur Porter, head, department of Industrial Engineering; Professor Malcolm Ross, Department of English, Trinity College; Dr. D. C. Williams, Vice-President, Scarborough and Erindale Colleges; J. H. Sword, Executive Assistant to the President; and Professor Marshall McLuhan, Director. The Committee met twelve times during the year.