McLuhan, Media, Emergence and Complexity Theory

 

McLuhan, Media, Emergence and Complexity Theory

Robert K. Logan (University of Toronto)

 

Abstract

McLuhan’s recognition of the non-linear aspect of the relationship between media and society in a certain sense foreshadowed the notion of co-evolution and complexity or emergence theory. This is not to suggest he played any role in the development of emergence and complexity theory but rather in his non-mathematical approach to understanding media and their effects he independently developed ideas that paralleled work in physics, biology and economics. There is a hint of emergence or complexity theory in a 1955 paper of McLuhan (1955) in which he wrote, “It is therefore, a simple maxim of communication study that any change in the means of communication will produce a chain of revolutionary consequences at every level of culture and politics. And because of the complexity of the components in this process, predictions and controls are not possible.” We will look at how his use of figure ground, the field concept and media ecology parallel emergence and complexity theory.

 

Lecture Slides

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ECCO/Seminars/Logan-McLuhan.pdf