The Université de Montreal (UdeM), Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Concordia celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Joint Doctorate in Communication with a special event held recently at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT).
Entitled Innis, McLuhan, and the Media: Path to Enlightenment or Dead End?, the event brought together communication professors and students to discuss the legacy of two Canadian pioneers of communication studies: Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. The invited speakers were asked to examine the relevance of their work “against the backdrop of a media landscape that is transforming itself before our eyes.”
The first session of the event, entitled Decoupling Innis and McLuhan?, featured three presentations that re-examined the connection between the two scholars and their communication theories. One of the invited speakers was Luiz Martino, a professor from the Faculty of Communications at the University of Brasilia in Brazil. William (Bill) Buxton, Concordia’s director of the joint PhD program, also presented his paper, entitled The Rise of McLuhanism, The Loss of Innis-sense.
“Innis and McLuhan are seen as a tandem, representing the core of what’s called the Toronto School of Communication,” Buxton explained. “McLuhan gained a lot of prominence, and then the connection to Innis was less clear at that point. So it was really trying to restore the balance.”
The second session, entitled Probing McLuhan, focused the spotlight on the celebrated media theorist famous for coining the saying, “the medium is the message.” The session featured three more presentations, including one by Darren Wershler, Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature in Concordia’s Department of English, entitled Marshall McLuhan and the Economies of Citation.
PhD candidate Christina Haralanova
Wershler’s presentation examined McLuhan’s poetic approach to writing, and his decidedly non-academic approach to citations in his work. The session’s respondent was Concordia PhD candidate Christina Haralanova.
The SAT’s new Satosphere dome was full for the event’s keynote address by Harvard Professor Jeffrey T. Schnapp, presented along with a three-dimensional projection by UdeM design professor Luc Courchesne. Both the lecture and the projection addressed the wildly popular, experimental book by McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore, coordinated by Jerome Agel, called The Media is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, published in 1967.
Schnapp said he was delighted to find out he would be presenting his lecture in the Satosphere while the book’s images and texts were swirling overhead. Upon seeing the space and Courchesne’s projection, Schnapp said he decided to abandon his written lecture in favour of an improvised presentation. “It seemed to me it would be really perverse to have a traditional lecture in a space where you could have precisely the kind of deeply defamiliarizing experience of a print artifact that you could have in the Satosphere,” he said.
Following the presentation, guests gathered in the expansive Espace SAT to enjoy some refreshments and discuss the day’s events. “I think the keynote was really good, well made and interesting,” said Haralanova, who has just finished her PhD forum, and will soon begin working on her thesis proposal in which she plans to examine “hacker spaces, feminism, social justice, and the media.”
Haralanova praised the joint PhD program, saying it has exposed her to many different approaches to communication studies. “We gain a lot from having the possibility of knowing different professors from different universities,” she said. “My doctoral forum was with students from the three universities, and this experience has been very rich for me."