Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wychwood Park and Environs

Marshall McLuhan

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.
- Marshall McLuhan
iPhone Stalkers: 
Finding Marshall's Address on the Fly 

I first became aware of the McLuhan Centenary Conference while standing in front of Mr. McLuhan's former residence at 3 Wychwood Park. Wychwood Park is and upscale unique neighborhood, as it is privately owned and composed of a mix of stately and quaint homes, most of which were designed by prolific Toronto architect, Eden Smith. Smith was born in England, but rose to fame for his architectural work in Toronto where he built over 2,500 residences, libraries and churches.

It was in his house, overlooking Taddle Creek pond, that McLuhan came up with so many of the prophetic ideas about society, culture and technology have come to define the 21st century.

3 Wychwood Park as seen from the driveway
I occasionally stroll through Wychwood Park with my family and had always wondered which house belonged to McLuhan. I encountered a picture of it in the paper a few years ago when it was up for sale, but the houses in Wychwood are buried behind a dense foliage of trees and shrubs, and it was impossible to tell which was his. My sister,who studies in the Faculty of Information at U of T, was with me and looked up his exact address on her iPhone and, by happy coincidence, we were standing in front of his house. My sister took the occasion to mention that the conference was taking place.

3 Wychwood Park on Google Maps
The ability to access information from a vast central source (the Internet) on a portable, hand-held wireless device (iPhone) exemplifies McLuhan's famous dictum that the medium is the message. A greater change in social dynamics occurs from the portability and functions (camera, voice recorder, radio) of a smartphone than from the information and content it can access. Having searchable information at our disposal allowed us to find his address immediately. If I wanted to, I could have looked at the conference schedule and registered with my credit card, all while standing at the foot of Marshall's driveway. I could then Twitter my intent to attend, tell my friends on Facebook and blog about the whole experience, never leaving Wychwood Park and Environs.

Why is this significant? Twenty years ago, to achieve the same results, I would have had to research the information at the library, made a few calls, sent a few faxes, made a few more calls, dropped a cheque in the mail, and most of my friends would have been blissfully unaware of my activities. I would have been geographically restricted in the dusty age of pre-mobility. Now, as McLuhan anticipated, I am a member of the Global Village, and as such, I can hunt and gather information like my ancestors. I not only nomadically wander the web, retrieving the resources for my survival, but I can also physically wander with my wireless handset.

To the point: this blog will document my four day participation in the McLuhan 100 Conference. My hope is that this assembly of great minds in honor of McLuhan will help me better understand how education stands to change and transform with the advent of digital technology. I hope to look at schools and classrooms with fresh eyes and think about how changing mediums will affect the way learning takes place. 

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