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LOS – Law of the Sit

February 15, 2012

Dear reader:

The following is a transcript of writing on a sheet of paper tucked into a schoolbook from Marshall McLuhan’s days at the University of Manitoba, early 1930’s. The book is A Student’s History of Philosophy, by Arthur Kenyon Rogers (1923, New York: The Macmillan Company). It could be notes for a talk he would have given, in that it is typical of his method of delivering a speech or address: rather than read from a prepared text, Marshall would make notes on a sheet of paper and use those notes as talking points which he would elaborate on in front of an audience.

It could also just be a record of some thoughts he had at the time. According to Eric McLuhan, after Marshall’s first stroke in the late 60’s, Marshall had serious memory problems, and began writing more things down as they occurred to him. To me, the following seems more like talking points, or notes for an article, than a statement by the way he writes “explain…” and “mention…”

Personally, I find it a very interesting note. The reader can feel Marshall McLuhan’s frustration: “Mention McLuhan as difficult!”
“Laws of the Sits” is a reference to ‘The Law of the Situation’, attributed to management consultant Mary Parker Follett, although I’ve found none of her works in Marshall’s library The characters in square brackets are my interpretations of Marshall’s short form, question marks where I am unsure. Do feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section below the post.

P[?] Canetti as Crowds via [?]            [Elias Canetti, author of "Crowds and Power" -a heavily annotated book in the library]
Media as forces as new sit[uation]s
Effects 1st                                                [effects precede causes, formal cause]
EOM                                                         [extensions of man]
Fission followed by SC [?]
Media as subliminal
eg. inflation
Why the obsess[ion] with transport[ation, Weaver]
theory? all various theories
ignore the Laws of the Sit[uation]s
created by each new fission
The systems hang-ups via c/m
Kant and Hegel and Marx
caught in the visual homog[?]
trap: uses vs exchange
The TV sit flip eye as ear
quote Tony Sch.[wartz] Mention Mass and
the reversal of the Am[erican] way Micro[?]
no goals
East-West flip
Mention McLuhan as difficult!
Is he as difficult as the prob[lem]s he tackles
Explain the futility of moral v[iew] p[oin]t as
strategy for prob – rise from [?]
[?] [?] to the tech [?]
[?] – [?]
(cont) to Kant and the Rom[antics]
revenge on 18th [century] rationalism
The need to state all hyp[othesis] in [a] way that
they can be disproved
That is my way. Only Krugman
and Lorion have tested any of
my hypoth[esis] in conventional
quant[itative] ways … etc[etera] Nobody ever
atacks my LOS, only me.
I do not use a p[oin]t of v[iew] in seeing
the laws of the sit[uation] … und[erstanding is?] not a p[oin]t of v[iew]
I do not seek agreement but
awareness and knowledge
Explain origin of moral p[oin]t of v[iew]
I never know what I will find
I don’t claim to be a scientist
ie one who uses quant[itative] methods
in a specialist area of data.
Media as crowds depre[ceates?] private
ident[ity] and increase pub[lic] id[entity] etc[etera]
Watergate as revenge for inflation
one behind every Milhouse


Thanks, as ever, for reading.


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2013 11:13 am

    I think depre(creates?) might be depre(sses). Thanks for all your hard work this stuff is totally absorbing. Steve Miller

  2. November 7, 2013 7:34 pm

    Andrew: hope your well. In your Feb post about your GPs notes you found in a book by Canetti. A ways down in the transcription The text indicates: Kant, Marx … The note is ‘homog’ [?]. I think this word is Homology. It seems to make sense with what follows. Ask your dad and see if he agrees.

    This is great fun! We should get a group of our friends to meet online once a month and go at it like a group puzzle. Best, Steve Miller

  3. November 7, 2013 7:45 pm

    Also, I think there might be a video of GP that seems to expose notes in his hands at the lectern. McLuhan Speaks 1974. First of that series very beginning of his lecture. Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe I’m seeing things? Best, Steve

  4. November 7, 2013 7:50 pm

    Kant and Hegel and Marx
    caught in the visual homog[?]
    trap: uses vs exchange
    The TV sit flip eye as ear

    Here is the relevant clip.

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