Lecture: A Few Notes on the "McLuhan Remix"

Before reading this lecture, you should read the earlier lecture “‘The Medium Is the Remix’: Writing and Remix Culture.”

I wanted us to look at Jamie O’Neil’s “McLuhan Remix,” which consists of the prologue, “The Medium Is the Mix,” and the epilogue, because they help us examine the idea of remix culture from within a context with we have already encountered – McLuhan and Fiore’s The Medium Is the Massage – and because it also foregrounds the idea that The Medium Is the Massage is itself a remixed text that brings together McLuhan’s words with the words of others and a variety of images to create a collide-oscopic mashup.

One thing to keep in mind here: Jamie O’Neil is both a new media artist and a professor of new media. We encounter O’Neil in both the prologue and the epilogue. In “The Medium Is the Mix” we encounter not Jamie O’Neil but Jamie O’Neil’s created persona Kurt Weibers. (O’Neil discusses this a bit in a comment on his “McLuhan Remix.”) The imagined Weibers is a motivational speaker and consultant O’Neil invented for earlier projects. As with many motivational speakers, Weibers gives off a sense of “deepness” that only seems deep as long as we don’t scratch the surface. (In other words, by enacting the persona of Weibers O’Neil is engaging in a bit of parody.)

O’Neil’s decision to revive the use of Weibers for this project does make some sense. McLuhan, as you’ve seen, talks about the electronic environment changing our sense of identity. In the electronic age, McLuhan tells us, we “live mythically and in depth,” seeking roles rather than goals or specialized jobs (The Medium Is the Massage 100). Moreover, the McLuhan footage that O’Neil uses to create his “The Medium Is the Mix” comes from a televised debate between Marshall McLuhan and Norman Mailer on, among other things, changing notions of identity in the electronic age. (To read more about McLuhan’s ideas on identity, see Jeff Rice’s “I Am McLuhan,” published in Enculturation: A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture vol. 12, a special issue dedicated to Marhsall McLuhan.

Also important to keep in mind: While “The Medium Is the Mix” segment is filmed at the University of Toronto where Marshall McLuhan spent much of his career and is home to the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology (housed in the building where McLuhan had his office – we see it in the video), Marshall McLuhan died in 1980. Weibers, being Weibers, doesn’t know that McLuhan is dead, and he believes the lecture about McLuhan is actually a lecture by McLuhan. Finally, I’ll note that the lecture we see, the one that Weibers interrupts, was staged for the video. No real lecturers were harmed or interrupted in the making of “McLuhan Remix.”

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