Celebrating Marshall McLuhan

This week, given the change in blogging from a Tuesday to a Thursday, we thought we’d look a bit further afield to what’s happening in the rest of Canada. Turns out everyone’s talking about Marshall McLuhan – maybe not everyone, but certainly a lot of people are. Born in Edmonton, raised in Winnipeg, he’s best known for being a leading pioneer of modern media studies in the 20th century. He was born on this date in 1911, and died December of 1980. He would’ve turned 100 years old today. Now, it is his prescient knowledge of the internet that keeps him relevant. Ever heard the term ‘global village’? Or ‘the medium is the message’? Both have become widely popular, and yet often misunderstood ‘McLuhanisms’.

As hotel operators, we can vouch first hand for the relevance and accuracy of both of his catchphrases. Take the phrase ‘global village’.  As you already know, we have built a network of hotels across Canada, from as far west as Terrace, to Montreal-Longueuil in the east. We have a Central Reservations division, situated in Richmond, B.C., staffed with agents who take toll-free calls from literally all over the world. We have a reach that extends far beyond our city limits, area codes, our borders, and time zones. These days, people know to call us after visiting our website or after seeing a listing on TripAdvisor or Expedia. It is the cyber-dependency that brings people to us instead of traditional marketing; the internet is now a resource people use for everything, including booking their travel.

As for the medium being the message? McLuhan coined this phrase after his many observations that the type of medium used to deliver a message, is just as important as the message itself. For example, in the 1960s, he called the television a ‘cool’ medium, referring to its soporific effects. Years later, researchers linked passive brain wave patterns to television consumption… This means we must then consider our mediums. From radio jingles and television spots now have serious competition thanks to the internet. From email blasts to web banners; Facebook contests to pay-per-click campaigns, our audience is more discerning and fragmented than ever, meaning we must be more creative than ever. Often times the question is ‘what is the return on investment?’, but in the framework of McLuhan, perhaps the bigger question is: How are people reacting to the internet, and how does that influence their willingness to, in our case, stay at Sandman?

“The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind (Marshall McLuhan, 1962).”

McLuhan wrote that print culture would be replaced by one of electronic interdependence, some thirty years before the World Wide Web would be invented.  Ironically, in researching topics for today’s blog, I found out about McLuhan’s birthday on Twitter.

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