The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology's original constitution acts as a guiding template, not only for what McLuhan intended happen here, but as a framework to explore the relevance of his work in a contemporary landscape. McLuhan’s work continues to provide inspiration for new theories of media and communication globally and the Centre offers a critical space to engage with these ideas. To adequately pursue this requires the inclusion of feminist, queer, and decolonizing critical perspectives on the study of technology and culture.
The Centre is a place for these ideas to convene through events, such as the historic Monday Night Seminars, Conferences, PhD Research Fellowships, and Working Groups. As McLuhan stated: “The object of the Centre is to pursue by a wide variety of approaches an investigation into the psychic and social consequences of technologies.” The Centre aims to encompass the ways technology and culture inhabit media studies across faculties at all three campuses of the University of Toronto.
There is a revolving renaissance around McLuhan: he is lauded then dismissed, seemingly put to rest, before being resuscitated once again. While McLuhan himself might not have had his eyes directly on economics, politics, and bodies, if the original theory of the “the medium is the message” is carried through - where the message of the medium is the change in pace, pattern and scale a media introduces into human affairs - then the message of the medium is also an invitation to consider social structures and power dynamics. The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology is a destination for the interdisciplinary consideration, unraveling, and reconstitution of a McLuhanesque capturing of technological life.
Director, Professor Sarah Sharma
Professor Sarah Sharma was appointed the Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology in 2017. She is an Associate Professor of Media Theory at the University of Toronto and holds her faculty appointment at both the Institute of Communication, Culture, and Technology and the Faculty of Information. Sarah is currently leading research at the Centre concerned with a revising and extension of McLuhan's key theoretical media works, in conversation with critical cultural media and communication theory.
The Toronto School media theories of Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan form a significant backdrop for Sarah’s research and teaching. She focuses on topics related to time, technology and social difference as well as feminist approaches to technology. Her first book, In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics was published by Duke University Press in 2014. Sarah is working on her second monograph, which considers the relationship between technology and the gendered politics of exit. This book outlines the possibility and necessity of a feminist “technological determinist” politics rooted in McLuhan’s media theory.
This year at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, Sarah is also editing a volume with Rianka Singh titled MsUnderstanding Media based on her first year of programming at the Centre. This edited book brings together media scholars to engage with a feminist approach to The Medium is The Message. It is currently under contract with Duke University Press.
Sarah is also currently in the last stages of editing a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication forthcoming this late fall on the Many McLuhans Symposium held at the Fisher Library in September 2019 to honour the inclusion of McLuhan's library into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Stay tuned for more details about these publications.
Explore a selection of Sarah's works on McLuhan and Innis here:
Going to Work in Mommy's Basement Boston Review (June 2018)
Exit and the Extensions of Man Transmediale Online Journal (April 2017)
In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics Duke University Press (2014)
It Changes Space and Time: Introducing Power-Chronography Communication Matters: Materialities, Infrastructure, and Flows. Jeremy Packer and Steve Wiley (eds), Routledge (2012)
Taxis as Media: A Temporal Materialist Reading of the Taxicab Social Identities: Journal of Race, Nation, and Culture 14.4 (July 2008)
Baudrillard at the Edge of the Technological Dynamo Without a Theory of Technology Communication and Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1 (2008)
Research Assistant 2017/18: Sarah Wilkins
Photo: Sara Martel
Grayson Lee + Alexander Ross
ALEXANDER ROSS is a first year PhD student at the Faculty of Information who holds a Fellowship at the Centre for 2018/19. He recently completed his MA in Communication and Culture at York and Ryerson Universities. He completed his BA in Philosophy and Book & Media Studies at the University of Toronto in 2013. His research interests include media studies, the political economy of platforms and apps, and the gamblification of games. Alex first became interested in Marshall McLuhan — and media studies more generally — after purchasing a paperback copy of Understanding Media from a used bookshop in Toronto. That was over ten years ago, and he’s been pestering his friends and family with random McLuhan facts ever since! Alex is starting a PhD Reading Group at the Centre - you can contact him for more details.
GRAYSON LEE is a first year PhD student at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto who holds a Fellowship at the Centre for 2018/19. His research focuses on South Korea’s digital culture industry and transnational formations of culture. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, that draws from the social sciences and the humanities to connect political economy with digital imaginaries through media. Grayson completed his MA in the East Asian Studies department at the University of Toronto, where he wrote his thesis: Reading Korean Popular Culture: The Webtoon as Form, Translation, and Critique of Everyday Life. He is excited to have the opportunity to engage with the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology and plans to integrate emerging conversations and scholarship on communications and media, within his own work.
PATTY FACY is a first year Master of Information student in the Faculty of Information working at the McLuhan Centre as a Program + Events Research Assistant. She completed her BA Hons. in Cinema + Media Studies in 2015 at UBC, where she focused on film theory, semiotics and feminism in film. Working as a Documentary Researcher after graduation sparked her interest in the emergence of virtual reality and immersive media as a storytelling tool, which is what brought her to the iSchool at U of T. Her research interests at the iSchool include media ethics, feminist media, virtual reality, and digital design ethics. She is excited to engage with the McLuhan Centre both through her work as a RA, and as an MI student interested in Culture + Technology.
RIANKA SINGH is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information and a Research Assistant at the Centre working on projects related to McLuhan and media studies. This includes working with the Director on a MsUnderstanding Media edited volume, and providing assistance and editorial input on a special issue publication on contemporary McLuhan and media studies. Rianka works at the intersection of feminist media studies, feminist geography and platform studies. Using these three lenses and raising questions about the platform and its role in structuring intersectional feminist struggle, Rianka’s work highlights the important ways in which those who are also POC, queer, trans and, or disabled, develop differential spatial strategies in moments of resistance.
RÉKA GÁL is a first year PhD student at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto who holds a Fellowship at the Centre for 2019/20. She has completed her master’s in Cultural Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her work unites feminist media theory and postcolonial studies with the history of science and environmental studies and explores how technological tools and scientific methods are employed to purportedly solve socio-political problems. In her master’s thesis Cosmic Colonial Fantasies, she explored the historical stages through which outer space colonial fantasies evolved, from ancient Greece until the 18th century. She plans on extending this research during her PhD, to reflect from a feminist perspective on why and how the rhetoric of outer space colonization emerges in the present. She is excited for the opportunity to engage with the Centre and to participate in interdisciplinary conversations about technology and culture.
NASMA AHMED is a technologist based in the city we now know as Toronto and a Community Researcher at the Centre. Nasma is currently the Director of the Digital Justice Lab, our mission is to build towards a more just and equitable digital future. She has experience working alongside the public service and the non-profit sector, focusing on technology capacity building. In 2017, she was an Open Web Fellow with Mozilla and Ford Foundation, focusing on organization digital security. She is passionate about community engagement, knowledge translation and speculating the possibilities of the future and will be collaborating on a series of events/publications with our director (Sarah Sharma) and other researchers at the Centre.
ERIN MACKEEN is an artist and freelance designer who works as the Design + Communications Lead at the Centre. She created this new website, works on graphic design projects, and provides social media and editorial input. Erin specializes in digital design and social media management for smaller companies, organizations, and individuals leveraging limited resources (and creative content) to increase online visibility, make connections with target communities, and attract audiences and customers.
The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology is an initiative of the Faculty of Information (iSchool) at the University of Toronto. It aims to continue the ground-breaking work initiated by the Canadian thinker Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), who spent his career as Professor of English at the University of Toronto. The Centre had its beginnings on October 24, 1963, when John Kelly (President of St. Michael’s College) and Claude Bissell (President of U of T) decided to establish a Centre for Culture and Technology, which later became McLuhan’s office.
Located in the historic McLuhan coach house (39A Queen’s Park Crescent East), The McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology is now a gathering place for critical scholars from all disciplines to meet, share, and develop scholarly interests on the impact of digital technologies on culture. The quaint and quiet coach house is set against the backdrop of a bustling Toronto and is an incubator for scholars of media studies across the University of Toronto’s three campuses.
You can see more historic photos of McLuhan and the Coach House on the Monday Night Seminars page.
Links for events and initiatives related to Marshall McLuhan and his legacy that take place outside
the Centre for Culture and Technology.
The Marshall McLuhan Projects are presented by transmediale in cooperation with the Embassy of Canada in Berlin. They comprise the Marshall McLuhan Lecture and accompanying programming.
McLuhan at St. Michael's College SMC One: The McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology
Offered for the first time in 2018-2019, St. Michael's College McLuhan Seminar is an exploration of the relationship between creativity and technology. The Seminar is inspired by McLuhan’s innovative thinking. First-year students will explore how the humanities relate to other fields of thought in addressing the individual, social, and cultural experiences and effects of technological innovation.
For additional information, inquries regarding usage rights, copyright, licensing or other matters related to the life and work of Marshall McLuhan.
The Marshall McLuhan Collection was created in 2010 from material within the John M. Kelly Library to mark the centenary of McLuhan’s birth as well as to celebrate McLuhan’s tenure with the University of St. Michael’s College from 1946-1980.
The Fisher is proud to hold Marshall McLuhan's working library. Holding over 6000 volumes, the library was used heavily by McLuhan in the writing of his most famous works, including Understanding Media, The Gutenberg Galaxy and The Medium is the Massage.
A multimedia information centre of the Embassy of Canada in Berlin that was named after the famous Canadian media philosopher Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980). It presents Canada using state-of-the-art technical equipment.