The Father of Media Studies [Trenchant Edges]

And a bit about how often you want this newsletter

Welcome back to the Trenchant Edges! A Newsletter about crackpots and taking their ideas seriously enough to criticize and learn from.

I’m your host and research Junkie Stephen Fisher.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 19 seconds. Contains 866 words

And today we’re going to be catching up on someone who some might find an odd choice for a newsletter with that description.

Marshall McLuhan was once a celebrity public intellectual. So how’s he in our wheelhouse?

Why McLuhan is in our wheelhouse

Despite founding the academic discipline of media studies, being a classicist, and being fully certified and accredited by Cambridge, why do I think McLuhan deserves scrutiny here?

There are three big reasons.

  • Pundits in his time treated him like a crazy person.

  • Marshall’s public work was often driven more by aesthetic than rigor

  • Much of his work is as mind-expanding as anything you’d find from a guru

I regularly call McLuhan the most psychedelic thinker of the 1960s. Why? Because he understood the age better than the Tim Learies and Alan Watts of the world.

His core ideas extrapolate from direct sensory experience in unexpected ways and once they click for you can redefine huge swaths of how you see the world.

It’s pretty fucking cool.

And why I’ve also described him as a source of high weirdness.

One of the most important things such redefining can teach us to do is look at the same old world with new eyes. Seeing the world as though you were young again is a great gift.

Disclaimer: I pulled these links while laying in bed. Typos included free of charge.

I’ve written several intros on Marshall and his work starting with Marshall and Me, Just who is McLuhan?, and who cares about Marshall McLuhan.

We’ve had many dips into McLuhan’s most famous book, The Medium is the Massage.

We also touched on many of his subjects like reading vs seeing, determinism and choice, Global Villages, Sense ratios, space as propaganda, and Individualism as conspiracy

And I even start thinking towards some original riffs on Mcluhan’s ideas in Algorithm as medium, civilization as cyborg, Propaganda, and Inevitability,

We also started a deep dive on his second book The Gutenberg Galaxy.

How much Newsletter?

Today’s business subject is frequency.

Here are my constraints on publishing:

  • At least weekly

  • Less than every day

  • Subscribers need more posts

  • I need to write every day anyway

Since May I’ve been mostly writing just before hitting publish. That’s mostly worked out but there are some days I’ve hit publish on real clunkers. Last Friday’s post Q and the Plan, is a good example of a post that really needed some extra work.

The upside of this is immediacy, we’re all on the same page. The downside is both decreased quality and having no real buffer for emergencies on my end.

So in September, we’re going to try a different, but more rigorous publication structure.

Exactly what that looks like depends on y’all.

Every weekday looks to be too much.

I think we should try something on the other edge in September: Once a week for free signups (on a day chosen by y’all), and another post for subscribers.

But technically we can do anything in between 5 days a week and 1.

My sense from my open rates is that 5 days a week is exhausting to keep up with.

What do you think?

What’s in a name?

I named this newsletter in a panic after my first subscriber asked me how he could pay me for the newsletter and I had to throw together a substack so he could do that.

Last night I actually said it out loud for the first time in a long while and realized that… while it’s easy to write, it’s actually terrible for someone listening to hear. Not so good for promotion.

Notice how I’m avoiding writing Trenchant Edges?

It’s a name designed to appeal mostly to me and to imply the kind of dissection and depth I aim for here.

I’m reminded of my favorite band from high school, Savatage, who were consistently one of the best heavy metal bands over two decades who toiled in obscurity until they changed their name to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and started absolutely printing money with high price Christmas shows.

I have no idea what else I might call it. And, this is important, if I change the name it’s gotta be the exact right one.

What do y’all think of the name?

I Still Want to Talk With You

I’ve got lots of open slots on my calendar.

Click here to schedule a time

If you want to share anything with me or even insult me, I’d love to hear it. I used to work at a McDonald’s in a Walmart in kind of rural Pennsylvania.

Alright, tomorrow’s the last day of catch-up week, and you’ll be shocked to find out it’s gonna be about Terence Mckenna and a kind of full-on accountability post.

If you’ve ever wondered the details of how much I’ve done or what I’ve promised and not delivered or how much I’ve made with this newsletter, well, tune in then.

Questions for you

  • How many times do you want me in your inbox every week?

  • What days would make this easiest to read?

  • What do you think about the name Trenchant Edges?


See y’all tomorrow.