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Commentary Detail

Media Literacy Post McLuhan
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired February 03, 2012


Gateway Media Literacy Partners headed up by Jessica Z. Brown recently held its fifth annual Media Literacy Week in St.Louis.

The title of this year’s conference was, "Media Literacy is the Message: The Legacy of Marshall McLuhan" and I was asked to write a column talking about the arts and media literacy. This is part of what I wrote:

Change is scary but inevitable, but whether it scares you or not Marshall McLuhan was right on the mark. He of course is known for coining the expression, "the medium is the message" and the "global village and predicted the world wide web years before we knew from www.com.

Shirley Baker, Vice Chancellor for Scholarly Resources and Dean of the University Libraries at Washington University says, "Our generation was raised to be literate and to be visually literate. But by mid-twentieth century the modes of transmission of information and culture were no longer static or on paper...they were time-dependent, they moved, were there and then were gone".

Evan Benn wrote an article in the St.Louis Post Dispatch titled, "Cultural Sites Abuzz With New Technology”. In the article, he observes that The Contemporary Art Museum now hands out i-pads to view the exhibits, one can easily search the collection of the History Museum on its website, Twitter and Facebook followers often get first dibs on tickets at the Fox, The St Louis Symphony is frequently updating its blog and video blog, and The St.Louis Zoo has a popular You Tube channel that gives surfers a front row seat to see warty pigs, swamp monkeys, penguins and more in action.

Jack Galmiche, President and CEO of The Nine Network of Public Media says, "The new technology and tools that are available today put enormous power in the hands of people who may have a story to tell or an informed opinion to share, but don't know the best way to communicate it.”

Margaret Frievogel of The Beacon says, "We used to focus on getting news out the door. Now we aim to get reporting into people's heads in ways that they find useful and convenient."

With all this new technology and ways of learning that McLuhan in his seer-like fashion predicted, I am more fine tuned into noticing the media in which we learn in the arts. Not so long ago, in a much more elemental way when technology wasn't nearly what it is today, major changes in viewing, hearing and interpreting art were still being made.

During a recent trip to Opera Theatre. I was reading the libretto on the electronic monitors and thinking that the medium was still the human voice - or was it?

And what about the pictures at the St.Louis Art Museum? Aren't the pictures themselves the medium? I'm not so certain. After all the lighting and architectural setting in which they are displayed become part of the medium.

Of course you don't even need to go to the arts institutions. At first it was records and books, but now you can get it online. Of course it's not as special as being there.

Whether or not the changes have been as dramatic as computers over the years, Marshall McLuhan had the whole thing pegged.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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