This chapter examines the work of the media “structuralists” of the so-called Canadian or Toronto school of media studies: Harold Adams Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter J. Ong, especially. Their work is placed within its historical context, both in terms of scholarly ancestry and in terms of its reception in North American universities and especially in schools of journalism. A critical assessment of the work of these scholars as media history is offered, recognizing its shortcomings as historical narrative but also its appeal as a way of understanding the influence of media forms.
What makes us who we are? Class struggle? The disenchantment of the world? Do we owe our ways of being in the world to the family romance, the wheeling zodiac? How about the selfish gene, birth order, guns, germs and steel, patriarchy, the internal combustion engine, original sin, the scientific method? Is it the particular way that media technologies frame the social environment and organize our relationships to one another? Anyone inclined toward this last idea will recall a line of argument from the 1960s Marshall McLuhan for a while hijacked what might be called thinking popular culture with a high-concept take on the generational explosion of the 1960s – its energy, its music, its civil rights, its sexual openness, its advertising, its counterculture, its antiwar volume.
The ore McLuhan proposed to mine to uncover ...