"You know nothing of my work," Marshall McLuhan's second-most-legendary quote, was invoked on Monday night by a participant at the second of three Monday Night Seminars, hosted by Jesse Hirsh, at the Toronto Reference Library.
And it wasn't a reference to Annie Hall as much as a commentary on the tone of the event itself.
The series theme, "Our City as Classroom," became especially pertinent in the past few weeks. Public libraries became the most prominent subject of debate as Toronto City Hall is on the verge of being run over by Mayor Rob Ford's elusive gravy train.
Naturally, the role of the newest forms of electronic media in municipal protest was worth highlighting. But did that really correlate with the theories developed by McLuhan?
Well, the idea that local government could provide a steady stream of ludicrous entertainment has been realized through social media. Yet those acerbic observations provide a gateway for highlighting issues that genuinely impact everyday life.
The most intriguing counterculture event in Toronto this summer was the 22-hour marathon series of deputations regarding the role of government in providing services to the city. Participation in such an event — the stuff of bland bureaucracy in a past administration — was electrified through digital devices.
McLuhan had this kind of thing in mind, even if he was more likely to align himself with the tax-fighting types, based on how he wasn't too fond of protesters at the University of Toronto of the 1960s.
With the nostalgic overload of McLuhan's 100th birthday behind us, it was arguably more important to consider his laws of media in motion rather than the ever-distant past, even if a few seminar attendees urged for a more direct correlation.