McLuhan (or Postman) Goes Into A Time Machine
McLuhan, the “patron saint” of media studies, predicted that the future of the media world would be a
“global village”—a place of sensorial extensions and communal responsibilities. Postman, the “not so
amused” media critic, foresaw our future becoming a “peek-a-boo world”, full of fragmented images,
experiences, and social relationships. To what extent did their prophecies become true? To what extent
were they proven wrong? What would McLuhan or Postman think of the media world today? Would
their theories be confirmed, modified, or abandoned? What would they suggest that we do to improve
today’s media culture as consumers, producers, users, critics, and regulators?
In this final paper, you will Put McLuhan or Postman into a time machine and make him travel to four
different time/space of the contemporary media world. Write an essay of approximately 2400-3000
words (8-10 pages, double-spaced, size 12 font, excluding the Work Cited page) to describe his thoughts
and deliberations on the four scenarios. Thread them together to build towards a coherent final
argument, which embodies your value judgment and suggestions for action for today’s media culture. For
example, you can write about:
1. McLuhan/Postman goes to a Comcast and TimeWarner Cable merger meeting
2. McLuhan/Postman visits Edward Snowden in his undisclosed residence in Russia
3. McLuhan/Postman interviews a NBC executive who produced America’s Got Talent
4. McLuhan/Postman reads about the Kardashians in the People magazine at a supermarket
This final paper allows you to show what you have learned throughout an entire semester. Make
connections to as many course concepts as possible. Interweave the concepts and topics in interesting
ways. Link them, compare them, differentiate them, and evaluate them. Do not be afraid of the creative
sparks that will appear when ideas, values, and historical moments collide. For example, you could put
McLuhan in conversation with Snowden. How would McLuhan’s famous quote “media are the extensions
of Man” seem in light of Snowden’s critique of digital surveillance? Have media extended us or entrapped
us? Is an “extension” essentially a “trap”? What has changed between McLuhan and Snowden’s historical
periods that brought out the different technological, political, economical, and cultural potentials of
media? Have things changed for the better or worse? What could we possibly do about this?
This essay should be a cross between creative nonfiction and academic paper. Try to be original as well as
convincing in your argument. Argue rather than simply assert. An argument gives reasons and evidence;
an assertion just states something without any backing. Make references to specific portions of books or
articles to substantiate your points, whether quoted, paraphrased, or simply mentioned. Quotations
should be kept to a minimum. Make sure your paper:
1. Has your name and title on it.
2. Has page numbers;
3. Uses the MLA format (within the main text and in the Work Cited page);
4. Is proofread and is free from grammatical errors.
HSS 2020 – Fall 2014 – Professor Xinghua Li .
You’ll be graded holistically (not by a point system) on dimensions such as grammar and sentence
structures, clarity of the writing, engagement with class texts, coherence of the argument,
organization of the essay, excellence in style, and most importantly, creativity and originality.
Overall, this final paper evaluates your learning outcome for the entire semester—your mastery of
course concepts; your ability to creatively but rigorously integrate them; your critical insight into
these historical and contemporary issues about media (and marginally, your imagination about the
possible solutions to media’s problems today).
• Turn in a 1-page, single-spaced outline in class on November 4 (Tuesday). List the four scenarios
that you want McLuhan/Postman to travel to and briefly describe the layout of your paper and
possible central argument.
• Sign up for a 10-minute office hour session with me between November 4 (Tuesday) and
November 7 (Friday). We will look at your paper outline together and I will provide suggestions
for you to move forward. Detailed hours will be distributed in class.
• You are also more then welcome to meet with me any other time—until three days before the
due date—to discuss the progress of your paper.
• Submit your final paper as a Word file to Blackboard (where a folder will be established to
receive your submissions) by 11:59pm on December 12, 2014 (Friday).
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