Paul Kennedy presents guest lecture to CMPT 320: “What would Marshall McLuhan say?”

Former host of CBC’s ‘IDEAS’ addresses technological changes and the digital era

Photo Courtesy of SFU

By: Ana Staskevich, Staff Writer

Paul Kennedy, broadcast journalist and former host of CBC’s “IDEAS,” presented a guest lecture to the CMPT320 students and additional guests at SFU’s Burnaby campus. Winner of the ACTRA award for best Canadian radio documentary, Kennedy spoke at length about his feats and challenges in academia and, later, at CBC. One of Kennedy’s main focuses centered on the works of Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher and media theorist with whom Kennedy worked with in academia and briefly in broadcasting.

“McLuhan was one of the most fertile minds that has ever lived . . . I learned a lot from [him],” said Kennedy.

McLuhan, who coined the saying “the medium is the message”, gathered a lot of his inspiration from his colleague and mentor Harold Innis, a Canadian political economist who opened up dialogue about the works and influence of media. 

“Nothing I have ever written or will ever write is more than a footnote to the work of Harold Innis’,” paraphrased Kennedy, referring to McLuhan’s introduction to the 1964 edition of Innis’ book The Bias of Communication

Kennedy went on to speak about the emergence of digitization and technological changes. While describing the tedious process of being a freelancer in the early days of his career, including carrying around a reel-to-reel machine for recording interviews, Kennedy admitted that he originally resisted the change in computers and technology. Near the end of the lecture, he emphasized the influence of technological changes and their less than positive effects on society.

“I have a daughter [who] loses her phone every three weeks, and every time she does, she loses her contacts and she doesn’t remember them anyway,” Kennedy stated. “I think there are cognitive changes happening in society because of digitization.”

The lecture concluded by opening up the discussion to the audience, in which students had the chance to come down and pose questions for Kennedy himself.