Maine Mosaic


The Gutenberg Galaxy develops a mosaic or field approach to its problems. Such a mosaic of numerous data and quotations in evidence offers the only practical means of revealing causal operations in history.

— opening lines of the Gutenberg Galaxy

The New Oxford American Dictionary on my Kindle offers this special-usage definition of the word mosaic: “a combination of diverse elements forming a more or less coherent whole.” That strikes me as a wonderful description of McLuhan’s work.

It also offers early guidance in my nascent project here. Each day I’ll reach for a more or less coherent whole comprising a photo, a passage from McLuhan, and my own written rumination.

My favorite part is finding the photo. Today I had about 10 shots to choose from, taken just after dawn at the cottage, before I left on my bike ride. The big bulb of orange sun rising over Prouts Neck seemed the obvious choice at first, but those shots did not survive my quirky winnowing process. In choosing the daily photo, I’m after what feels like whole-brain impact, the left and right brain in satisfying agreement, each for their own reasons or yearning. I start by deleting what I can live without, enjoying how the iPhone sucks the rejects into a trash can icon after opening the lid. That left just one contender from the sunrise set, scenes of the cottage roofline against a pine tree, and shots of the beach chairs we sat in yesterday. In the final, wordless choice, the beach chairs took a surprising win.

Since I left my paperback copy of Understanding Media in Cambridge, I don’t have the baffling chapter on photographs to work with, so the MM quotation today had to come from The Gutenberg Galaxy on my Kindle. Backtracking, I found the mosaic reference, which sort of fits with the photo’s diverse elements, right? Part of the fun of these blog-mosaics is knowing that attempts to create them may fail, falling into unintended parody of McLuhan Mind.

I like that McLuhan frames the opening line as an approach to problems. They are all of his own making, of course. As are mine. Finding the problems to solve is at least as much fun as arriving at the solutions. Sitting in those chairs yesterday by the sea with Darlene was more or less perfect.

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