How Marshall McLuhan Impacted the Medium of Magic

While I was studying Philosophy at the University of Central Florida I became fascinated with Marshall McLuhan. It was during Media Theory - a class that made me almost quit philosophy. It involved reading Douglas Rushkoff "Media Virus" and Marshall McLuhan’s classic text "The Medium is the Massage".

The book that put me over the edge was Jacque Derrida’s post-modern work, Limited, Inc. I wrote a paper on why Derrida drove me nuts. I liked McLuhan more. His theories engaged me and fascinated me.  They stuck with me and ended up impacting my magic.

I talk to business people about the role of perception in communication and interpersonal relationships. In performing magic, I bring about an awareness of how our perceptions are impacted, affected and easily misled and self-manipulated. When I perform magic it is to highlight the way people see the world and communicate with each other. 

When I perform magic I like to let the experience speak for itself. Even — and especially — in a corporate setting, it is easy to let the magic become a servant of the master: the need to communicate a message or present a product.

So I work hard to keep the magic “whole.” I don’t use magic. I let it breathe, be seen, and be experienced on its own. Thanks to McLuhan I realized how any medium influences how the message is perceived. And I started thinking about how my art of magic impacts my message.

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.
— Marshall McLuhan

It’s a sweet fact that I don’t outwardly tell my audiences, but when I am performing, I am following McLuhan’s theory even closer than I first realized.

The medium is the message because I am using manipulation of perception to talk about manipulation of perception. And the best way to communicate my message is through the medium of magic. 

Any performer can use magic as a simple metaphor: “These 3 ropes represent the 3 parts of your company.” But that's twisting magic into something it's not. I don't like it. For me, the medium of magic is the message of magic. For me, every performance of magic is a celebration of magic. 

I don’t know if you’ll find this as exhilarating as I do. But it makes me happy to know that when I am performing magic in a business setting, I allow the audience to see and experience it within its own artistic context. 

Additionally, keeping magic within it's own artistic frame while presenting it in a real-world scenario of a business meeting allows me to be honest with my art. Instead of trying to prove that I have supernatural powers, I tell my audiences: Let me show you how easy it is for you to BELIEVE that I have supernatural powers. 

I can’t think of anything better than the art of magic to be the message. And it’s thanks to Marshall McLuhan that I get to show my audiences, rather than just tell them, that "the medium is the message.”

McLuhan is known for coining the expression "the medium is the message" and the term global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost 30 years before it was invented. If you’re not familiar with his work, today is his 106th birthday and google has a doodle about him. I wonder what he would think of that medium.