About the book

The medium is the message in this playful and philosophical trans-media crossover book about smartphones, language, photography and war. Rita Leistner, who has an MA in comparative literature from the University of Toronto and is a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York, uses the optics of literary criticism to create a bridge between the literary and the photographic, between “writing” and “writing with light” to propose a theory toward understanding this moment in history when smartphones and war first collide. Writing and photography are presented on the same visual plane (writing is visual: you cannot read with your eyes closed, unless you are reading Braille). The book itself is a kind of meta-object born of a device — the smartphone — with the amazing, unprecedented, ability to issue both words and pictures with equal ease (for the first time, we are both writing and taking photographs on the same device). Leistner, who is also a co-author of Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq, embedded in 2011 with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan as a team member of the experimental social media initiative Basetrack. The experience left Leistner feeling empty and depressed:  “I arrived home from Afghanistan with a smartphone full of photographs and a bad case of the blues.  Looking for McLuhan, who I knew almost nothing about, began as a kind of prophylactive therapy to keep me from sliding into full-blown depression. It ended in a strangely healing journey of process and discovery.” Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan sheds light on old and new technologies, on a failed war and on some of the things that connect us as humans. Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan is also an exhibition in words and pictures available in French, English and Spanish.