Robert Logan

Robert Logan's picture

Professional information

Positions and affiliations

Chief Scientist, Strategic Innovation Lab
Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Toronto

Bio in brief

Robert K. Logan is Chief Scientist, Strategic Innovation Lab at OCAD University. Originally trained as a physicist, Prof. Logan is well known as a media ecologist. He received a BS and PhD from MIT in 1961 and 1965. After two post-doctoral appointments at University of Illinois (1965–67) and University of Toronto (1967–68) he became a physics professor in 1968 at the U of Toronto, where he is professor emeritus since 2005.

During this period in addition to math-based physics courses he taught an interdisciplinary course The Poetry of Physics which led to his collaboration with Marshall McLuhan and his research in media ecology and the evolution of language. His best known works are The Alphabet Effect based on a paper co-authored with McLuhan, The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age and The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture.

Concise CV

B.Sc., M.I.T. (1961); Ph.D., M.I.T. (1965).

Research Associate, Department of Physics, University of Illinois, 1965–1967.
Research Associate, Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 1967–1968.
Physics Professor (1968–2005), Department of Physics, University of Toronto.

Professor Emeritus 2005–, Department of Physics, University of Toronto.

Chief Scientist, Strategic Innovation Lab, Ontario College of Art and Design, 2005–.
Senior Fellow, Institute of Biocomplexity and Informatics, University of Calgary, 2005–
Senior Fellow, Origins Institute, McMaster University, 2007–.
Visiting Professor, Institute of Communications, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Spring 1982.
Cross Appointed to OISE, Dept. of Measurement, Evaluation and Computer Application and Dept. of Curriculum, 1984–2005.
Senior Fellow Faculty of Environment Studies, York University 1993–95.
Recipient of the Susan K. Langer Prize for outstanding scholarship in the Ecology of symbolic form. This award was presented by the Media Ecology Association based on the book, The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age, June 2000.
Associate Editor of Journal EME which is the Journal of the Media Ecology Association, 2001–2003.
Member of Board of Media Ecology Association, 2001–2004.
Member of the Editorial Board of Explorations in Media Ecology, 2001–2006.
Member of the Editorial Board – New York State Communication Association – 2001–2002.
Nominated as one of the top 30 lecturers in Ontario by TVOntario 2005.

Scholarly activities

1) Linguistics: the origin and evolution of language

The Extended Mind Model for the origin of language, the human mind and culture has been in development since 1997. A number of papers have been presented and published as well as the University of Toronto Press book The Extended Mind: The Origin of Language, the Human Mind and Culture. Click here for a paper summarizing this work that appeared in the Proceedings of the 2004 Evolutionary Epistemology Conference.

This research has led to two philosophical papers, one co-authored with John Schumann, on the dualistic nature of the brain and the mind, one dealing with the symbolosphere Symbolosphere and the other with the mediasphere mediasphere It has also led to a paper on the role that altruism played in the origin of language and culture: Altruism and to a paper The Emergence of Language as an Autocatalytic Set.

The evolution of notated language has been developed in a number of articles and two books, The Fifth Language and The Sixth Language (see publications). The Sixth Language details the history of information processing work and education and their impact on each other. Speech, writing, math, science, computing and the Internet are shown to form an co-evolutionary chain of languages. Click here for the first chapter of The Sixth Language.

An attempt has been made to understand the origin of artistic expression and its link to verbal language. Click Secondary Perception to access a preliminary article

2) Social impact and history of media

A study was made of the impact of the alphabet on Western civilization and published in 1986 and reissued in 2004 in a second edition published by Hampton Press under the title The Alphabet Effect. The book attempts to explain why abstract science began in the West and not China where so much of the world’s technology originated. The book shows how the phonetic alphabet, codified law, monotheism, abstract science and deductive logic provided an environment for their mutual development. Click here for the first chapter of The Alphabet Effect.

The Impact of computing and the Internet on work and education were presented in The Fifth Language and The Sixth Language. Click here for the first chapter of The Sixth Language.

A paper to appear in Exploration in Media Ecology deals with the biological roots of media ecology. Click here

Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan will be published by Hampton Press in 2009. The ISBNs for the book will be 1-57273-821-9 for the hardcover and 1-57273-822-7 for the paperbound. The book updates McLuhan's 1964 book Understanding Media: Extensions of Man. The book describes the impact of the "new media" including the Internet, the World Wide Web, blogs, cell phones, iPods and search engines on work, education, culture, and society. The impact of the "new media" on each of the media McLuhan studied in Understanding Media such as radio, TV and the movies are also described. Visitors are invited to read Chapter 1 and Chapter 5 and sent their comments to me by email at: logan(at)

* Click here for Chapter 1
* Click here for Chapter 5
* Click here for the Table of Contents

A paper to appear in Exploration in Media Ecology deals with the biological roots of media ecology. click here
To access a second paper connecting media ecology and biology click The Medium is the Message is the Content

Two guest blogs appeared on the PBS Mediashift blog dealing with the Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan project. The blog "The 14 Messages of New Media" can be accessed at and the blog "Converged Devices Doesn't Mean Fewer Devices" can be accessed at

3) Science Education

Explorations of the way science can be taught to non-scientists based on my course the Poetry of Physics and the Physics of Poetry. The course ran from the early 1970s to my retirement in 2005 but the manuscript is available here by clicking. Click here

4) Use of computers in education

Work in this area can be found in The Fifth Language and The Sixth Language. Implications for education of the use of computers and the Internet are developed. The ways in which computers will change our educational goals and curriculum and their relationship to commerce and work are explored.

Despite the important role that computers play in science and engineering research their use in science education has been fairly limited. A study made for the Ontario Ministry of Education of elementary school science education resulted in the recommendation that pupils use the computer in much the way scientists do to organize and process data that they themselves have collected. Greater use of word processing, data bases and spreadsheets and less reliance on simulations and tutorials would achieve this objective.

A study with colleagues from OISE was conducted for the Ministry of Education which established the research parameters for the field of computer applications in education. These parameters eventually became the Ministry criteria by which applications for research funding were judged.

A two year study funded by SSHRC with colleagues from OISE was conducted in which the patterns of computer usage in six Ontario primary schools were determined.

5) Knowledge Management

The ways in which knowledge can be shared and collaborations established have been treated in a book co-authored with Louis Stokes entitled Collaborate to Compete. Click here for the first chapter of Collaborate to Compete.

6) Biocomplexity

As a seniour fellow at The Institute of Biocomplexity and Informatics (IBI) at the University of Calgary I am working with its founding director Stuart Kauffman. We are looking into potential therapies for cancer that would involve the differentiation of cancer stem cells. My role is modest confined to searching for information relevant for Dr. Kauffman’s research, a description of which can be found by clicking here and publicizing the work of the IBI (

Stuart Kauffman and I together with Robert Este, Randy Goebel, David Hobill and Ilya Smulevich have published a paper in Biology and Philosophy 23:27-45 entitled Propagating Organization: An Enquiry

I have extended the paper Propagating Organization: An Enquiry to discuss propagating organization of language and culture in a paper entitled: Propagating Extra-Somatic Organization in the Symbolosphere: An Enquiry

A second paper discusses propagating organization and neo-dualism: Propagating Organization, Neo-Duality and Material and Non-Material Emergence

Reflections on the above papers plus a reading of Katherine Hayles book How We Became Posthuman has led to a new paper entitled: The Relativity of Information and Its Relationship to Materiality, Meaning and Organization.

7) The Strategic Innovation Lab at OCAD: Design and Emergence

As Chief Scientist at the Strategic Innovation Lab at the Ontario College of Art and Design I have co-authored with Greg Van Alstyne a paper on Design and Emergence.

Greg Van Alstyne and I have been working on the notion of Design Ecology. The paper here is still a work in progress to which we invite comments and criticism: Design Ecology: Designing for Emergence and Innovation II

A second work in progress deals with the relationship of strategic innovation and design ecology.

At the Strategic Innovation Lab we are working on two interesting projects the sBook project and the Greening My Hotel project.
The focus of the sBook or SmartBook project is to design a new format for the book that combines the positive features of the codex book of ink on paper and the e-book. The following paper, a work in progress, describes the project. click here to get the paper

The focus of the Greening My Hotel project in partnership with Transition Plus Sustainability Solutions is to develop a program to assist hotels to become more sustainable by developing training modules for their staff as well as a catalogue of green products for the hotel industry.

8) Information Theory

I have completed a manuscript that is in press that deals with the nature of information entitled What is Information? - Propagating Organization in the Biosphere, the Symbolosphere, the Technosphere and the Econosphere. It grew out of my work in biocomplexity (see Section 6.).

* Here are some sample chapters. Comments would be appreciated.
* Chapter 1
* Chapter 2
* Chapter 5
* Chapter 6
* Chapter 7
* Chapter 8
* Chapter 9
* Chapter 10

Courses taught / taken

Think Tank at OCAD

At sLab I am PI on the Greening My Hotel project; co-PI on the sBook project; and developing a number of additional projects.
Publications – Books

Robert K. Logan. In preparation. What is Information?

__________2009. (forthcoming) Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan. Cresskill NJ: Hampton Press.

• _________2007. The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture. Toronto: U.of Toronto Press.

• _________ 2004a. The Alphabet Effect. Cresskill NJ: Hampton Press (1st edition 1986. New York: Wm. Morrow).

• _________ 2004b. The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age. Caldwell NJ:Blackburn Press (1st edition 2000. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing; Mandarin Edition ISBN 986-7964-05-5).

• Logan, Robert K. and Louis W. Stokes. 2004. Collaborate to Compete: Driving Profitability in the Knowledge Economy. Toronto and New York: Wiley (Mandarin Edition ISBN 7-5080-3669-7).

• _________ 1995. The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing.

• _________ 1972. The Poetry of Physics and the Physics of Poetry. (This unpublished manuscript has been used as a text book for the The Poetry of Physics to the date of this CV).

• Logan, Robert K. (ed). 1977. The Way Ahead for Canada. Toronto: Lester and Orpen.

• Logan, Robert K. and Steven.D. Berkowitz (eds). 1978. Canada’s Third Option. Toronto: MacMillan Canada.

• McLuhan, Marshall and Robert K. Logan. 1980. The Future of the Library: An Old Figure in a New Ground. Canada National Library Archives (This book which was commissioned by Bowker Publications went unpublished but a new edition is in preparation with Eric McLuhan and Kathy Kawasaki in which the original manuscript plus a update of the original manuscript will be published together).

Articles: Selected Major Publications in the Humanities and Social Sciences

• Logan, Robert K. 2007. The biological foundation of media ecology. Explorations
Media Ecology 6: 19-34.

• _________2007. The origin and evolution of language and the propagation of organization. TripleC 5(2): 75-81.

• _________2007. Biosemiosis, Propagating Organization, and the Origin and Evolution of Language. In Guenther Witzany (ed) Proceedings of the Gathering in Biosemiotics 6 (Biosemiotics in Transdisciplinary Contexts), pp. 213-20.

• _________2006. Neo-dualism and the bifurcation of the symbolosphere into the mediasphere and the human mind. Semiotica 160: 229-42.

• _________2006. The extended mind model of the origin of language and culture. In Nathalie Gontier. Jean Paul Van Bendegem and Diederik Aerts (eds). Evolutionary
Epistemology, Language and Culture, pp. 149-168.

•_________ 2005. Making Sense of the visual – Is google the seventh language? Semiotica 157 (1/4): 345-352.

•_________ 2005. The origin and evolution of language and the transformation of meaning, identity and relationships in CMC. In Adriana Braga (ed) CMC, Identidades E Genero: Teoria e Metodo., 235-62.

•_________ 2004. The origin of language and the co-evolution of literacy and conceptualization. Chapter in: Light Onwords/Light Onwards. Toronto: Coach House Press.
• _________2004. The emergence of language and culture out of the complexity of hominid existence. InterJournal Complex Systems 737.

• _________ 2003. Science as a Language: The non-probativity theorem and the complementarity of Complexity and Predictability. In Daniel McArthur & Cory Mulvihil (eds) Humanity and the Cosmos, pp 63-73.

• _________ 2003. The Extended Mind: Understanding language and thought in terms of complexity and chaos theory. In Daniel McArthur & Cory Mulvihil (eds) Humanity and the Cosmos, pp 273-88.

• _________ 2002. The five ages of communication. Explorations Media Ecology 1:13-20.

• _________ 2002. Wissensmanagement Erfordert einen neuen Lernstil. In Matthias Bellmann, Helmut Krcmar, Tom Sommerlatte (eds) Praxishandbuch Wissensmanagement, 761-78.

• _________ 2000. The extended mind: understanding language and thought in terms of complexity and chaos theory. In Lance Strate (ed), 2000 Communication and Speech Annual Vol. 14. New York: The New York State Communication Association.

• _________ 1999. The social, economic, and educational impacts of notational systems. Semiotica 125-1/3: 15-20.

• _________ 1995. Sustainability, knowledge tools and the ethos of the Internet.
In Proceedings : interdisciplinary conference : knowledge tools for a sustainable civilization : Fourth Canadian Conference on Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory : Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 8-10, 1995.

• _________ 1994. Coach house at the margin (Robert K. Logan). In Barrington Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan (eds) Who Was Marshall McLuhan?, pp. 38-40.

• _________ 1991. The axiomatics of Innis and McLuhan. McLuhan Studies 1: 75-102.

• _________ 1981. Innovation by design. Policy Options, 2(5): 61-4.

• _________ 1979. The Mystery of the Discovery of Zero. Etcetera. Vol. 36: 16-28.

• Kauffman, Stuart, Robert K. Logan, Robert Este, Randy Goebel, David Hobill and Ilya Smulevich. 2007. Propagating Organization: An Inquiry. Biology and Philosophy 23: 27-45.

• Logan, Robert K. and Burleigh T. Wilkins. 1962. The science of absolute presuppositions. Bucknell ReviewX(3): 175-85.

•Logan, Robert K. and Gale Moore (eds). 1978. French English Relations: A Sense of Canada, kit #1. Toronto: NCCUD.

• Logan, Robert K. and Norman W. White. 1981. Energy and health. In Norman W. White (ed) The Health Conundrum. Toronto: TV Ontario, 113-22.

• Logan, Robert K. and Norman W. White. 1981. Environment unusual and unforseen. In Norman W. White (ed) The Health Conundrum. Toronto: TV Ontario, 195-205.

• Logan, Robert K. and S. Padro. 1985. The Impact of Computers in the Classroom. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education.

• Logan, Robert, S. Padro, L. Miller, R. Ragsdale, E. Sullivan, J. Brine, E.M. Johnston, B. McKelvey, and H. Wideman. 1983. Research Questions on the Impact of Computers in the Classroom. Ont. Min. of Education. Ed. and Tech. Ser. ONO 4268.

• Logan, Robert K. and John Schumann. 2005. The symbolosphere, conceptualization, language and neo-dualism. Semiotica 155 (1), pp. 201-14.

• Logan, Robert K. and Greg Van Alstyne. In preparation. The Design Ecosystem: Designing for Emergence and Innovation II

• McLuhan, Marshall & Robert K. Logan. 1977. Alphabet, mother of invention. Etcetera 34: 373-83.

• ________ 1979. The double bind of communication and the world problematique. Human Futures (Summer 1979): 1-3.

• Van Alstyne, Greg and Robert K. Logan. 2007. Designing for Emergence and Innovation: Redesigning Design. Artifact 1: 120-29.

Refereed Publications in Physics

There are 35 articles published in refereed physics journals spanning the years 1965 to 1982. For the sake of brevity only the first and the last papers are reported:

Logan, Robert K. "Single Regge pole Analysis of π- p cex Scattering", Phys. Rev. Lett. 14 pp. 414-416 (1965).

Logan Robert K., S. Kogitz and M. Bates, "Statistical Bootstrap Duality", Phys. Rev. vol. D25, 2441-4 November 9, (1982).

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