McLuhan – The Medium is the Message

McLuhan brings up a lot of interesting ideas about “medium” and “content” that I believe broaden our pre-existing understanding of what falls into each category.

McLuhan speaks about the idea, that “characteristic of all media, means that the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium.” He then gives us the example of movies, which are a medium whose content could be a novel which is also a medium. I agree with this idea because content for most mediums in the sense of entertainment are other forms of medium. However, I don’t think that this idea can be extrapolated to all forms of medium which challenges McLuhan’s idea of medium, which is “any extension of ourselves.” Do you guys agree with McLuhan that a medium is any extension of ourselves or are there boundaries to what can be viewed as a medium? If there are boundaries can we agree that the content of the medium is another medium?

McLuhan also says that “the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” He then sites airplanes and railroads as being able to change the scale or pace of human affairs. What are your thoughts on this, does him bringing these technologies cloud our understanding of media and medium? Or do you think that the inclusion of these help strengthen his argument about mediums?

 

3 thoughts on “McLuhan – The Medium is the Message

  1. Do you guys agree with McLuhan that a medium is any extension of ourselves or are there boundaries to what can be viewed as a medium? If there are boundaries can we agree that the content of the medium is another medium?

    I think that a medium can be an extension of ourselves because the way use media and the content within them are things that we feel and believe. These are things characterized by our own personal experiences. I don’t think that there are boundaries to what can be seen as media because I feel that distinction between media as McLuhan knows it and media as we see it today is Mass Media—a whole other term. I believe that the content of media may always be another media until the content is the receiver itself. Then it can’t go further back.

    I think that the arguments on airplanes and railroads helps strengthen McLuhan’s argument because it shows the influence of the media, themselves, on our lives. Hence, the content is the media. Like I mentioned above, I think that pretty much anything in life that carries anything can be a medium. The distinction comes when we bring up Mass Media.

  2. I partially disagree with McLuhan’s notion that the content of any given medium is always another medium. While it is true that the script of a movie could be a book of sorts, it just wouldn’t work as well. While it is possible to convert a script or screenplay into a book, the difference in medium detracts something from the message. Blockbuster action movies, unsettling horror films, and expansive sci-fi epics all lose their impact on paper. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to capture the same message in a different medium.

    I also disagree with McLuhan’s notion of a medium being an extension of ourselves. This creates a vague definition of medium that almost likens it to a tool. I believe there’s an important distinction. While both tools and mediums are utilized as extensions of ourselves a medium implies the transfer of a message. There’s a difference between driving my preferred car and reading my preferred novel. While I technically travel to a different location a car doesn’t deliver a message. A novel sends the message of the story to me.

    This sort of flows right into your last question. The definition of a message as, “any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” is too broad. It devalues the argument over mediums because at that point you can justify almost anything as a medium. In order to have an argument on mediums you need to at least establish something more specific first.

  3. I would say that I agree with McLuhan’s thoughts about content being a different medium than the medium in which it is viewed. He mentions the idea that it isn’t the machine that determines meaning, but what one does with that machine. This idea relates to media being “any extension of ourselves” because like we’ve discussed in previous classes, any creative, human influence to a media changes the form of that medium all together. One thing that I took away from the McLuhan readings was that anything involving our senses, anything that we use our senses for, becomes an extension of the self.

    As for his discussion of “the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”, I thought his examples showed how mediums are created for a function but can change the landscapes of a culture. The media (or content) wouldn’t exist without the medium itself and is determined by how we as humans use those mediums. However, I think the clearest example in proving this was the lightbulb example.

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