Marshal McLuhan came up with the quote “the medium is the message” as a way of trying to convince people of the importance of the medium through which message is passed. That is, as much as the message’s content is relevant, its medium is equally significant. Therefore, this paper aims at analyzing McLuhan’s quote and further explains the effect of the medium. It also touches on the ideas of modern architects of communication.
Defining Medium and Message
For starters, the term medium can be somewhat confusing, especially if it is thought of it as size. For instance, some people can translate the term “medium” as a scientific terminology to mean the process of “carrying” or “delivering” something (McLuhan et al., 1978). Therefore, McLuhan insists on having a comprehensive understanding of the term medium, which is used in carrying and delivering a message. Once the meaning of the medium is correctly grasped and comprehended, the next step is to associate and correlate it with the message being conveyed. For McLuhan, the message is definable as the pace, pattern or scale at which change takes place, whereby new inventions and innovations are introduced into various human affairs. The author insists that the medium is fully responsible for the shaping and controlling of the scale and the form of human actions (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). This means that it is the medium itself, and not the content, that should be of great focus.
Evolution of the Quote
When Marshal McLuhan came up with this quote, it was in 1967, at a time when the internet was not available. However, TV and radio were the most technologically advanced mediums of passing the message to a large mass of targeted people. At the time, McLuhan was trying to put more emphasis on TV’s importance as a medium (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). Now, years and decades later, the internet has become the dominant medium of communication. McLuhan’s point of view has proven its significance whereby a message passed through the internet can have a different impact on a similar message passed through TV or radio. For instance, through the internet, messages have the capability of going viral, thus reaching different people, most of who are from diverse backgrounds.
It is difficult to doubt or argue against McLuhan’s viewpoint that medium affects and influences society. It is evident that TV and radio, both of which are medium, played a significant role in shaping society’s beliefs. The same can be said of the internet and its social media platforms. Thus, it is not about the content, but rather about the medium. In further understanding the effects of media, McLuhan also points out the issue of cultural differences (McLuhan et al., 1978). For instance, he mentions that our culture is characterized by the need to split and divide all things, which acts as a way of taking control of others.
This mentality makes it difficult to convince people to change their minds and embrace the effects of the medium in messages. The author goes on to elaborate on the social and personal consequences of the medium, especially when they are introduced to us from new scales such as technology. Hence, this explains the sudden takeover of the internet and how its impact on our lives surprised many people. McLuhan instead advises us to always focus on the medium and not just on the content.
It is without a doubt that McLuhan’s quote is being applied in many scenarios, especially with technological advances. In the quote, McLuhan explains the effects of technology and how it is changing and shaping our society today. McLuhan explains that technology affects the way we think and commutate with others (McLuhan et al., 1978). The quote has resulted in a better understanding of the effects of media while teaching us the ideas of modern architects. Nonetheless, McLuhan concludes by stating that both medium and message are synonymous, thus the need to weigh them equally.
McLuhan, M., Hutchon, K., & McLuhan, E. (1978). Multi-Media: The Laws of the Media. The English Journal, 67(8), 92. DOI: 10.2307/815039; Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Dp0yMT
McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the message. Toronto: Bantam Books. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2MY5RCz