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Title: What does McLuhan mean when he stated, the medium is the message?
The enigmatic paradox of McLuhan that medium is the message has raised a lot of debate on its interpretation. The paradox meaning is something that needs to be looked at step by step. It is therefore important for an individual to understand what McLuhan meant when using the terms medium and message. Majority of individuals normally assume the conventional meaning of medium to be communications’ mass-media, which are radio, television, internet and press, and understand the message as content or information thus making them to wrongly interpret McLuhan Paradox when putting the meaning of the two terms together (De Souza, 2005). This paper therefore looks at the correct meaning of the McLuhan statement, the medium is the message.
The meaning of the statement medium is the message
The statement, the medium is the message, implies that individuals can understand the nature and features of anything they develop or visualize, that is medium, by virtue of transformations. The changes that individual effect, that is the message, need to be unnoticed or should not be obvious. McLuhan claims that individuals are usually distracted by medium’s content. According to him, it is quite typical that any medium’s content normally blinds individuals to the character of the medium. McLuhan also suggests that the medium’s character is its potency, effect or its message. This therefore implied that the personal and social effects of any medium, that is individuals’ extension, results from new scale (Gordon, 2010).
Majority of the consequences that are not expected normally results from the fact that there are situations in individual’s society and culture that should not just be taken into consideration when planning. These can range from religious or cultural matters and historical precedents, via interplay with the prevailing conditions, to secondary or tertiary impacts in a flow of associations (Grosswiler, 2007). These dynamic processes normally operate silently so as to influence the manner in which individuals interact to each other and with the entire society. There are several unnoticeable dynamic processes that occur in societies. However, when something changes, it normally becomes noticeable. Noticing change is thus the key in understanding the terms, message and medium as used by McLuhan in his paradox (Genosko, 2005).
McLuhan believes that message is the transformation of scale, pattern or pace that a modern innovation or invention brings into the affairs of an individual. Therefore, to understand the term message as used by McLuhan, it is important to look at change in inter-personal dynamics that result from innovation, but not the use or the content of the innovation (Berger, 2006). For instance, theatrical production’s message is not the musical or the play that is being produced, but rather the change in tourism that the production might promote. The message from theatrical production can also be a change in attitude or action on audience part that results from medium of play. This is normally different from the general medium of theatrical production (Wood, 2010). Likewise, the newscast’s message is not usually the news stories, but rather a change in the attitude of the public towards crime, or the development of an environment of fear. The message, as used by McLuhan, informs individuals always look past the obvious and search for the non-obvious transformation or effects that are developed, enabled, hastened or enlarged by new thing (Palmer, 2009).
McLuhan looks at the medium as any extension of an individual. Typically, he claims that a hammer enlarges individuals’ arm and the wheel enlarges the legs and feet of an individual. McLuhan continues to explain that each enables individuals to do more than what their bodies could perform independently (O’Neill, 2008). Likewise, the medium of language enlarges individuals’ thoughts from within their mind to other people’s mind. Speech is usually an outering of individuals’ senses since their thoughts are because of individual sensory experience. The senses of individuals normally bring the globe into their minds while the speech takes individuals’ sensorially-shaped minds outside the globe (Ritterfeld U., & Cody, 2009). McLuhan, however, normally looks at medium in growing medium perspective, just like fertile potting soil in which a seed is planted or agar in a Petri dish. He looks at medium as anything that causes change. This therefore implies that since a number of transformation results from all the things that individuals visualize or develop, the individuals’ innovations ideas, ideals and inventions are McLuhan media (McLuhan, 1964).
According to De Souza (2005), McLuhan statement, medium is the message, displays his concerns about the content of a medium. Historically, when individuals think about messages, they normally concentrates a lot on what they are talking about or the content and ignores the media. The approach of McLuhan changes totally the content’s of traditional dominance over medium. In his argument, content plays a major role. Content in McLuhan argument is as important as stenciling on atomic bomb. McLuhan believes that the medium has been abandoned for along time because it is normally invisible. He compares the invisibility of the medium with an electric light or the electromagnetic waves that creates the visible spectrum. Even though light is invisible to the naked eye it normally illuminates the globe. McLuhan therefore implies that medium interpretation cannot be done by its out look, but rather by critically finding the message it displays. McLuhan stated that medium is the message so as to imply that media normally develops its own surroundings that are very important to several messages, and at the same time being of no benefit to other messages. Similar to sodium-vapor light that mutes every color to orange-grey media normally enhances and suppress their content.
From the discussion it is clear that the correct meaning of the statement medium is the message can well be elaborated by not looking at the conventional meaning of medium and message but rather to critically visualize about something and its effect. The statement, the medium is the message, therefore, implies that individuals can understand the nature and features of anything they develop or visualize by virtue of transformations. Individuals are usually distracted by medium’s content. The content of the medium normally blinds individuals to the character of the medium. Message as used by McLuhan is the transformation of scale, pattern or pace that a modern innovation or invention brings into the affairs of an individual. Medium as use by McLuhan is any thing that causes change.
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Grosswiler P., 2007, The Method is the Message, London: Black Rose Books.
Genosko G., 2005, McLuhan and Baudrillard: the masters of implosion, London: Routledge.
Berger A., 2006, 50 ways to understand communication: a guided tour of key ideas and theorists in communication, media, and culture, New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Wood T., 2010, Communication Mosaics: An Introduction to the Field of Communication, New York: Cengage Learning.
Palmer D, 2009, Canada’s 1960s: the ironies of identity in a rebellious era, Ottawa: University of Toronto Press.
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