A word for my fellow students: Keep an eye out for my BCM112 Weekly Digest posts! These are the ones you’ll want to comment on for your Online Presence portion of the assessment.
> What does it mean?
“The medium is the message.”
– Marshall McLuhan, 1964.
The phrase seems self-explanatory, right? It’s black-and-white; “this thing equals this thing, full stop.”
The truth is, it’s hard to wrap your head around an entire scholarly theory if you only have one pithy sentence as a reference point. McLuhan isn’t proposing that the message doesn’t mean anything – he is proposing that the relationship between form and content is far more complex than the medium simply being a channel for the message to reach its destination. The medium and the message hold equal importance in the equation.
So our next question is, if the medium is the message, where is the message? One key point that stuck with me throughout my research is the idea that McLuhan extends the meaning of the phrase, saying the “content of any medium is always another medium”. Consider a book. In the simple equation above, the book would be the medium, and its contents the message. However, the medium of the book itself is the text in it, right? And the medium of text is speech, and so on. I’m not fully equipped to explain further, but it’s an interesting concept, and adds another layer of understanding to McLuhan’s famous phrase.
It’s important to understand that a medium isn’t limited to speech and writing – consider the idea that a “medium” is, in fact, any extension of the self that assists our interaction with the world. So, of course, a letter is a medium – but so is a lecture theatre. The two vastly different mediums suggest – no, demand – different behaviours when we interact with them, thus shaping our experience with the content. The way our interactions with the content are shaped by the medium… that’s the message.
This video by BBC Radio sums the issue up nicely.