My blog post is based off of a multitude of lectures, seminars, and readings based off of Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s theory ‘The Medium is The Message’.
The main piece of information that was conveyed to me was that McLuhan’s theory meant that it is the medium itself that is important, not the message the medium carries. The impact the medium creates when it is first established is greater than the messages that follow.
A point I found particularly interesting from this reading was McLuhan’s example focusing on electric light. The idea is that whether the light is used for brain surgery or night baseball is unimportant, and that it could be argued that these activities are simply in some way the content of the electric light, McLuhan argues that these activities are considered content because they could not exist without the electric light.
I found a quote that I felt explained the theory well: “Imagine, if you will, a deep well in the middle of a vast desert. The well is our medium (as the radio or Web would be), and the water is our message. A rich and reliable well in the middle of the desert would naturally become the hub of travel routes and even a sustainable population. The water by itself is of no use without the well. If it were inaccessible or people were unaware of its existence, it could not support life. The well, as a medium, delivers water to the people passing by or living nearby. As a result, the well becomes synonymous with water and life, despite really being just a hole in the ground.”
A modern example of ‘The Medium is The Message’ would be any of numerous social networking sites or apps. One example is Instagram, the medium is Instagram itself, whilst the message is the content uploaded to Instagram, such as photos and videos.
Another point that was brought up in the presentation that took place in the seminar was about McLuhan’s quote “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”, an analogy was given that Mark Zuckerberg created the social networking website Facebook, and that since its invention, anyone who was of age during that period of time, or born after, will be in someway created or shaped by it and other social networking websites and apps.
What the point means is that everyone who has had experience with social networking since its invention has in some way been impacted by it, either positively or negatively, as it plays an important role in everyday life, for both people and brands. I agree with this point, as I feel that social media plays an important role in the lives of those from both Generation X and Generation Y, and those from Generation Z will currently be growing up being shaped by it.
What does this mean for society? I believe it is too soon to tell, but perhaps McLuhan was right, it seems our tools have shaped us.