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Technological Determinism - The Medium is the Message


Marshall McLuhan had some radical ideas that made the people who learned about them take a second to think. His controversial ideas brought a lot to the table of mass media.

One of his main concepts was that 'the medium is the message.' The premise behind this is it is not necessarily about the content, but the way in which one receives the messages. This seems to ring true, especially now, because some people only get their information from Twitter or Instagram, whereas, others get their information from news stations on TV or magazines on the shelf. It's funny because I've always said you can tell a lot about a person by where they get their information from.

McLuhan also identified that people relate to the world around them according to which senses they use to learn about it. This also makes sense because humans naturally relate to the world and those around them through their perceptions. Perception starts to form through our five senses. This seems to apply even when people use the same device differently. For example, my phone is always on silent, I text with my fingers instead of voice to text, I read captions and do not listen to sound most of the time and I do not talk on the phone barely ever. Whereas, my friend constantly uses talk to text, speaks on the phone, has the volume up and uses his phone in a completed different way. We are using the same exact device, but different senses. So the way we relate to our environments is different.

A third strong idea he shared was that electronic media had the potential to create a global village. How amazing is it for McLuhan to have come up with this back in the 60'a and 70s? This is something most are engaged in right this minute. There are so many different examples of global villages on the internet. It can be seen as one whole global village with many micro villages. Online classes, Facebook Groups, Forums and more demonstrate an immeasurable amount of global villages simply through the internet.


With all great things in life, there are some limitations, or at least questions to consider.

As I agree the medium in which we consume our information is important, it is just as important what the content is. It is not simply the fact that I learned something from a post on Facebook, but also that I care enough to research more on that specific topic through other media outlets because the content interests me as a person. Does 'the medium is the message' totally discredit the viewer's personality and beliefs?

Just because I keep my phone on silent because I am constantly around others that need my attention and it would not be appropriate for notifications to make noise. When I am not engaged in these responsibilities my phone is still on silent out of habit, but I do seek sounds in other ways - like listening to music and speaking to loved ones in person. Since I consume most of my information through reading does this mean I do not relate to the world through hearing and smelling?

Even though there is a global village (or many global villages) where people can interact with one another regardless of location, does this take into account the reality of these worlds? Does the reality of them even matter?

Overall, McLuhan was an innovative man way ahead of his time. He brought up ideas that ring true, but with an inquisitive mindset these ideas also lead to some questions.

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