Reading Response: The Medium is the Message

This week’s reading assignment is two chapter clips from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, by Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan’s famous rhetoric is that “The medium is the message”, the content which medium delivers is not of his top concern, or that he believes that the role of the content simply can not be compared with the medium itself when speaking of the impacts on the human. It makes me think of the role of a traditional newspaper (can be in digital form) and the news feed on a social media app. Even though they are talking about the same specific news, the medium itself is also passing the message: politics vs. entertainment, mainstream vs. public, serious vs. popular.

If “The medium is the message” pushes the role of media from behind scene to the stage, then McLuhan’s bold view that “characteristic of all media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium” really makes me excited. Broadly speaking, in every new media environment, they all include the old environment of the previous age, just like electric media uses the mechanized environment for the content. While in the narrow sense, the “content” of any specific medium is another medium, the extension of our organs are completed in the transformation and processing with the each other parts.

It is because of one medium becoming the content of another one, the influence of the medium will be much stronger. Only when this medium is compatible with other ones, can it be widely disseminated and people can feel the shock it brings. As people gradually started to shoot videos using mobile phones, it is only a small range of entertaining themselves by playing with some home videos; However with the rising popularity of the internet, the phone recording videos are often placed on the whole public network for the audience to click and choose. The widespread video of an Asian passenger focibly removed from the United Airlines was exactly showing that internet made the kind of explosive senation effect. The power if social media and Web 2.0.

Although McLuhan strongly emphasized the great role of the medium, he did not pessimistically believe that the medium would be able to dominate the fate of mankind. At the time of the hybridization of the two media, it would be the time of reavelation. And it is the similarity of the two media that makes us stay on the border, which wakes us up from the state of narcissistic numbness.

In addition, he also mentioned the arts and artists, which he believes that artists can consciously adjust the various personal and social factors, to adapt to the new extension. We can tell that McLuhan really admires artists from his large quotes from writers, playwrights, musicians who have the ability to perceive new technology in advance. I think he is emphasizing a sense of the whole or a field theory, that is, his heart to wish the returning state of human. Because the artists have the overall consciousness, they will be able to correct the sense ratios before beaten to numbness by the new medium. And if everyone can reach the kind of collective unconscious state, to percieve with the overall sense of perception rather than a specific sensory, then even if new technology or new media comes, we can still calmly deal with, not then hypnotized into the state of numbness where we are not aware of.

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