The Medium and the Message: An Obligate Relationship

I honestly had a hard time accepting the fact that “the medium is the message.”  The statement seems bleak and quite contrary to everything I have learned prior to reading McLuhan’s essay.  For me, the content has always been important.  When I am reading a textbook and trying to understand an idea, I am not thinking about the book in my hands, I am thinking about the content in front of my eyes.  I suppose I fall into the category of those who are “long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control” but in all honesty, who from my generation does not/did not belong to this category?  For it is part of our homogenized culture, the accepted and rational way of solving problems, of thinking about and viewing the world.  After all, McLuhan states himself that the “criminal appears as a nonconformist.”  Who wants to be classified as a criminal?  For that very reason, I am going to be the “nonconformist” here and voice my confusion with this material.  Hopefully I will work my way to the solution through the questioning of his ideas.

Why yes, I am a perfectionist and someone who revels in the feeling of “control” which for me has been achieved through a step-by-step, “sequential” process.  When did that become such a problem?

I guess it was in my senior year of high school, when words could not  simply be memorized anymore.  I believe I was reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and I realized there was no possible way I could memorize all the vast concepts that were discussed.  It was that moment that I realized my education was missing something, I had been numb to the information –  “…sounds did not echo nor thought develop” before this day.  I had read all of those words before, therefore the content was nothing new however it caused a shift in the way I approached learning, “a change of pattern” introduced to my every day customs.  Does that make the medium the message?  When considering the meaning of context, I think so.  If the medium is the channel through which an idea is communicated, wouldn’t that make context, the parts of discourse that surround a word or give meaning to a passage, a type of medium?  I think so.  If this crazy idea makes any sense to you then the McLuhan’s statement that the “content of any medium is always another medium” will provide some insight into my thinking.  Wouldn’t this sort of recursion indicate that the content is equally as important as the medium?  Again, I think so.  If this is the case though, how can one even decipher between the “medium” and the “message”?  Maybe that is the whole point of McLuhan’s signature phrase.

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One Response to The Medium and the Message: An Obligate Relationship

  1. halliedominick

    When I first read McLuhan’s essay I was extremely confused. However, after today I can completely agree with your point regarding that “the content of any medium is always another medium.” I feel like this could be a never ending pattern. If one medium creates a message then in turn that medium can create a message and so on. When I read your example for reading a text senior year of high school i thought of the example in class of the “pen-hand” how we have a hand, then a pen, then a pen-hand. Or also when he have a hand, a book, and then a hand-book-eyes. It is a never ending cycling.

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