Sociology Index


Medium is the Message is the central idea of communications theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) who demonstrated that each media (print, speech, television) is connected with a different pattern or arrangement among the senses and thus results in a different awareness or perception.

Although the literal message of a radio report of a disaster and the television coverage of the same event may be identical, medium is the message because the event will be perceived differently and take on different meaning because the two media arrange the senses differently. In this sense, the singular for the word media, the medium, is the message; this message is often more important than the literal message.

By putting our physical bodies inside our extended nervous systems, by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies that are mere extensions of hands and feet and teeth, will be translated into information systems. Electromagnetic technology requires utter human docility and quiescence of meditation such as befits an organism that now wears its brain outside its skull and its nerves outside its hide.

We must serve our electric technology with the same servo-mechanistic fidelity with which we once served our coracle, our canoe, our typography, and all other extensions of our physical organs. But, there is a difference here. Those previous technologies were partial and fragmentary. The electric is total and inclusive. An external consensus or conscience is now as necessary as private consciousness. With the new media, however, it is now possible to store and to translate everything; and as for speed, that is no problem. No further acceleration is possible this side of the light barrier. Mcluhan, Understanding Media - The Extensions of Man, 1963.

How the Medium is the Message in the Unconscious of 'America Online'
Bob Hodge, University of Western Sydney
This article explores McLuhan's famous slogan `the medium is the message' as a point of departure for examining current views of the nature of the new electronic media understood as a revolutionary form, associated with a new (`post-modern') stage of society. It argues that this slogan packs into itself more layers of meaning than he was able to articulate in a complex and nuanced theory of the media. It suggests that McLuhan's work constructs a productive idea of a media unconscious. It shows in detail how `messages' are encoded in new visual forms associated with the new electronic media, using the logo of `America Online' (AOL), an internet provider, as exemplary text. This logo carries implicit messages about the nature of these media, in a kind of dialogue with McLuhan. Messages and dialogue alike need a new space in which they can occur: a theory of unconscious dimensions of media.

The Medium is the Massage - Marshall McLuhan The Medium is the Massage is Marshall McLuhan's most condensed, and perhaps most effective, presentation of his ideas. Using a layout style that was later copied by Wired, McLuhan and coauthor/designer Quentin Fiore combine word and image to illustrate and enact the ideas that were first put forward in the dense and poorly organized Understanding Media. McLuhan's ideas about the nature of media, the increasing speed of communication, and the technological basis for our understanding of who we are come to life in this slender volume. Although originally printed in 1967, the art and style in The Medium is the Massage seem as fresh today as in the summer of love, and the ideas are even more resonant now that computer interfaces are becoming gateways to the global village.

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition - Marshall McLuhan - When first published, Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media made history with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and life in the twentieth century.

The Medium is the Message: And 50 Other Ridiculous Advertising Rules (Ridiculous Design Rules) - Anneloes van Gaalen The Medium is the Message provides a list of inspirational or delusional advertising jargon for the world to judge.

The Ad Medium Is the Message: Public Attitudes Toward Advertising Depend On the Ad Medium - SHARON SHAVITT.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Business Administration
PAMELA M. LOWREY, UIUC-CBA Office of Research Working Paper No. 01-0123 
Abstract: A total of 2514 adults were surveyed regarding their opinions about ads in either, 1) TV, 2) radio, 3) catalogs, 4) business classifieds, 5) out-of-home, or 6) advertising in general. Media that allow for self-selected exposure, where perceived interest in an ad is the basis for exposure to it, were evaluated much more favorably than more intrusive advertising media. Catalogs and business classifieds elicited the most confidence; TV advertising elicited the least. Confidence in advertising in general most closely resembled that for TV advertising. More confidence in advertising was reported by males, people under 35, and people with less education or lower incomes. However, media differences generally cut across demographic lines.

The Medium Is the Message - Bill Wadge
Abstract: It is our position (following Plaice and Kropf) that mathematics and software engineering does not provide a very good basis for understanding communities. These formalisms are necessarily influenced by a mechanical, atomistic outlook which sees collections as arbitrary assemblages of self sufficient individuals communicating point to point in a vacuum.
I suggest instead that ideas of Marshall McLuhan provide a much better starting point because they give a central role to the medium by which the members of a community communicate. Furthermore, I argue that the phrase "the medium" should also be interpreted in the sense used in (say) biology, as a nurturing extended substance (a plenum) which fills the space between the individuals and to some degree permeates their interiors.

Multimedia Reviews: Multimedia Overload Produces Symplexity - Frank Zingrone
Introduction by the column editor: We humans know from information mediated through our natural senses. All outside signals come to us through some medium, sound waves, pressure and touch, light waves, radio and television waves, and so forth. McLuhan's famous mantra 'The medium is the message' paradoxically highlighted the critical transformation of meaning when each type of medium, radio, television, drums, hand signals, by its very nature modifies the message it is transmitting.

Is The Medium The Message? - Review - by Jeff Lee
Colville Place Gallery - Penelope Wakeham - Painting with Numbers
'The Medium Is The Message' is a slogan from a media commentator called Marshall MacLuhan. He proposed that the innate qualities of a medium determine the content of the message put through it. If we have TV, our message is made up of movement and sound, and if we have drawing, our message is made up of marks on a surface. The limitations, goes the argument, aren't so much the midwife as the parent. This was exciting stuff in the sixties, and is now a standard discussion in art institutions. Oh but the message is pure wail MacLuhan's critics, artists determine their message, not mere paint. Or do they?

The medium is the message: A media specific analysis of the Communications Decency Act - Janet Osen
The medium is the message. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase in his 1964 primer on the nature of the media, television was king. At the time, McLuhan postulated that television as a medium would have far greater impact on mankind than its programming content. The argument of carrier versus content has since broadened to include new technologies. With the decision of the Philadelphia Federal Court on the unconstitutionality of the Communications Decency Act, McLuhan's theory is once again in the spotlight and the debate over the power and scope of the media has reached the Internet. Available online 19 March 1999.

Marshall McLuhan and the WWW: Is the Medium Still the Message?
Russell McNeil, Malaspina University-College, March 29, 1999
Introduction: I met Marshall McLuhan 42 years ago - once - he drove me and his twin daughters to an engagement where we all were competing in an Ontario wide competition using the medium of speech. Marshall - the father - sat politely and indulgently in the audience absorbing the machinations of some 30 of us who were offering opinions and oratory and rhetoric on issues of the day - as seen through the filters of our 11 year old minds. I waxed poetic on the theme of conservation and ecology, although that word had not yet been coined.

From 'The message is the medium' An interview with Manuel Castells
The medium is the message means that the materiality of organizing the communication process fundamentally shapes the ways the message is going to be received. If we say that The message is the medium it means that the content of the message organizes the process of communication. As you suggest, and I agree with you, communication is also the message. To take an example, there are all kinds of studies that show that there is little correlation between advertising and consumers actual behaviour. Yet, billions are spent on advertising.

If the Medium Is the Message, What Does SMS Say?
Overview: There is something wrong with short message services (SMS). By wrong I don't mean that the system doesn't work or that it is not popular, indeed nothing could be further from the truth. No - based on the web orthodoxies SMS shouldn't work. Typing an SMS means using a tiny non-querty keyboard. SMS allows only 160 characters of text, no fancy pictures and sounds and no bandwidth or multimedia. Customers have to pay to send an SMS (shock horror!) Yet for all that, SMS is spectacularly successful, particularly with the youth market.