Sociology Index

MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE

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.