Did you see what I did with that title? Massaging ideas? Guys, it’s a play on words…catch up! Okay, so if you aren’t a mass comm nerd like me, Marshall McLuhan was a media theorist who became well known from his books Understanding Media and The Medium is the Massage. Which brings me to a super fun fact, his well-known book The Medium is the Massage was intended to be called The Medium is the MESSAGE, but there was a typo in the proof and McLuhan liked it so much, he kept the name; but I digress. The real reason we’re talking about McLuhan today is to take a deep dive into the Technological Determinism Theory.
What in the world is this girl talking about?
Maybe I lost you a bit with the fancy theory talk and the McLuhan guy that you may have never heard of, but stick with me here, it gets interesting! McLuhan believed that technology made an impact to the way we receive information. Specifically, he didn’t believe what you were seeing and hearing held as much importance as how you were seeing and hearing it
With the ability to see things and hear things that weren’t immediately in front of us, through media, that it drove a proverbial wedge between people who didn’t receive messaging the same way. Now, that’s my summary which is way high level, but there are tons of fascinating details to the way Marshall McLuhan thought and you should absolutely check out the video below to hear them!
Let’s talk about the positive!
So, now that you know a little more about the theory itself, let’s talk about the things that seem to work when we think about Marshall McLuhan’s ideas.
· Truthfully, I don’t see a time where we can outgrow this technology. Why? Because technology is ever changing. We as a society are getting smarter and thus, our technology is getting faster, more advanced, and with time, I believe more accurate! In the 1960’s, McLuhan was focused on the differences between one on one talking to what evolved into print publication. Could you imagine if he lived today to see the social media world? If a photo of McLuhan being mind blown existed, this is where I’d insert it!
· There’s a whole lot of good, if used the right way, that could come from understanding the medium in which people receive information. And just to go back to that first point of the whole ever evolving social world, this gives us a tool that could be carried with us for generations upon generations. Remember, it’s not what is being said, it’s what medium is being used to put it out there.
· Simply put, ‘the more you know’. The opportunity that exists outside of print is endless. McLuhan once said
“It is a matter of greatest importance that our educational institutions realize that we now have civil war among these environments created by media other than the printed word. The classroom is now in a vital struggle for survival with the immensely persuasive ‘outside’ world created by new informational media. Education must shift from instruction, from imposing of stencils, to discovery — to probing and exploration.”
So…what’s the downside?
· Let’s face it…more technology advancements means MORE MEDIUMS! So, based on McLuhan’s theory, it would be a whole lot tougher to say the medium matters most, because people are no longer limited to a few options. In today’s world, we have so many options and as individuals, we might all use different mediums. Some far more than others. So, can we truly say the medium is impactful as a whole?
· If the medium is more important than the message…well, what does that say about mankind? Are we so naïve that the message doesn’t matter?
· McLuhan said “If you don’t understand the medium, you don’t fully understand the message”. Well…I’m looking at you TikTok. Do we fully understand the medium? I really don’t think so. The goal of TikTok from what I can tell is to gain viewership, followers, likes. It is in a lot of cases a medium to carry a message, whether intentionally or not. McLuhan’s theory seems flawed as we move into the metaverse and have social platforms like TikTok as the mediums are no longer a one size fits all.
So, what are my thoughts about McLuhan’s theory? Well, it’s a bit outside of the box to me, but I enjoy thinking outside of the box. That said, I think it’s a bit dated. While technology plays an important role in our society, I’m not sure I can stand behind just how important it is according to McLuhan’s theory.
The beauty of our society is we all digest similar information in different ways, so my question to you is: have we outgrown McLuhan’s theory or does the medium hold as much weight as he believes? Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts. In this case, the medium is totally the message. Get it? You’d leave the message on Medium? (FINE..I’m done with the jokes..)