When I first read “The Medium is the Message” by Marshall McLuhan I found it somewhat wordy and difficult to understand. I can absolutely understand why someone might call McLuhan eccentric; but the message of the reading was clear enough, it is not the content but the medium through which that content is transmitted that shapes our understanding of the content itself. McLuhan is saying that there is little importance when it comes to the message that we are transmitting but there is great importance in how we transmit that evidence. In McLuhan’s words, “the medium is the message because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.”  This is an interesting concept, but I think that it is only partly right. The medium through which we send information certainly has a lot to do with how we perceive that information but both are equally important in terms of the change that they bring to society. McLuhan makes the point that the significance of the medium through which we communicate is often overlooked because of our focus on content.  This is where I find his argument to be the most convincing, we do often forget that the medium of communication we choose often says just as much as the content; however I do not believe that content is generated by the medium. McLuhan states that non-verbal thinking is a medium of communication (because it precedes speech), and that is where I draw the line.  Human thought is an internal thing, it is not a form of communication and therefore the content of communication is always generated by something that does not directly affect its character. When human thought is expressed through speech, written word, film, etc. it is altered by the medium through which it gets conveyed but the thought itself was pure and unaltered before it was communicated. So I would say that McLuhan is absolutely right in believing that “the medium is the message” but he takes his thinking too far. There was one instance that I did agree with McLuhan very strongly, and that was when he explained his thought that “the medium is the message” using electricity as an example. I think that McLuhan chose electricity to back up his claims because historically it has had the greatest impact on humans throughout our entire existence. If you think about electricity as a medium then McLuhan’s argument makes a lot of sense, with the introduction of electricity to human society we experienced a massive degree of change in a very short amount of time. In this way electricity as a medium has absolutely shaped the content created by humans because it is now used to communicate all of our ideas. When communication between people became instant due to electricity everything changed. People began to think differently about how they were going to express themselves and how they could use technology to do so. I believe that McLuhan makes an important argument in that sense because it is important to consider the effects that technology has on the communication of human thought. That being said I do not believe that content is shaped solely by the medium through which it is conveyed.
1. Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (London: Routledge, 1975), 9.
2. McLuhan, “The Medium,” 9.
3. McLuhan, “The Medium,” 8.