In his work McLuhan feels that the “medium is the message”. He gives many examples and explanations why he feels that preliminaries of everything actually define the result. He is deeply convinced that activities or processes that precede the target outcome are very critical to the success of manifestation of the end goal. This paper explores the explanations presented by McLuhan in defense of his statement, “the medium is the message”.
The Medium is the Message
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In his argument, McLuhan feels that the preceding steps or processes are very crucial in determining the effectiveness of the desired consequences. He justifies this claim by giving an example with automation. He clearly demonstrates that the most important thing in automation of processes is what users actually do with the machines (McLuhan, 1994).
McLuhan (1994), points out that the information relayed by every medium is the contribution it makes to the human affairs. This contribution is in some instances in form acceleration of the already available processes. He gives an example of the railway. He argues that railway just broadened the scale of human movements. It did not however introduce transport. It only made this existing function more efficient.
According to McLuhan (1994), the medium shapes the scale of human actions. He feels that medium is the key determinant of the efforts that expended towards a given course. He further points out that people pay too much attention to the “content” to extend of failing to notice the actual medium. To expound on this, he gives an example of the electric light. Even though it does not have ‘content’, it achieves many processes through this medium.
Using illustration on Shakespeare, McLuhan explains that we make political and social improvements and achievements through anticipation of innovation outcomes. He further adds that the way a medium is applied determines whether the outcome will be desirable or otherwise. To illustrate this, he says that weapons such as firearms are either bad or good depending on how they are used (McLuhan, 1994).
McLuhan feels that every activity that is part of the process brings change that leads to the final objective or product. He borrows from David Hume’s justifications that change results whenever one activity follows another one in any given process. The resultant product in any process might be even complete opposite of the initial product (McLuhan, 1994).
According to McLuhan (1994), whenever we encounter any new concept, for instance mechanization, we should look for a deeper meaning. The present product is usually symbolic. He gives an example with production of movies where he explains that it symbolized development into state of creative configuration and marked our departure from the state of connections and sequence.
McLuhan explains that in most fields of study the attention seems to shift from the total field into each specific segment that constitutes the total field. Earlier on, people were mainly concerned with the product or the whole form. However, in this electric age things seem to have taken a new turn. In order to illustrate this, he gives an example of the approach followed to solve arithmetic problems. In order to prepare children to be able to solve arithmetic problems, they have to taught numbers and meditation of sets as well as mathematical theories. This foundation is very crucial in making them proficient in arithmetic. To illustrate this further, he gives an example of Napoleon. In order to be a great and successful soldier, Napoleon had to learn all the basics of the gunpowder. In addition to this, he had to understand how every factor could affect his success. For instance, he knew that a telegraph could give him an upper hand while hostile newspapers could bring him down. This further cements the idea that the most critical part towards understanding of every process is the proper analysis of every constituent activity (McLuhan, 1994).
In support of his statement, “medium is the message”, McLuhan explains that, even though it is necessary to make adequate preparations towards realization of a predetermined goal, it is imperative that we understand the shortcomings of our preparations. We must be able to discern all principles associated to every medium. He gives an illustration of Alexis de Tocqueville whom despite knowing when the “grammar of print” could be most useful also understood when and where it could be inapplicable. Alexis declined to write a book on England because he appreciated the fact that there was more than could meet the eye on England than anyone could expect to know in just six months. This further asserts the notion that for one to be able to interpret a given message, he must be able to understand all the underlying factors and dynamics pretty well (McLuhan, 1994).
McLuhan builds on this concept by stating that we need to understand the media properly in order to be able to adjust the level of conflict between sound and sight as well as oral and written types of perception. Most of this conflict is largely attributable to our culture. Our culture defines how we do things and in some instances, how we reason. Most unfortunately, our culture can be root cause for all sorts of discrimination. We discriminate the illiterate as well as the handicapped because our culture makes us believe that they have their own special space (McLuhan, 1994).
McLuhan warns that the effect of the media is more important than its content. We must weigh the motive behind every media. In some cases, the effect of the media might be unrelated to its content. He feels that the Americans need to be very careful with the electric technology since it can pose serious threats (McLuhan, 1994).
According to McLuhan (1994), we should not ignore the effects of media. He feels that media could have a catastrophic effect on our culture and spiritual orientation. He further explains that media exerts bias thus corrupting our culture. Unfortunately, we might not be able to know the extent of this bias even through ‘content’ and program analysis.
In recap, it is vital that we pay much attention to the media in order to understand its potential effects. One needs to be able to see the hidden intent in all cases that life presents to us. By doing so, one might be able to avoid a potential threat and thus safeguard his culture and spiritual beliefs.