Marshall McLuhan once said ‘the medium is the message’. Now I didn’t know McLuhan personally, if I did I’d ask him what the hell he meant by that… but I don’t so I’ve just got to rely on the internet to gather some third party responses and opinions and try and get my head around it. One particularly useful source was on the Smashing Magazine website, published by a gentleman by the name of Jason Gross; a freelance web designer. Now if you’re reading this it’s highly likely you’re studying BCM112 and considering I found this source of the first page of Google when searching McLuhan’s famous quote you may already be familiar with it. If not and you’re interested in having a look at the post here’s the link: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/07/04/the-medium-is-the-message/
So as I was saying, Gross’ post was pretty helpful, but it’s not what he has to say that I found most interesting… it was the comments. A user going by the alias ‘CC’ replied to the article saying ‘“the medium is the message” is tantamount to saying, “the cup is the tea”, or “the CD is the music”.’ Now this made me laugh because for the last week I’ve been reciting the quote in my head wondering how on earth the medium could possible be the message when the medium is often stationary and stable, like an ‘app’ (you know that thing you download of the itunes store on your smart phone) for example. The app is what it is, it isn’t changing. But the message, or meaning that the medium is conveying could be interpreted in a number of different ways. When discussed and analysed the audience’s opinion may change, the message can change… but the medium cannot. Therefore how can the medium be the message?
CC’s comparison works well for me, the cup is not the tea, the cup is already there, just sitting there waiting to be filled, you could put anything in the cup, it doesn’t have to be tea. Maybe I want to put some vodka into the cup or some breakfast juice. I guess it depends on the time of day, but if I was given the cup right now I wouldn’t be putting tea into it. But that’s the whole point of the problem with McLuhan’s theory, the medium is there, it’s always there but the message isn’t always the same. It can’t be. It would have to be a very basic medium for there to only be one message.
Maybe I’m not quite understanding McLuhan’s quote, but that’s okay, as more and more students studying the BCM112 subject with me post their own ideas on the topic I should be able to take in an even wider array of opinion on the matter, which will hopefully expand my view and help me see what he is saying.
I’ve seen snippets of opinions that comment that McLuhan’s ideas in general are not specific to 2015, I can’t help at this point but agree. I am however, very open to that idea changing. If any of my classmates have read through my waffling and have a better understanding than myself, please feel free to share your great knowledge in the comments, it would be much appreciated!