“THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE”

What the hickle heck does this even mean?!

According to McLuhan’s theory, the medium “is any extension of ourselves” which allows us to “do more than our bodies could do on their own”. The message is “the change of scale or pace or pattern… introduce[d] into human affairs.” Essentially, McLuhan is saying that mediums can’t be categorised by the content but by the way it creates change in today’s society and cultures. McLuhan warns that we focus too much on the medium platform and are paying less attention to the messages being conveyed: “we are often distracted by the content of a medium”. The medium makes us believe the messages and allows viewers to perceive the message from different views but can also allows consumers to distort the messages. This is commonly seen on different political campaigns, but an image that comes to mind is of Bert and Osama Bin Laden.

In 2001, Dino Ignacio created a photoshop collage of Bert (from Sesame Street) with terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. This was part of a series called “Bert is Evil” and became widespread in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Sesame Street characters were plastered around Pakistan and the image was spread. The images were being broadcasted by CNN and caught the attention of the Sesame Street producers. This inevitably fuelled a feud between the Sesame Street producers and CNN corporation: “We’re outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner. The people responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves. We are exploring all legal options to stop this abuse and any similar abuses in the future.” The growth of the image created in the bedroom of a teenager was now the cause of a legal battle between the two companies, and is a prime example of the message being perceived differently and being distorted by the audiences.

Well, referring back to McLuhan’s theory, he states that we focus too much on mediums and not enough on the message. The content or message that is being produced is being ignored and the focus of the consumers attention is on the medium. We are paying less attention to the messages being conveyed, but it is the medium that makes us believe the message. The medium allows audiences to recognise the message from different views, depending on the form of medium in which it is presented. We are quite often distracted by the content of the medium.The message that is perceived influences change, not the medium which it is presented through. The message conveys the change in the audiences.

References:

Federman, M. (2004) What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message?

Jenkins, H. (2006). “Worship at the altar of convergence”: A new paradigm for understanding media change. In H. Jenkins, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (pp 1-24). New York: New York University Press.

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