Understanding McLuhan is the Message

Is the form that you receive a message as significant as the message itself? Marshall McLuhan argued that throughout history what has been communicated has been less important than the particular medium through which people communicate. The technology that transfers the message changes us and changes society, the individual, the family, work, leisure and more.
The above video is from the BBC Radio 4 series about life’s big questions – A History of Ideas. It is narrated by Gillian Anderson and scripted by Nigel Warburton. The project is from the BBC in partnership with The Open University, the animations were created by Cognitive.


Part of the struggle in understanding McLuhan is one of context. His interpretation of how we as individuals & a society & culture interact with mass media becomes much more obvious in our current age of social media saturation. The level of skill required to become immersed in Mass Media is now meaningless.  Language and reading are level 1 & 2 skills.  With new digital devices & social media platforms even an infant can interact with Grannie and Granpa on Skype. The trick is for the parents to make sure the grandparents can figure out their digital devices.

Two of the challenges faced by McLuhan were that he needed new terminology that was almost metaphorical to convey the concepts and that it was easier to express them in a newer type of media because printed text was too linear and dense for the global interconnected conceptual world he was trying to convey to his audience. His concepts were full of kinetic energy travelling in tangential lines crisscrossing and inter-connecting at traversal nodes of meaning. What he needed was the internet and a blog where various forms of mass media blend into something new.