‘The medium is the message’

by Hannah Klomp


I have had a few lectures lately where I have heard this strange quote ‘the medium is the message’ by Marshall McLuhan [McLuhan, M, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964] and I have to admit that I was completely bewildered when I heard this, questioning what the meaning of this actually was and how it related to the many functions in society as well as what it meant in the individual lectures in which I had.

The first time I heard this strange quote was in my BCM112 university lecture where I questioned how a medium could be a message. I firstly related this to the medium of a television and questioned the idea that the television was the message. This quite obviously puzzled me, but then I began to think about how the TV conveys messages in comparison to a newspaper article. For example a television, can be argued that it is a much useful source in conveying certain messages regarding a news report in being that it has a sound and visual aspect while the same message can be conveyed completely differently through the formalized words in a newspaper or scholarly article. This alludes to the idea that ‘the medium is the message’ because of the ways mediums convey messages, through different mediums a different, more elaborate message can be produced depending on the audience that is viewing it. This also allows the viewer to be able to gain a much more fulfilled experience whilst being able to discover a message through a variety of different sources or ‘mediums.’

Whilst researching this phrase I was surprisingly bombarded with many articles and personal meanings that various scholars, reporters and bloggers have produced and came across the following that I thought really supported my ideas of McLuhans quote being.
”It [this quote] sums up a much deeper communication theory, which is that the medium… holds as much, if not more, value than the message itself” (link here) I think that this idea is quite true in being that a medium has a very clear role in transferring and communicating ideas and messages to audiences of all different genres.

This also made me question the impact that a medium had and how it played a very vital role in the way a message is transferred to the audience being that without a medium whatsoever, a message may not be able to be delivered or transferred to an audience resulting in content being missed and therefore loosing the whole idea of a message being that it cannot be given. In evaluating this, the conclusion is that without a medium, a message may not have meaning because of the lack of communication. Therefore, by evaluating different sources and the points raised in this week’s lecture, I am agreeing with Mcluhan’s quote being that in fact ‘the medium is the message.’

Image Source: http://www.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/Ren/mcluhan.htm