Medium As Message.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan

Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist. McLuhan’s work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.McLuhan is known for coining the expressions “the medium is the message” and “the global village” and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.

Although he was a fixture in media discourse in the late 1960s, his influence started to wane in the early seventies.In the years after his death, he would continue to be a controversial figure in academic circles.With the arrival of the internet, however, there was renewed interest in his work and  perspective.

The personal and social consequences of any medium result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs or by any new technology. For example, automation eliminates jobs but it also creates roles for people so it can be said that it is not the machine but one did with the machine that is the message. The electric light, for example, is pure information. It is a medium without a message so that the content of any medium is always another medium.

The content of writing is speech; written word is content of print and print the content of telegraph. So then, the message of any medium is the change it introduces into human affairs. In the Industrial Revolution the train itself was not the message but, in fact, the change it brought about in the lives of the people from that age to this. The ‘light bulb’, regardless of how it is used, is the medium and how it is used is its message. These facts underline the point that the medium is the message because it shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The products of technological invention are by no means the cause of sins but how they are applied.

It was the printed word that homogenised the French nation. Frenchmen were the same type of people all over France so it can be argued that while the peasants held the guns it was the literati and lawyers who were the true revolutionists.

Even the most perfect reproduction is flawed in that it did not exist in the place where it happened to be (todays reproduced Greek Urn was never in Ancient Greece). The presence of the original is important in authenticity. The whole sphere of authenticity is therefore outside technical reproduction. The reason is twofold; mechanical reproduction relies on the original; technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations, which would be out of reach for the original. Seeing ‘Mona Lisa’ on a TV screen inevitably depreciates it’s and is by no means as good as being in the presence of it. Reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition.

The manner in which human perception comprehends art can be defined as the ‘aura’ in which that piece of art can influence the viewer. This aura is determined by the historical circumstance and the nature of the piece. The original has a unique aura that cannot be recreated. Mechanical reproduction of art emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.



Posted on March 30, 2012, in Media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Gerard – nice posting! May I have your permission to reproduce this on my McLuhan Galaxy blog: ? BTW, I love Dublin, The Abbey & Gate Theatres, everything related to James Joyce & Irish literature in general, not to mention Jameson’s……AlexK


    • Of course you may repost it. Thank you for the compliment. That is so important to a writer.

      Best Wishes, Gerry.

      Sent from my iPad


  2. OK…I think I succeeded in removing you. Let me know.


Please Take A Moment To Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: