The Medium is the Message Essay

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The Medium is the Message McLuhan’s work with literature and culture produced the revolutionary thought that “the medium is the message.” In other words, cultures are changed not only by the “content” of technology, but also by the technology itself. The basic “content” of technology is easy to recognize. The content of the railway would seem to be transportation; the content of the Internet would seem to be information. But McLuhan’s idea that the medium proclaiming the “content” is itself the message is a hard one to understand. In the example of the railway, he says that “[t]he railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous…show more content…
Another example McLuhan offers is a particularly good one: the electric light (9). Many would believe that the light has no “content” unless it is spelling something such as “Open,” or “Miller Light.” But McLuhan says that the electric light itself communicates a message. The invention of the electric light restructured the way our society thought of “day” and “night.” Work no longer had to stop when the sun went down--one only had to turn on a light to continue work indoors. Light also has psychological effects. Low lighting in a restaurant communicates a message of quietness and perhaps romance, whereas the bright fluorescent lighting in a classroom communicates activity, promotes attention. Perhaps it is no wonder that to calm down an elementary school class after recess, the teacher often turns off the lights--she is communicating a message to her students through the technology of the electric light. In order to recognize and understand the social and psychological effects of technology as exemplified by the railway and electric light illustrations, one must “conside[r] not only the ‘content’ but the medium and the cultural matrix within which the particular medium operates” (11). McLuhan claims that all technology can be analyzed this way; but many researchers have studied only the effects of the content of technology on our society and neglected to look at it within the “cultural matrix.” To illustrate this

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