My (relatively short) response on Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan

Text: “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man : Critical Edition”, by Marshall McLuhan, 2003.

In Chapter One, McLuhan points out that modern media focuses on action more than the content of the communication message. He brings up “somnambulism”, or sleepwalking, which in the context of how it’s used – i.e., “Apple pie is neither good nor bad; it is the way that it is used that determines it’s value” – I take to mean that he is pointing out that new media evolutions allow people to become less and less engaged in the meaning of the message and, perhaps, focused more on the form or even perception of the message. “Concern with effect rather than meaning is a basic change of our electric time…”.

I can see the truth in that. Communications post-internet do tend to be content that fits its intended media, as opposed to what people might expect to be meaningful content. In addition, communications media tend to move at a faster and faster pace. He also asserts that light bulbs are a communication media that, though they are full of information, are actually void of an actual message because they move too quickly for “sender” and “receiver” to communicate. I liked his comment that with technology it could be said that egg invented the chicken to get more eggs.

In Chapter Two, he gets into a fairly confusing discussion on hot and cold media, and hot and cold cultures. I think that if people were not again using “hot” to describe things that are “cool”, which at one time were known to be “hot”, this discussion would be less confusing. In addition, I felt that he lacked a full description describing “tribal” societies and could have added more specific information to describe the types of people he was referring to.

Generally, though, this was a very short introduction to McLuhan. I think if I had read farther into the book, I would have a more substantial opinion of the text.

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