The Medium is NOT the Message

Library of Babel

Library of Babel

Marshall McLuhan famously asserted that “the medium is the message”. His idea is one that is very much in play today as the “new media” have immersively engulfed the whole of the human enterprise. So is the digital revolution actually causing us to evolve? Is “the new media” transforming  the mind of man?

We are collaboratively messaging creatures by nature and the instruments by which we strive to create shared meaning are incidental to our singular obsession. This is not to say that the meanings we strive to convey are not deeply entwined with the tools we use, for example the immersion of peoples besotted by digitailia who see the world as a simulacrum in which literally everything imaginable is possible and nothing can actually be done.

But let’s not commit the error of thinking that the tail–the method we employ–wags the dog of our compulsively messaging selves. Our messages, however we judge their quality, are our messages.

Malcolm Gladwell, a clever fellow, is one of the very few pundits who sees that the medium is not the message. Start HERE to explore his thoughts on the subject.

I think McLuhan’s idea was no more than a clever misdirection. The real question before us today, is simply this…

Will the global democratization of access to digital messaging result in the construction of globally shared meanings about aims that we can agree are good and useful going forward, or will it simply increase entropy, creating a Library of Babel?

About marc

Instructional Design Consultant
This entry was posted in Conversations, Great Thinkers, Theory of Knowledge. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Medium is NOT the Message

  1. john dowd says:

    I like Malcom Gladwell and thinks he’s got this right.

    The so-called social media (FB, Twitter, et al) are methods. On their own they generate nothing. Have they changed the way people communicate? Of course, but they have not changed, in any big way, the things that people do.

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