Media Culture: This Mcluhan Bloke

It turns out this blog is handy for more than just getting my ramblings on some sort of record. It’s also of direct use in one of my current modules in University! I’m taking a course in Journalism and Media Studies, and this particular module is named Media Culture. One of the assignments is to write a weekly blog post on what I’ve learned from the weekly readings, so I figured this was a good way to kill two birds with one stone!

Let me preface this by saying I’ve had a rough week. A really, really rough week. As far as I’ve been told, Mcluhan’s one of the hardest reads, too, so don’t expect anything too substantial out of this first entry. My heart’s not in it right now. Marshall Mcluhan was this smart guy from Canada who wrote a book about media like fifty years ago. The name of that book was Understanding Media, with the subtitle The Extensions of Man. As is common among books written by smart men from a while back, it’s not all that easy to draw out the actual imformation. That said, it wasn’t the most opaque reading today by a long shot – that honour goes to Jurgen Habermas’ encyclopaedia article on The Public Sphere. Unfortunately I read the latter before the former, so by the time I got around to Mcluhan’s work, I was practically zombified.

In spite of my state, I did manage to learn something from reading Chapter 1: The Medium is the Message. That term may sound familiar to you. It did to me, as well as to my stepfather when I mentioned it to him. “The Medium is the message” is basically Mcluhan’s hardline stance on the effects of media on society. He completely rules out the importance of the content of media, and instead focuses on the form of delivery. For instance, a society is not effected by the writing of any one movie, but the existence of movies as a medium has a huge impact. He contends strongly against the view that something is neither bad nor good on its own, and is good or bad depending on how it is used. In fact he seems to have a quite condescending view against people who hold this view. I suppose you can’t expect an influential book to please everyone.

Another part of Mcluhan’s philosophy is that media is essentially an extension of humanity – hence the subtitle, the extensions of man. This can be taken on an individual basis, earphones being an extension of the ears, cameras being an extension of the eyes and so on. Basically, they function to enhance us beyond our natural ability. This is the field in which they all function, and that is their… message?

Hmm. I’m not entirely sure if I interpreted that right, but I’m too tired to double check right now. Rough week, like I said. I suppose this’ll have to do for now! Maybe you learned something by reading this? This particular feature will usually be a bit more detailed. After all, at least some of these parts have to be up to scratch for submission. I can’t submit the Mcluhan one though, so this is free game! Woo! Take that, The Man!

-Jesse (@Backblogguy)

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