Days of Change

The Media is the Message

November 22, 2014
1 Comment

A man named Herbert Marshall McLuhan first coined the concept that the “medium is the message.” He also introduced the term “global village,” something that is used to describe the internet, which McLuhan also predicted. Many of these observations were made in the 1960’s. McLuhan died in 1980.

The basic concept of the medium as message is that the way one gets their information affects the way a person retains it, interprets it and disseminates it. The game of “Telephone” is an example of how oral tradition can work (or not) as a story is passed on by speaking it, hearing it, trying to remember it, and retelling it in your own words. The printed word is different. As books became more common, people didn’t have to remember every word they saw. They had to process more words by looking at them, but had the original source available to them.

Movies and television made media more entertainment than information. radio is often fractured into both. Stations are either music or talk, with little crossover. Now, we’ve had almost a generation on the Internet. It has absorbed every type of media that came before it. Websites are read, podcasts are listed to. Every type of media can be experienced or obtained through the global network. The ownership of individual media (books, movies) is becoming a thing of the past. Even information is something to be extracted, not learned.

Much was made of the Obama campaign’s presence in new media. The story was that his people were young and hip. They knew how to use blogs and social media. They sent alerts by e-mail and clogged up e-mails with spam. That was the story, but the true exploitation of new media was in the way traditional media was bought and controlled by those who wanted to create their own political outcome.

Even before McLuhan, George Orwell was writing about people in the future who would rewrite history as the leadership demanded. The Internet is the medium that makes this most possible. Except for a few screen grabs, everything online is in a state of flux. If a media organisation wants to change or “clarify” their content, most people won’t have any idea what changed.

The old media has shown themselves to be partners to Obama. NBC has massive financial connections with GE tax breaks. ABC had a reporter, Jay Carney, who covered the 2008 campaign and then start working for the White House after the election. His wife still works in news. CBS did not treat Obama the way they treated Bush (the National Guard Memo vs. Obama’s dubious Selective Service non-compliance) and went on to shaft Sharyl Attkisson when she tried to actually report the news.

This may be their last chance at a power grab. With near constant access to the Internet with smart phones and other devices, we will all be the next medium. The social network at large will inform us. We will learn to separate good information from bad, the way we should have decades ago from the dinosaur media. Until then, the media sends a message by cutting the telephone wires as well as using them.

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