The Media Is The Message

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All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

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witter and Facebook started the masses communicating in bite-sized nuggets of entertainment. Instagram gave us a platform to easily communicate in photos. Vine has us editing micro-moments of video.

Whether these companies and tools survive does not matter. What matters is the change they have made in how we interact with each other and the world.

If we look past the content and consider the form of the container, how is it changing us? What does it say about us?

I see shorter attention spans. I see more acute expectations of a quick payoff.

People get bored easily.

They could be watching the most amazingly crafted masterpiece and tune out because the first scene is not stimulating enough. They could be listening to the next major hit and move on because the intro was seconds too long.

Because we have these newly accessible ways to share moments in such tiny chunks, we will be remembered as the distracted generation.

Is it any wonder that attention is the most valued currency these days?

Then Versus Now

Our parents had the telephone. It took a moment to dial and the other party picked up to see who was calling. Today, we touch a screen and the other side doesn’t have to ask who is calling; it shows up on their screen.

Music used to have long introductions with a slow build to a big chorus. Today, if the song doesn’t skip right to the big chorus, people start tuning out.

Our parents had the newspaper, the periodical, the written letter. We have online tools that give us such immediate information that to use the old media feels like a complete waste of time.

We are indeed moving at a faster pace than ever before. Change is happening at a faster rate.

Marshall McLuhan first introduced the phrase, “the medium is the message” in his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. A book with a similar title came out a few years later and created a huge tribe around it.

His message is as relevant today as ever, describing the Age of Anxiety.

I hear people say that content is king. But boil down the content, take a step back, and give in to the distracted culture. What do you remember?

The louder message just may be the media used. The shape the content takes speaks on a level more profoundly and subconsciously than the content itself.

Marie Forleo

Her content takes the shape of an inspirational talk show for women. She is the distracted generation’s Oprah.

Don’t have time to watch Oprah for an hour? Watch Marie and move on in five minutes.

Granted, her high production values, quality content, and fun personality took her far, but I wonder whether her chosen format helped her more.

Hugh Macleod

His art is for a generation on the go. It fits on a business card, where he drew it first while stuck in the corporate world.

Short, pithy statements married to his style of art. Hugh’s choice of a business card for his canvas speaks volumes.

His content presents the struggle between art and business but his chosen media alone represents that struggle inherently — creativity on one side, business on the other.

By using business cards, regardless of the art on them, he also shows that art cannot exist without the business side to organize, promote, and take the art to the audience.

Skrillex

Skrillex makes dubstep music.

From his glasses to his dark techno look, Sonny Moore represents the face of a total invasion of dubstep, or more affectionately brostep, into popular American culture.

The music as a genre across the globe, with all its beats, breaks, belches, and dark aggression, speaks to this cold machine of technological change and distraction affecting us daily. It is the kind of music that necessitates a computer to create.

Dubstep is an infant as a genre, and it grew along with the very communication technology it so fittingly represents.

Sonny could have stuck with his post-hardcore rock genre and faded into the background culturally. Instead, he struck out on his own and traded his guitar in for a computer.

And in the process, that move made more difference than any message he could give.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples. The implication for us then, is to reflect on what our chosen media says about us and our message. When our audience forgets what we said, what message did our chosen media leave behind?

In a surprising twist for this blog post, Al Jazeera English was kind enough to include some of my thoughts on air.

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