Coined by Canadian philosopher of communication theory and a public intellectual, Marshall McLuhan, in 1964, in his famous book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, the phrase, ‘The Medium is the Message’ has become a popular as well as a sought-after phrase that most of us want to understand. McLuhan was a visionary and emphasized on the need to focus on the medium, and not disregard the medium over the message. This, according to him, was the key to identify and understand the change that the message (or the medium) brings forth. The following section explains the same in an elaborate manner.
McLuhan has stated various examples in his book to explain this concept. He speaks about a light bulb, which he calls ‘The medium without a message’, thereby making it the message itself. He states that because the electric light contains no specific content, it (the medium) becomes the message itself, depending upon how it is used. The following excerpts clarifies on this view.
“Whether the light is being used for brain surgery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these activities are in some way the ‘content’ of the electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light. This fact merely underlines the point that ‘the medium is the message’, because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.”
What McLuhan tried to put across by coining this phrase is the fact that by being blind to the medium, we tend to also become blind to the actual impact of the message, and therefore, fail to realize or be prepared for the changes that come along. He states,
By contemplating the positives and/or negatives of the medium in a thorough manner, we will hold the power to play a crucial role in the safety/development of our future, from a progressive innovation that lies ahead. Marshall McLuhan states: