#17 Massaging the Message

May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing “This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage” which originally ran on NBC in March 1967. For those who don’t know Marshall McLuhan, you should because he’s a big name when it comes to media analysis. (Also, it’s the 100 year anniversary of his birth.) To be fair, I didn’t know who he was until yesterday, but now that I do, I want to help spread the word.

His big thing was discussing media and how it relates to society (aka. analyzing media, of course). Because the film was on 16mm, some parts were cut together, and sometimes the film went a little too magenta, however the message was still clear.

One thing that I took away from the movie was his ideas on storyboards and how advertisements are never as good as the storyboards make them seem like they’re going to be. This is because, McLuhan says, that audiences like to create their own stories. No story lines create participation in viewers. And when viewers are involved, the advertisements work better.

Another point McLuhan made was about the difference between cool and hot media. Cool media, such as television, require viewers to be involved, he said. Television allow audiences to participate easily. Hot media, on the other hand, already have involvement without any outside stimulus (e.g. newspapers, radios, books). An anecdote he used was that if you were in trouble in New York, you shouldn’t shout “Help!” because no one would come to your aid; however, if you shouted “Fire!” people would come to your aid. “Helping” someone means that you have to get involved (cool media), whereas with a fire you can just throw a bucket out of your window and be done with it.

A third interesting point he made was that people are always living in old environments, that is when a new environment comes along people seek security in the previous environment. “The future of the future is the present.” He used Bonanza as an example, and how people were not living in the “Bonanza” era, but in the era of Jeffersonian democracy. I don’t know if I completely agreed with this point. In the Internet age, we are living in the present, not in the past. People have embraced new media and changed it for the better. We’re not hiding from the Internet.

Marshall McLuhan's "Medium is the Massage"(Source)

Check out Marshall McLuhan’s book “The Medium is the Massage” if you’re interested in learning more.

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