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coberst
2005-Dec-21, 11:38 AM
The Message of “The Medium is The Message”

“So an attitude is caused when we think about something the same way over and over until it becomes automatic. The resulting actions in response to the thought also become automatic. Change the habit of thought and you change the attitude. Change the attitude and you change the resulting action.”

“The Medium is The Message” is the phrase that made Marshall McLuhan famous. It is a phrase most of us, young and old, have heard. Until a few weeks ago it was a phrase that confounded me.

Let’s get very fundamental here and go back to the invention of the alphabet to understand what McLuhan is talking about and why it is important.

“The Greek myth about the alphabet was that Cadmus, reputedly the king who introduced the phonetic letters into Greece, sowed dragoon’s teeth, and they sprang up armed men. Like any other myth, this one capsulates a prolonged process into a flashing insight. The alphabet meant power and authority and control of military structures at a distance. When combined with papyrus, the alphabet spelled the end of the stationary temple bureaucracies and the priestly monopolies of knowledge and power.”

“The phonetic alphabet is a unique technology…This stark division and parallelism between a visual and an auditory world was both crude and ruthless, culturally speaking. The phonetically written sacrifices worlds of meaning and perception that were secured by forms like the hieroglyphs and the Chinese ideogram. These culturally richer forms of writing, however, offered men no means of sudden transfer from the magically discontinuous and traditional world of the tribal word into the cool and uniform visual medium.”

“All of these forms [pictographic and hieroglyphic] give pictorial expression to oral meanings. As such, they approximate the animated cartoon and are extremely unwieldy, requiring many signs for the infinity of data operations of social action. In contrast, the phonetic alphabet, by a few letters only, was able to encompass all languages.”

Consider the invention of the printing press and the introduction of books to the society. A book communicates a message. Many books communicate many messages. ‘The Book’ communicates the same message to everyone who comes into contact with a book. The Book transmits the same message to everyone while many books transmit many different messages to many different people.

Evolution moves very slowly. We adapt to our environment very slowly. We survive because we do adapt. When we change more quickly than we can adapt we face problems that we have not had the time to make the kind of adjustments necessary.

The habits we acquire determine our state of mind. Our changing habits are part of this process of adaptation to our environment. Do not think of environment, as being just the quality of our air or water but it is a broad term signifying the world we live in.

The point to be recognized is--the medium is what is important and not the content being carried by the medium. The medium is form and its ubiquity (presence everywhere) changes us dramatically. The change is sudden and how we respond to the new medium changes us to the core. Since we do not consider anything but that the new technology can be accomplished and will serve some desirable purpose we are constantly setting ourselves up for unknown problems.

The quotes are from “Understanding the Media” by Marshall MaLuhan.

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 12:02 PM
The quotes are from “Understanding the Media” by Marshall MaLuhan.
The name is Marshall McLuhan. At least get your cite right.

Otherwise, wow, you can quote authors!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

http://www.cosgan.de/images/smilie/muede/a040.gif

Moose
2005-Dec-21, 12:33 PM
The point to be recognized is--the medium is what is important and not the content being carried by the medium.

Marshall McLuhan was wrong, IMO (and by extension, so are you.) The content is what's important. The medium is irrelevant, so long as it is effective and timely.

What do you care if you see traffic crossing the intersection you're waiting to cross, or instead hear it. Either way, you know not to cross yet. If the medium is the message, and not the content, it is one that tends to exclude and discriminate. Blind and/or deaf people cope with this issue as a matter of routine.

Apparently McLuhan considered the light bulb to be an information medium, which is technically incorrect. The light emitted by a light bulb (or any other radiating source) is an information medium, as are compression waves in any frequency range we can perceive, either directly or through technology.

Radio is an information medium, but the radio receiver is not, unless it is transforming radio waves into audible waves.

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 01:00 PM
Marshall McLuhan was wrong, IMO (and by extension, so are you.) The content is what's important. The medium is irrelevant, so long as it is effective and timely.

What do you care if you see traffic crossing the intersection you're waiting to cross, or instead hear it. Either way, you know not to cross yet. If the medium is the message, and not the content, it is one that tends to exclude and discriminate. Blind and/or deaf people cope with this issue as a matter of routine.

Apparently McLuhan considered the light bulb to be an information medium, which is technically incorrect. The light emitted by a light bulb (or any other radiating source) is an information medium, as are compression waves in any frequency range we can perceive, either directly or through technology.

Radio is an information medium, but the radio receiver is not, unless it is transforming radio waves into audible waves.I think you've hit the nail on the head, Moose.

Could this be the key to coberst? The idea that it's not what is in what you post, but that you post frequently. In other words, the number of posts is what counts (the medium), as opposed to the information contained therein (the content)?

Based on the repetition, redundancy, and remarkable unoriginality of coberst's posts, the form (poor as it is) definitely takes precedent over what little content they hold.

Pigeons on the grass, alas.

Time for a massage...

coberst
2005-Dec-21, 01:21 PM
Moose

I think that we could use an analogy of a beach as the medium and the grains of sand as a particular content. In the case of TV we might have a particular content to have a big influence. Certainly news of the war in Iraq has an impact. However, the fact that millions of people, perhaps even billions of people every day have given many hours of their time to watching the medium and being effected by that habit far out weighs any particular content that might appear on TV.

McLuhan spoke of “The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no “content”. The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power,”

Webster gives many different definitions to “inform” but two important definitions are: --to give material form to—to give character or essence to.” Its synonym is “animate”.

It seems that electricity is very characteristic of Webster’s definition and it does not contain content except perhaps in a flashing neon sign.

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 01:39 PM
[edit]I think that we could use an analogy of a beach as the medium and the grains of sand as a particular content...Beach Blanket Bongo. False analogy, meaningless conclusion. What a waste of electricity, i.e., electrons providing a current.

All McLuhan did was marry The Mechanical Bride, seeing a lucrative future therein. Anyone who can't see this is what thereafter McLuhan wanted, someone hung up on form, not content, and who would take his pronouncements seriously. And buy his books!

Man, this whole thing is so old. And was dispensed with in the 1960s as being ludicrous.

http://www.cosgan.de/images/smilie/muede/a040.gif

Argos
2005-Dec-21, 01:40 PM
If we were to talk to ET, I think there would be some truth to "the medium is the message".

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 01:44 PM
If we were to talk to ET, I think there would be some truth to "the medium is the message".SETI would disagree. We've spent years listening to the "medium" and not yet finding the "message". It's the difference between aleatory radio waves (medium) and a meaningful pattern contained (content) therein.

Of course if you mean we're both using radio, then, yes, that's significant, but secondary.

Moose
2005-Dec-21, 02:03 PM
I think that we could use an analogy of a beach as the medium and the grains of sand as a particular content.

We could also use the analogy of an empty beer mug as the medium and a koala's left hind "pinky" toenail as a particular content. Just because we could use either of those analogies doesn't mean an analogy is in any way accurate or insightful. Your beach analogy is like McLuhan's "message", fundamentally void of meaning and use.

If I were to salvage your analogy, it would be that the beach sand is the medium, but the footprints in the sand are (part of) one possible message that can be "carried" by the sand. You can interpret a trail of footprints to retrieve information, "he went thataway" being only one of many examples of useful content.

Laminal Cockroach
2005-Dec-21, 03:01 PM
If we think about air as being the medium and sound as being the message, than the content is actually the medium (isnt it? :think: )well then isnt medium the message? well then but this is only one particular case..

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 03:15 PM
If we think about air as being the medium and sound as being the message, than the content is actually the medium (isnt it? :think: )well then isnt medium the message? well then but this is only one particular case..No, because the message is the pattern of vibrations (message/content) carried though the air (medium). The same pattern can be reproduced by electrons or, in the case of speech, visual patterns (sign language).

McLuhan's ideas break down quite rapidly at the most fundamental levels. But, since his ethos appeals to most Mad Avenue types, and their sycophants, his outmoded ideas persist.

Meanwhile I suggest we have a moratorium on comments to this thread, lest coberst think he's generated something original and start posting more claptrap.

mid
2005-Dec-21, 03:20 PM
Personally, I think you're both wrong.

The message is the message, but there is still a second message about the person sending it that is given by the medium they choose. The Medium isn't The Message, but it's still A Message.

You can send quite complex messages through the medium. To cross-pollinate with the 'collections' thread, think about that wonderful artform the Album Cover. It has many jobs to perform; as advert, as art, as signifier of the contents. It might tell you who the band is in text, but a good cover will give you a fair clue to the sound by the style as well. Punk's "homemade" typography reflected the homemade origins of the music just as the architectural, abstract lines of an Autechre cover reflect the abstract brutalist noise on the disc.

R.A.F.
2005-Dec-21, 03:21 PM
...fundamentally void of meaning and use.

Hmmm...this reminds me of something...which I will not say...

Argos
2005-Dec-21, 03:27 PM
You can send quite complex messages through the medium.

Yes, that´s why I mention ET communication. The fact that you´re sending radio waves tells something about you. If you´re sending a stream of highly compressed bits, it tells something more, and so on, regardless of the main message.

Swift
2005-Dec-21, 03:32 PM
Originally Posted by Moose
...fundamentally void of meaning and use.Hmmm...this reminds me of something...which I will not say...
It reminds me of Tom Lehrer's line about Gilbert and Sullivan... "Full of words and music, and signifying Nothing!" ;)

Maksutov
2005-Dec-21, 03:34 PM
Rave on, guys (except for Moose, R.A.F., and Swift), and make coberst think he's posted something meaningful.

Meanwhile, I'm done.

http://www.cosgan.de/images/smilie/muede/a040.gif

coberst
2005-Dec-21, 07:11 PM
These concepts that McLuhan speaks of are difficult to comprehend but I find that slowly they begin to make sense. McLuhan tends to equate that all technological change are very similar to those technologies relating to the medium.

The phonetic alphabet is the source for many of the basic patterns in our culture. The phonetic alphabet is perhaps the first medium and it might be worthwhile examining the effects of this medium on the general civilization at that time.

The Greek myth Cadmus speaks of the king sowing the letters of the alphabet, the dragon’s teeth, and they sprang up as armed men. The alphabet meant power, authority and control. When combined with papyrus these letters introduced the destruction of stationary temple bureaucracies and the priestly dominance due to the their monopoly of knowledge and its associated power. The alphabet could be learned in hours wherein the pre-alphabet writing demanded a lifetime. Power was transferred from the priestly class to the military class.

The alphabet converted semantically meaningless sounds into semantically meaningless letters. This “culturally richer forms of writing, however, offered men the means of sudden transfer from the magically discontinuous and traditional world of the tribal word into the cool and uniform visual medium.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Dec-21, 09:47 PM
I never read McLuhan so I don't know what he means with that, however after taking a look at much of what passes for information nowadays (informercials for example..... :rolleyes: ) it seems that for many people the medium IS the message (since the message itself seems completely devoid of content)

Just a pithy comment from a professional cynic :D

coberst
2005-Dec-21, 10:08 PM
Sigma

I have a question for you. It takes, I guess, an advertising business and an entertainment business to produce a TV show for me to watch. Which of these two entities is the cause of the TV show I see? Is the cause the advertising or the entertainment function? I am talking about causality.

Moose
2005-Dec-21, 11:21 PM
The cause is the entertainment function. There are ad free shows and channels. Street Cents being a local production I'm most familiar with.

parallaxicality
2005-Dec-21, 11:26 PM
The alphabet (phonetic alphabet is a tautology- the term alphabet is used only to describe "symbol-to-sound" writing systems, as opposed to pictograhic or syllabic writing systems) was not invented by the ancient Greeks. It was first used by Semitic peoples like the Phoenicians who exported it to Greece.

There is nothing particularly advantageous about the alphabet over pictographic writing systems. The rich and complex literature of China proves that, to say nothing of the beauty of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Pictographic writing systems have many advantages: the symbols mean exactly the same thing regardless of the language of the speaker. This particularly useful in multilingual cultures like China. Also, ancient Chinese texts can be read as easily as modern language texts. Alphabetic systems, even among cultures that may use the same symbols, are incomprehensible without prior knowledge of the language. The alphabet is unwieldy in many other respects; the one thing it is not is genuinely phonetic, especially in English. The various and often completely random ways of pronouncing "a", "e", "o", "c", "x" and "g" show that it is not well fit to our tongue. Truly phonetic alphabets require dozens of characters.

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 09:18 AM
Sigma

Sigma says--"Just a pithy comment from a professional cynic". It seems to me that some questions are designed to facilitate learning and some are designed to stop learning. I wonder if we must be very careful in our manner of cynicism? I often get the impression that many people use questions for the latter purpose. I think that many young people consider cynicism to be "cool".

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 09:24 AM
Moose

How does one organize an argument to support this conclusion? I have been trying to understand causation and have not yet discovered how to apply a cogent analysis of causation. I know about Hume and this stuff. I am talking about common every-day considerations. I am not trying to make some profound philosophical rational. In this case of TV I am inclined to say that advertising is the cause.

mid
2005-Dec-22, 10:22 AM
Not if you're watching the BBC, that's for sure, as they don't carry advertising. I also know a few writers who would be less than happy to read you insinuating that they only write programmes to appeal to advertisers.

Even more generally, the advertising industry just want programmes that appeal to a large number of viewers, or at least appeal to a similar demographic to the one they wish to advertise to. This coincides with what the station wants from its programmes as well, so they aren't going to disagree in the main, either.

The one area that causes some effect, and it isn't one we see in the UK very much compared to the US, is that commercial television is occasionally not prepared to take risks on doing things during a show that will be fine to viewers of the show, but cause some people who wouldn't watch it anyway to get so annoyed that they start screaming 'boycott' to advertisers. But that's thankfully a rare thing.

I'd also completely disagree that

These concepts that McLuhan speaks of are difficult to comprehend
They're pretty simple (in fact overly so). Essentially, all he's saying is that some media are much better than others for sending particular messages, and so (a) there is information sent by the choice of medium, and (b) the creation of new media reflects the new messages that people wish to send.

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 11:24 AM
Reality is multilayered and McLuhan was one of the most noted early theorists to highlight the multilayered reality of the media. Many other media theorists have provided an extension of McLuhan’s analysis. Joshua Meyrowitz has authored the book “No Sense of Place’ that is, it appears, somewhat of a synopticon of these matters.

Moose
2005-Dec-22, 11:44 AM
How does one organize an argument to support this conclusion? I have been trying to understand causation and have not yet discovered how to apply a cogent analysis of causation. I know about Hume and this stuff. I am talking about common every-day considerations. I am not trying to make some profound philosophical rational. In this case of TV I am inclined to say that advertising is the cause.

I'm afraid you'd be wrong. Money pays for the production. Advertizing is only one of many ways to raise that money. CBC and BBC produce shows paid for mostly through taxes (although the CBC does suppliment by accepting advertizing revenue). Street Cents (a CBC ad-free production) receives a number of grants. American PBS gains revenue mostly through telethons and private donations. Pay-per-view and movie channels get their revenue through optional subscriptions. Mel Gibson paid for Passion out of pocket.

Etc.

Advertizing is entirely optional and you're mistaken to think otherwise.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Dec-22, 04:53 PM
Sigma

I have a question for you. It takes, I guess, an advertising business and an entertainment business to produce a TV show for me to watch. Which of these two entities is the cause of the TV show I see? Is the cause the advertising or the entertainment function? I am talking about causality.

Well if it's causality you are talking about I don't know. When I first read the cuestion I agreed with you: the cause it's the advertising function, as I read Moose's replies my position began to shift, Frankly I don't know how a TV Network sees it's function: either A) We provide entertaintment in exchange for you watching our sponsor's Advertisiments or B) We show Advertisements and in order for you to watch them we provide entertaintment. I think it would be a mixture of both. Although I am sure that their respective mission statementns sound more like option A.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Dec-22, 05:15 PM
Sigma

Sigma says--"Just a pithy comment from a professional cynic". It seems to me that some questions are designed to facilitate learning and some are designed to stop learning. I wonder if we must be very careful in our manner of cynicism? I often get the impression that many people use questions for the latter purpose. I think that many young people consider cynicism to be "cool".

coberst

My last comment was a joke, how many cynics admit that they are cynics? My point is that a lot of what some people take for FACTUAL information nowadays it's at best entertaintment that is all.

I must agree with you in one point though, yes it's "cool" to make cynical comments nowadays and yes I am quite guilty of that, I happen to have a rather dry sense of humor though...

Celestial Mechanic
2005-Dec-22, 06:36 PM
Ah, yes, Marshall McLuhan. He was the trendy pseudo-intellectual that all the other trendy pseudo-intellectuals were quoting before Popper and Kuhn became trendy. Think of it as "junk food for the intellect". :)

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 07:37 PM
Sigma

Many years ago I took up scuba diving. I was disappointed to discover that when diving one quickly loses color comprehension while descending deeper below the surface. The water filters the colors in white light such that below a few feet in depth color is lost quickly and everything takes on a shades of gray aspect. However, on my first night dive I discovered that because we took lights with us that the marvelous colors of the water creatures and the corral were made evident.

I think that this is a useful analogy regarding the nature of reality. If we wish to go deeper into reality and to appreciate the beautiful aspects while uncovering the layers below the surface we must take with us the intellectual aids necessary to make these aspects visible.

I think that many young people use the attitude of cynicism as a "cool" shield to protect their confusion.

Nicolas
2005-Dec-22, 07:48 PM
How does cynicism prevent you from looking from an intellectual point of view to your surroundings? How does cynicism imply confusion? How or why does confusion need to be protected?

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 08:07 PM
Cynicism is an attitude that generally reveals itself in an ill-natured and negative manner. It is often, I think, used by young people because being young they are often unsure of themselves and tend to over compensate by appearing cynical. The cynic does not always display that attitude but generally only when wishing to conceal their discomfort. I am not an expert in such matters but merely an observer of humanity. Teenagers, and I have raised five of them, find such an attitude to be “cool”.

Nicolas
2005-Dec-22, 08:17 PM
I think teenage cynicism is linked more to conscious undetermindness in decision making or judgement than it is to discomfort or confusion. Unless you call conscious undetermindness "confusion" of course :). In my definition, confusion is related to not understanding the situation, while conscious undetermindness means that you understand the situation but don't know how to act/choose/...In this case, cynicism can be used as a mask: you show how you clearly understand the wrong decision, while you don't have to show you know the right one (in this case you don't).

Of course, cynicism can also be used to project this undetermindness onto somebody who acts as if he knew the right decision.
Or simply as humour, to laugh with "the other side of the medal".

coberst
2005-Dec-22, 08:48 PM
I think we agree. We just use different words.

Nicolas
2005-Dec-22, 08:51 PM
If you say so :).

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Dec-23, 01:25 AM
Sigma

Many years ago I took up scuba diving. I was disappointed to discover that when diving one quickly loses color comprehension while descending deeper below the surface. The water filters the colors in white light such that below a few feet in depth color is lost quickly and everything takes on a shades of gray aspect. However, on my first night dive I discovered that because we took lights with us that the marvelous colors of the water creatures and the corral were made evident.

I think that this is a useful analogy regarding the nature of reality. If we wish to go deeper into reality and to appreciate the beautiful aspects while uncovering the layers below the surface we must take with us the intellectual aids necessary to make these aspects visible.

I think that many young people use the attitude of cynicism as a "cool" shield to protect their confusion.

Coberst:

a) Like i said, it was a joke, period

b) I am 42 years old.

coberst
2005-Dec-23, 10:57 AM
Sigma

Sorry about that!--I let myself go too far in my enthusiasm about the subject matter.

I think that part of the problem in Internet forums is that we loose all of the normal comprehension about the person we are communicating with. In face-to-face talking we have so very much information about one another that we do not have on the Internet. This lack of perspective leads to everyone assuming attitudes that are often inappropriate for the occasion.

I think that Internet discussions often take on a combat mode between the two people involved.

Further evidence of “The Medium is the Message” I guess. In this form of communication all understanding of social situations that we had accumulated over a lifetime are now unavailable to us.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Dec-23, 02:08 PM
Ok, no problem :)