Understanding Media
a presentation of...
the theories of
Marshall McLuhan
What are Media?
medium (singular),
media (plural):
Media are technological
extensions of our senses,
which we use to communicate
Media extend our senses -Books extend our eyes
“Speakers” extend our ears
TV extends both
“The Medium is the Message”
“Societies have always been
more by the nature of the
by which we communicate than by
the content of
-- Marshall McLuhan
The history of all media in one sentence
our tools,
And our
tools shape
A new “Age” is upon us!
We are living in
Not The Stone Age
Not The Industrial Age
And certainly not the “post-industrial” Age
Before the alphabet,
people would rather be blind than deaf
Hearing was believing.
Being educated meant
reciting Homer’ Iliad from
Oral tradition for an
aural culture.
The phonetic alphabet changed our way of thinking
With wr itten lan guage
1. chr on ological,
2. classified,
3. segmen ted
kn owledge took over .
The invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1448
• fostered more linear, visual thinking
– provided the model for the assembly LINE and the
mechanical age
– broke down everything into component parts,
which led to industrialization
– sequence became associated with logical thinking
Western Art was shaped by this linear,
eye-based perception of space
Since the renaissance, the Western artist perceived his environment in
terms of a perspective projection upon a plane surface, accepting vertical
and horizontal symmetry as an absolute condition of order.
New media = New modes of perception
Our new
are simultaneous, interrelated, visceral, intuitive,
and participatory (we makes the connections).
The "logic" of these languages can be circular,
free-associating, discontinuous,
non-linear and
out of sequence.
Kind of like a “cubist”
painting, we get
all angles at once.
in the instantaneous information environment
Communication is instantly everywhere
Information overload can result
A continuous barrage of information
“implodes” upon us.
Information moves faster and faster
Brief, simple, funny images and
messages break through the clutter
An inventory of effects . . .
When information
moves at electronic
speeds, it changes.
Details blur into
patterns. Causes and
effects compress.
Information becomes
obsolete faster.
The pace of change accelerates …
Media languages evolve quickly
Content compatible
with media languages
gets amplified.
Events expand, and
leap across the globe.
We live in a
Global Village.
Create your own inventory of effects
Consider any medium …
What does it enhance or
amplify in our culture?
What does it obsolete or push out of prominence?
What does it retrieve from the past?
What does it reverse?
What will the medium transform into?
in conclusion…
Understanding Media means becoming viscerally “media-wise”,
developing an intuitive understanding of the media environment.
Understanding Media requires fluency in media “languages.
Media are constantly changing, so fluency is a lifelong learning process.
Understanding Media is the mark of an educated
citizen in the Information Age.
Questions for Discussion
Is shorter communication content more repeatable than longer?
Can you name some disposable content? Some recyclable content?
Which will transform our lives with new forms of interactivity?
How will accelerating change in our media effect….
How will understanding media help you anticipate and embrace change?

Professor Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Media