‘The medium is the message’ – What does it really mean?

The quote ‘The medium is the message’ has been a controversial issue in the communication and media field, where many professionals want to define it and put it into practice. Understanding it give us a powerful control over media industry. In this essay, I will demonstrate some of the following examples in the way that I understand the aphorism ‘The medium is the message’.

First of all, we need to understand what is ‘the medium’ and ‘the message’. As Marshall McLuhan has defined, ‘medium’ is ‘any extension of ourselves’ and ‘message’ is ‘a change of scale, pace and pattern of behaviors’. Medium can be everything, a mobile phone, a laptop, an iPod, even a chair or an elevator can be a medium too. And every medium itself is a message. The message here is not as you think, I know what you are thinking as I used to think it in that way too: the content it carries out or brings to people. But it is actually not! Again, I want to emphasize this: Every medium itself IS a message.


YHo2C3Q               Why is ‘every medium itself is a message’? For instance let’s talk about an iPhone. It is a smartphone that not only has the call and answer function, it is a new phone generation which allow us to do everything, well, not everything, but most of the things on it, through that small but powerful screen. Texting, surfing the Net, using social networks as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (remember to follow my Twitter then!), or even buying and selling things online, an iPhone now makes all of these become so easy. You touch the screen and ‘Bum’, everything is there for you. But the question is ‘What is the message of an iPhone’? It is probably not the content of the conversation between people on the phone or what they are talking in their messages. The message here is that the way iPhones have changed the world into a mobilized way.

This leads to the second side of concern is that the new mediums have changed all the messages and more obviously, they changed the way people consume the media. The consumers in the past who passively consumed the content now become prosumers who actively produce and interact with the media. People have an iPhone and they use it to choose their favorite genres of music and listen to it, watch a movie and leave a comment, those are interactions with the content (the message) of the medium.

That is all about what I have understood about Marshall McLuhan aphorism ‘The medium is the message’. Understanding this is crucial as it open our perspective on communication and media world to a new level of awareness when the medium, or the technology not simply brings the content as a message, but itself is also a message.

Nhi Nguyen


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