Maybe McLuhan was right

During the 90s my brand positioning statement was “The Medium is NOT the Message” — directly contradicting Marshall McLuhan’s famous apocalyptic remark about where we were headed.

My point, then and now, was that the message is what’s important. Content trumps conveyances.

Here’s a video by Mike Wesch, a cultural anthropology prof at KSU that perhaps you’ve already seen… over 5 million folks have watched it on YouTube but it was new to me until Ken Christie called it to my attention through his blog.

Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us (final version)

This articulates as well as anything I’ve seen what Neil Postman warned us all about, and McLuhan before him: each medium carries with it a powerful bias as to the kind of information (or noise) that it disseminates. Each medium has a strength, and a corresponding weakness, just as sight and sound, taste, smell and touch each have their own unique strength. Web 2.0 is so hard to define because it carries within it the ability synthesize all of the media, resulting in either crystallinity or mush. And as usual, the way each is used, and perceived, depends on both the sender and the receiver.

Perhaps Web 2.0’s greatest impact comes from the degree to which this mega-medium puts most of that power, not in the hands of the sender, but the receiver. More than ever before in history, beauty (and truth) are indeed in the eye of the beholder.

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One Response

  1. Tricky. Very tricky
    Thinking about medium-message couple, defining them is a tough job. As an example, language itself is a medium. The message is broadly defined as information… The two can, and do switch places…

    I believe that many big discussions begin not because of the subject but because of the limits of human language :). So I prefer a more “fuzzy” approach, or “poetic”, I’d say.

    We will have other surprises coming from artificial intelligence or further integration of web into everyday life… like knowing everything about people in a cafe you’re in because your gadget tells you from their social networking accounts. Hopefully things won’t get apocalyptic.

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