Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Yesterday, we said that “the medium is the message.” These are the words of Marshall McLuhan. We experienced the way a medium delivers its message; we discussed the differences between a TV show, a radio program, book, etc. For each medium, the mind was required to process information differently. The 1940s radio show we listened to required each of us to imagine what was being described to us by the various voices we listened to, to imagine pictures of people that we could not see. As a result, we recognized that by listening to radio, we each developed our own personal vision of events taking place over the medium. Whereas the 1950s TV show we watched was built around a skit using ersatz (good SAT word meaning “fake” or “imitation” or “artificial”) German. In the absence of real language, the skit relied almost entirely on sight gags (visual jokes) to reach its punchline. On the TV Show — Sid Caeser’s “Your Show of Shows” — few actual words were spoken, yet all of us saw the same thing, shared a similar experience, which was very different from radio. We agreed that the TV show would have been impossible to produce on radio, that it used a visual language to tell its story. As a result, to a much greater degree, we all shared a common vision. We relied less on our imaginations than we did in the case of radio. You could say that we took in the TV information more passively. There was less room for discussion when the medium was television, as opposed to radio.

As I mentioned, books work on our minds in yet a different way. The written medium is individual, active, imaginative. Readers exist in a “private space,”  a “reading cocoon.” The effect? Well, obviously it’s all in the mind. Where radio is participatory, reading is solitary and TV is sedentary. Do you agree? The medium not only contains a message, but it affects our minds differently. Thus, the medium is part of the message. We must enter different mental states as we enjoy different media. You might say that, according to Marshall McLuhan, it’s the way we get the information that is just as important as the information we get.

Let’s take ten quiet minutes to think about how the laptop computer affects our mental states. Take out your note books. You are going to make a list. Imagine you are in a large house with your brothers and sisters and other members of your family and friends. You are all engaged in different media. Your job is to figure out the different ways each medium affects each of you differently: to see the message in the medium.

In one room, each person has a laptop. One of you is listening to a podcast. The other is watching hulu. Another of you is reading a research paper. Another is writing code for a web page. Another is playing a video game with a friend across the country.

Question: They are all using computers, one medium. Is the message the same? Or is the computer a different medium for each person? If so, what are the different messages?

Upstairs, three people are listening to a radio program, Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.” In the media room, two other people are listening to a replay of the 1989 World Series. List how each of them may be responding to the different media. How does the message in the medium differ?

Now, let’s watch these brief videos.


Some us of have already begun talking about WWW addiction. We don’t talk about “book” addicts.



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