Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, July 25, 2008

Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is The Message - Video Mashup

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For those interested in understanding media beyond their immediate appearance Marshall McLuhan remains without a doubt still one of the richest and most inspiring resources. His books and writings offer a wealth of insights into the media transformation and changes we are witnessing now, over 30 years after he described and anticipated them.


Author of several books including the famous The Medium is the Message, Canadian-born McLuhan was also director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Of Marshall McLuhan I am offering you today a short clip that I recently stumbled upon. It contains Marshall McLuhan's voice as recorded on a TV show of the early seventies matched to visual imagery that has been added at a later time. Originally aired on PBS-TV, 4 January, 1971 at 8:00 p.m. (Philadelphia, PA area), it was recorded over 35 years ago during the "Speaking Freely" show hosted by NBC's Edwin Newman. Here is the full original recording in MP3 format.

Observe how alive much of McLuhan's message is and how relevant it stands in today's Internet world.


The Medium Is A Message - 1971 - Marshall McLuhan

Speaking Freely hosted by Edwin Newman features Marshall McLuhan 4 Jan 1971, Public Broadcasting/N.E.T.

Full English Text Transcription

Visual Space Is Not Continuous

...that is perhaps another way of coming to this medium in a message thing.

In visual space, we think of things as continuous and connected.

There is no connection in auditory space or tactile space. To the sense of touch, there are no connections. There are only resonances, beats, rhythms, closures, and to smell to all (the) other senses, kinetic movement and so on, there is no continuity and no connection only discontinuity.

This idea of the visual man, the Euclidean man, that space is continuous and uniformly connected does not apply in the electronic age to any of the senses except sight and under electronic condition, even the visual has lost that continuous character.

Under special television conditions, it becomes once more a mosaic, a collage of resonant dots, spots.

Speed Up

The idea of pattern recognition one of the peculiar new awarenesses of our time is the result of speed up.

When things move very quickly, their pattern or form of them appears very plainly whereas when things move very slowly, it is not so easy to see a pattern.

This so has something to do with a lot of the confusions of our world and when people who had previously been quite content in a fixed position, in a job, or a career, are suddenly confronted with very fast-moving situations where they can see overall patterns, they suddenly become very discontented with their place, with their fixed position.

So the dropout is a normal kind of response to pattern recognition... not that I mean in all aspects of our society, the people who were dropping out right, left, and center are people who suddenly have seen a pattern in their lives instead of just a fixed position; visually oriented, everything in its place, a place for everything, a classification, a job.

Audience Participation and The Instant Replay

People suddenly want to be involved in more dynamic patterns.

Packaged material whether it's in the advertising world or in the educational world is no longer acceptable.

The consumer status has been greatly downgraded.

We live in a world in which the consumer habits have been yield instead the producer involvement and so the TV audience acts now as a producer.

Had you ever thought of the instant replay in football as creating a totally new form of audience participation in the dynamics of the game?

In an instant replay, in effect you say: "let us stop this action, halt it, arrest, hold it." Then you say now, what has just happen in this game had this effect. Let us see how we achieve this effect. Let us replay that action and observe how this particular effect was attained.

Now, this is the attitude of every artist to every artistic production. He says in effect "hold that action I want to capture it in another medium".

Now in the case of a playback, you are in the presence of the artistic process. An artist always says how could I get that effect? I must go back and replay it.

So what has happened to football since the replay is that the public now demands that the game be changed so that they can see the process by which the effects are attained.

The games are even halted until the replays are completed on TV. It isn't just halted for the ads but for the replays, and sometimes they have to wait until the replay is completed.

The public sometimes bring their own TV sets to watch the replays during the game and they use the sets in the stadium, in the lobbies and so on eagerly during the game too.

Participation as Process

Now this is a new form of participation in the game as process.

In our time, the public has demanded access to the artistic process in every field including school.

The learning process is now something in which children expect to participate not just as consumers, but as producers and they get this from TV.

TV is in a paramount way a medium of processes. It reveals processes as never before. Not just products. So that you'll only have to watch the more effective forms of advertising to see that the ad is never presented as a product, but always as a process; a participation. This is what Sesame Street has shown, made by Madison Avenue experts. It shows the entire learning process in action and in the best advertising style.


Want More of Marshall?

Video credit: MyCluein - YouTube

Video credit: DrFallon - YouTube

Originally written and prepared by for Master New Media and first published on July 25th 2008 as "Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is The Message - Video Mashup"

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posted by Robin Good on Friday, July 25 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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