Understanding Media from Marshall McLuhan:Thoughts for Small Business

Marshall McLuhan was one of the foremost writers about media in the 20th Century.  He created  “the media is the message”.  Recently, I have been rereading Understanding Media.  The book is packed full of ideas.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of these ideas.

My goal is to put these ideas into the context of the internet, Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.   Also, draw some parallels between McLuhan’s innovative look at media in the middle of the 20th Century, and today’s new media.

The first part of this comes from the editor’s introduction by W. Terrance Gordon.  Gordon notes that  We think of media principally as a media of communication; press, radio and television.  McLuhan thought of a medium as an extension of the human body or mind; clothing extends the skin….A medium, or a technology can be an extension of the human being.

Media comes in pair, one “containing” the other.  So the telegraph contained the printed word. …. The contained medium is the message of the containing one, but the effects of the latter are obscured for the user who focuses on the former. Because those effects are so powerful, any message in the ordinary sense of “content” or “information”  has far less impact than the medium itself.  Thus  “the medium is the message”

What does this mean for a business person?  Increasingly, the internet is allowing for a large scale conversation done electronically with each individual.  What we could call an e-conversation.  When you create content, think about how is that content an extension of you and your business.

Also, when you create content, you must create the content a subset of the medium.   A 60 minute presentation works in person, but putting the video up on YouTube can be problematic.  Looking at Web 1.0 (the internet in the 1990’s) as a medium:  for many businesses, the response was putting their brochures up on the internet. But over time, the internet developed its own set of protocols.  Your brochure was no longer enough.

These two points are a good start.  More to follow

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