Marshall McLuhan certainly was not thinking of the hordes of BCM112 students he would be confusing when he came up with the idea that the medium is the message, and yet here we are.
In essence, it means that the way that an idea is presented is actually more important than the ideas and content that is being communicated. For example, if a photo is shared on the media platform Instagram, what the photo is of is not as important as the fact that it has been shared on a program that allows thousands to see the photo.
This idea is further developed in an article entitled “What is the meaning of “The Medium is the Message”, by Mark Federman. He challenges us to take the idea that the medium is more important than the message and interpret it as understanding that anything we create has certain characteristics, and these characteristics form the message. “A medium – this extension of our body or senses or mind – is anything from which a change emerges. And since some sort of change emerges from everything we conceive or create, all of our inventions, innovations, ideas and ideals are McLuhan media.” (M. Federman) This way of thinking can be linked to the convergence of media happening today.
Media is not limited to one platform any more, and audiences have changed from being passive viewers to active participants. Television programs used to be confined to just television, and then maybe a video release months after the episode of something was aired. Today, you can stream most episodes of anything online immediately after it has aired (and sometimes even simultaneously), you can download episodes or watch them multiple times on a streaming platform like Netflix. The audience is no longer limited to viewing, but can comment and create. While the episode is being shown, we can tweet using hashtags to give our commentary on the content (think ABC’s QandA), viewers create memes poking fun at characters or situations (My Kitchen Rules 2015 Memes on Facebook) or create Youtube channels that discuss what happened in new episodes of their favourite shows.
Writing an angry Facebook status directed at someone or calling them and saying it to them personally will wield two very different outcomes. The message of the first is that you want other people to see it, comment on it, hopefully validate your feelings and victimise the intended. The message of the second is much more “I have a problem with you and I’m telling you about it privately.” The messages and content that we send and receive, however we choose to package it, have meaning. But it can be argued that how we choose to send it impacts and effects what we’re saying. The medium is the message.
– “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?” by Mark Federman (2004)