"The Medium Is the Message" and Other Myths of the Evolving, Electronic Age
The message is the medium by which we seek the answers to the problems of our lives. Marshall McLuhan, the erudite but generally unintelligible Toronto professor who insisted that "the medium is the message" got it backwards. 1 Online, offline, broadcast news, or Morse code: The medium merely carries the data we all require. It is through the messy complex of reported facts, opinions, perceptions, reports-- the disparate elements of fact and surmise that we retrieve from every conceivable source--that each of us attempts to make sense of our individual lives and shared times. From the perspective of the user, the medium is not the message any more than the crushed velvet little box holding a diamond ring is the real present bestowed, on traditionally bent knee, in the time-honored form of a request for marriage.
Imagine that you have a dread disease and a new drug offering hope of a cure has just become available. Do you care what medium carries that message of health and hope to your home? It may be an article in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association; a telephone call from the doctor, whose colleague read a report on the drug; or it could be a fact overheard in a patient's self-help support group. It may be a datum reported on the Internet, or a fact gleaned from an online electronic search. What is important to the patient is not the carrier, but the signal it conveys. Whether it comes by jungle drum or on the 11:00 nightly television news, it is the promise of hope that the