Marshall McLuhan Book: Understanding media: The extensions of man. - Essay Prowess

Marshall McLuhan Book: Understanding media: The extensions of man.


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The Medium is the Message


Marshall McLuhan, a well-respected author from Canada produced a monumental piece of literature in 1964 titled, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Throughout this book, he highlights the impact of technology relative to the contemporary culture, it effects on man and by extension, how humanity relates with each other in various communities. As such, this book remains pertinent to the numerous issues debated upon today concerning the media and associated technologies (McLuhan, 1994). He indeed rigorously probed the media and its reproduction of man in new status relative to the media and more so, a society which is in essence dominated by the media.

In Chapter 1 of this book titled, Medium in the Message McLuhan provides that, “If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness (McLuhan, 1994)?” This essay seeks to utilize this statement to analyze what it implies, attempt to offer a description of new media, look to the authors intent in providing this particular statement, describe new media’s future in relation to the society and finally offer an interpretation of this statement.

What the Statement Implies

This statement serves to reveal the possible presence of a global village and as such, implies that the author presented a valid prediction of the escalation of the global community as is observable in its current expression (McLuhan, 1994). The astonishing aspect of this statement is that it was provided in the early 60’s. This was a time period when the television was only a reserve of the high class society and personal computers were about two decades into the foreseeable future. As such, this statement in essence embraces the fact that the media has played a significant role in condemning human beings to worship and adore the very things that they themselves have invented. In American society, it is common to find individuals losing their lives while at the same time adversely affecting the lives of others for being addicted to their iPhones.

For instance, millions of people die from traffic related fatalities simply because the driver was busy sending text messages to his or her friends while behind the wheel of a moving car. The result is usually unexpected and unwarranted pedestrian fatalities as well as the deaths of such drivers and other car occupants. The iPhone and other hand held electronic devices have also been the cause for mother forgetting about their babies or even cooking. Technological advances relative to the media landscape have thus, served to transform man into a zombie like state where the media connected devices are more important than one’s own life or the life of other people.

How the Statement Describe New Media

It is important to first point out that the development of new dedia has indeed transformed the lives of numerous people all across the world in a positive manner. However, the prevalence and subsequent deep penetration of new media to virtually all the four corners of the earth has presented some overly adverse outcomes. For instance, the plastic surgery culture is on the increase as a result of the inappropriate use of new media. As such, there is definitely an unhealthy cultural shift as more young people are being negatively influenced by the consumerism oriented new media to pursue fallacies and vain things.

The development of social media has indeed led to a radical transformation of the global marketing and advertising industry. Through social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the younger persons within contemporary societies are exposed to intensive and extensive marketing campaigns. Using the faces of iconic personalities such as Britney Spears, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian among countless others, teenagers and the youth are being continuously bombarded with consuming desire to look like these celebrity personalities. In the past, and as such, before the development of the media landscape as postulated by McLuhan, decisions on whether or not to consider plastic surgery was unheard of (McLuhan, 1994). New media has resulted in a situation where traditional beliefs, customs and norms are continuously being disregarded. As such, a teenager with significant financial resources can use the same new media to find a willing plastic surgeon and change his or her appearance to suite vain desires. This is in essence what the statement in discussion describes new media as being today.

The Author’s Intent in Providing This Particular Statement

McLuhan was a devout Christian and as such, held a very high degree of regard concerning Biblical teachings. Through his work, one comes to embrace the fact that spirituality was high in his own personal agenda. As such, he considered the media as an avenue through which, if correctly and appropriately utilized, could allow for some form of unified spirituality among all world societies (McLuhan, 1994). In the same manner as the invention of the automobile was considered as a new introduction or extension to the human foot. In the same manner, new technologies such as new media and more specifically, social media can be as an extension of one’s mind.

As such, it is important to point out that this particular author does employs riddles and metaphors to a great extent. This is in essence in an attempt to disclose how widespread the appeal for new media was to encroach and by extension, has encroached on current human societies (McLuhan, 1994). The intent of the McLuhan was to inform his audiences that emerging technologies as well as media could have the potential to impact on society in a massive way. To him, a development like new media has the potential of interconnecting the minds of the millions of users to conform to a particular ideology, and in this case, spirituality.

New Media’s Future in Relation to the Society

The overall effect that new media will have on future human societies is presenting an unprecedented degree of interconnectedness. Given that McLuhan leaned heavily on Christian teaching, the result is a spiritually inclined direction of the message encompassed in the statement under discussion. As such, this statement can be used to describe possible future direction in the manner with which new media will affect human societies (McLuhan, 1994). Given the governments, organizations, communities and groups can realize greater interconnectedness through new media avenues presents broader perspectives as to future changes in human society.

For instance, governments can use new media to have a comprehensive register or citizens under it and as such, provide for better informed policies relative to the common welfare needs of its people. Conversely, it can lead to the emergence of radical associations such as in the case of ISIS. This inhuman organization has employed new technologies and media avenues resulting in the deaths of numerous people in different places across the globe. However, should governments employ new media appropriately, then there is the high likelihood that the emergence of such groups can be curtailed from occurring in future.

Personal Interpretation of the Statement

It is critical that human society embraces the fact that new media has had a profound impact in the manner with which we perform day to day obligation in contrast to what was the norm a century ago. My interpretation of this particular statement is based on the understanding that McLuhan coined it while perceiving media in good light (McLuhan, 1994). To him, new media has the potential of improving human relation in the globalized context. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As is common in the diverse social media sites available today, users tend to form associations with other people they know or those they perceive as having common interests. As such, some of the associated made are positive while some of them exhibit the opposite extreme. Given that this statement was produced more than six decades ago and is still relevant today to points out its importance to a comprehensive understanding as to how negative attributes can be shed off and positive ones encouraged. However, human beings are accorded the free will to choose from right and wrong. Therefore, moral values play and will in future continue to play an integral role in determining whether people in society use new media as intended or in a manner that is detrimental to further human development.




McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

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