Marshall McLuhan’s Communication Theory

McLuhan’s idea of “hot and cold” media comes off as deceptively simple and inconsistent when looking at the consumption of media today. One of my main issues with this idea is that it relies on everyone having a similar perception of media, which is just not the case. From my experience levels of engagement with a certain piece of media have more to do with the context as well as the perception of the viewer than the medium itself. I think the reason for this binary scale, that McLuhan utilized, was the fact that there were a set number of electronic media mediums that could be viewed at the time. Today there is such a wide range of mediums and technology that the line becomes blurred.

Another idea that McLuhan wrote about was that “the medium is the message”. This phrase is a bit over the top but it does help give us an understanding of how medium and message correlate. I’d say the medium provides a range of perception that the message can sit in. This range can inform peoples opinion of the message to an extent but the message is still there and able to exist on its own. With how fast messages and content can be shared these days it is especially important to consider how ones message will be perceived in different mediums. This applies to graphic designers of course. Being conscious of other mediums and how they inform your design choices is necessary as a graphic designer since we often spend 90% of the design process in front of the computer.

Today we live in a media filled world. Media guides us constantly and often times distracts us from the real world. Recently with the rise of social media people now rely more and more on social interaction through digital means. This trend is kind of scary in a way and is becoming more of a concern with people working and schooling online. Social media is kind of a double edged sword in a way. It can give us ways to make new friends and stay in touch with friends who have moved but at the same time it can mess with people’s minds and change how we perceive the world in damaging ways. With all that said I don’t see a clear way to deal with this oversaturation of social content through design alone. Perhaps designers need to be more aware of visual stimuli and how images and messages can affect the brain.

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