Marshall McLuhan was a media theorist who understood the power of words and the strength of electronic mediums and how they change the way we see each other. He discovered many ideas that relate to the network strategy as an environment: the medium is the message, the hot and cold media strategy, acoustical space, and the meaning of the global village. We may not have enough time to go through every aspect that he came up with, but there are a few that we’re gonna discuss here today.
One is the importance of McLuhan’s well-known phrase, “The Medium is the Message.” When I first heard this phrase I was a bit confused because I had to turn my attention to what a “medium” truly is; it’s what the content is being displayed upon, like computers, phones, radios, televisions, etc. The collective viewings, feelings, and forming of our own impressions and immediate interpretations of something that is right before our eyes. McLuhan said, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Re-reading this quote, again and again, may make you wonder how we relate to each other through the tools we decide to use. What kind of tools are you mending? How do they impact society? Well, McLuhan’s theory helps designers dive deeper into media and understand that the way we receive messages changes our interpretation. It makes us question our values and how we trust certain platforms. No matter what kind of tool a designer chooses to make, we must all realize how important and meaningful it can be for someone. The real question is what kind of tool are you willing to make to connect with your audience?
Another principal McLuhan has so gladly left us with is the idea of the “global village” and how in today’s society, we are consumed by electronic media. Although keeping up with certain aspects of society and the media can be difficult, McLuhan has given us hope in moving towards personal interactions worldwide through electronic media. What this means is that all people have access to the same information, simultaneously, which further links people together. This past year and moving forward, there is no doubt that new technologies will come about and advance, and because of this, we are able to connect throughout the entire world. It’s as simple as logging onto your computer and reading comments on your friend’s Instagram post. Or maybe you’re scrolling through your social media accounts and learn about an incredible design opportunity that is hiring new designers and you want to sign up. As time provides more opportunities and technological advancements, the intention of the media itself is what builds the message. Because of Marshall McLuhan, we too have the ability to advance technology in a way that reconnects people to who they really are.
Photographer: Yousuf Karsh, 1967.