Three people interacting with interactive technology (a laptop).

Technology and its “message” affecting culture

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“Medium is the Message.” Let’s think about this phrase for a minute. Many of us have heard this phrase before but what does this mean? How does this phrase relate to the world of technology and how it has influenced culture? Through reading Applen’s chapter of “McLuhan and Media’s Messages” we learn all this and more about the ever-increasing importance of media within our lives.

Firstly, “the medium” in this case is technology, and the “message” is the larger effects that technology has over culture and society as a whole. Throughout the years technology has exponentially improved which has resulted in it becoming a major aspect of our lives. Everyone is expected to have a smartphone, not a flip phone. Most people are expected to mail via email rather than traditional paper mail. Most people expect to find information online rather than through traditional means by the library. Technology has significantly changed the way we all collectively think and act about certain topics. Technology has affected readers as well through remediation and hypermediacy as I explained in my previous blog.

Even simple technology such as the invention of the light bulb according to McLuhan has significantly changed our culture. This is because light bulbs and electric lights have changed our behaviors at night. For instance, there would be no late-night walks because it would be pitch black. There are now night games such as basketball and soccer games where the stadium is bright with lights. Lights have influenced us culturally as they give us more time to do things before we go to sleep, it allow us to be active even at night. This example included by Applen shows how much even simple technology has changed humanity and the way we function as a society. In this case, the medium is the light bulb, and the message is that humans can still be active even after dark.

However, while technology has improved aspects of our culture, it does not negate that some “messages” of media have negatively affected our culture as a whole. A major example Applen provides is the “message” of being available 24/7 by cell phones. Because cell phones allow easy access to communication through texting and calling, people feel that they must be available. They must respond to a text immediately or phone call and if not, they have to have a reason. I have personally seen this too many times where parties feel entitled to an immediate response and if they do not get it they want an explanation.

Simply not feeling the urge to respond is seen as an invalid and rude response. The “message” demonstrates a clear influence in culture on how we have become more connected than ever, but as a result, we lose our ability to focus on just ourselves and our time.

Additionally, the improvement of technology has changed the “message” of information and our connection to it. For instance, information is quickly assessable through technology. Although it is an impressive feat, this has affected us culturally by not being able to read at a deeper level. Applen mentions ho we instead “skip from URL to URL” rather than looking at the text and reading it as a whole. This provides the false notion that problem-solving is as easy as googling solutions which it isn’t. Certain problems do not have one answer that can satisfy everyone. It will require more in-depth reading and research to find a suitable solution.

Overall, It is important to recognize the media we are using and what is the “message” behind it. What have we taught by media? Are we gaining anything from learning the message? What are we losing because of the message? Is it changing the way we perceive things culturally? Societally? “Medium is the Message” is a quote we all must become familiar with.


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