McLuhan’s known quote “the medium is the message” requires us to think about the change that comes from the mediums. How does it make our lives easier? What does this technology do for our society?
Looking at something such as YouTube, on its surface, it provides us with an abundance of videos. But how has YouTube changed life for us? The content on YouTube not only provides us with entertainment. It also gives people an opportunity to make a living out of creating content. Another use is to teach people how to do virtually anything. This is anything from changing your car’s tires to explaining the history of European Exploration of the Americas. Before the Internet, all of that knowledge was contained in books and/or shared via word of mouth. This limitless abyss of information is readily available at everyone’s fingertips today. It allows us as people to be more informed and have an easier time sharing our knowledge/entertainment with others. That is the message of YouTube through the lense of McLuhan.
The Issue with fast facts
However, there exists concern from many including Nicholas Carr whom Applen identifies. He believes in a curse to easily readied information. We all know how it goes when we are doing research for a project and our parents tell us how difficult they had it. They had to go to the library to check out books and read closely and carefully in order to find what they needed. It can be argued that because today we can find information nearly effortlessly, that we do not process it well enough, leading to a dwindling in our abilities to become better thinkers.
The predicament this puts us in is one between knowing facts and then using them to go further and become better thinkers. Not every question on the internet has a simple answer or any accurate answer at that. Sometimes we need to put our minds to work and find a more complex answer. That’s why it becomes imperative we use the Internet for quick facts so we don’t spend so much time digging through books. But we should not forgo our close reading and interpretation skills for the luxury of time. The more technology advances, the more we are at risk of losing the way we think.
To this, I think McLuhan would say that this risk of and change in our thinking are part of the problem, but not the fault of the medium. The message of a medium is what it does for us, but what it does for us is something we are in control of. We use the tools we are given in the ways we decide to use them.