“Understanding Media”

I have to admit, it took me a while to break through the surface of this reading.  At first I was intimidated and thrown off by Mcluhan’s overly verbose and semi-schizophrenic writing style.  But there was point after his mantra “the medium is the message” was repeated for the nteenth time, that I finally began to understand.

I looked at his writing as a set of dichotomies, all of which can only truly make sense to the reader when set in opposition to one another. When he first introduced the concept of electric light and instantaneity, I didn’t quiet see where he was going, but once I saw it in contrast to idea of sequence, I was able to place his metaphor into my understanding of his work.  Mcluhan challenges the reader to look at the whole instead of the process, the instant instead of the sequence.  Looking at the significance of interrelated events in contrast to fragmented sequences.

While Mcluhan’s examples seem contradictory at times (I was initially confused by TV being “cold” and radio being “hot”), but his repetition and use of abstract examples helped me to conceptualize his concepts that were initially alien to me.  I also couldn’t help but make the correlation between his own writing style, and one of his many examples stating, “the entire message is then traced and retraced, again and again, on the rounds of a concentric spiral with seeing redundancy.  One can stop anywhere after the first few sentences have have the full message” (pg 26). It is obvious that if only the “first few sentences” of Understanding Media where read, not only one the reader miss the full message, they would not have much of a message at all.  You would know that “the medium is the message,” but have no way to conceptualize or contextualize this statement.

I also tried to think about how Mcluhan’s choice of a hot media, a book, effects our reading of him.  I’m still mulling over this, and not quiet sure what I think.  Overall, I found Mcluhan engaging and extremely relevant despite the fact that this was published in the mid 60s. His ideas are easily transferable to the current age, and I do not think he would be surprised by the current state of media.

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