What did Marshall McLuhan mean when he said ‘The medium is the message’?

It’s the phrase all communication people love to quote – The Medium is the Message. But do you really know what McLuhan meant when he said this?

In reality, his meaning was quite existential and incredibly fascinating, as explored below.

McLuhan described technology as the ‘inner trip’; the new Orientalism of the Western world. He saw technology as the gradual extension of our physical being. Early technologies merely put outside of us our physical powers.

Then when electrical technology came along, we replicated our nervous system. The computer then became the extension of our cognitive functioning. We could then begin to do things with our technology we couldn’t previously do. We began imitating our insides.

He viewed this ongoing placement of the self ‘outside’ of itself as the fragmented masculine form on display (of going in-to-out), whilst the feminine side of the integral whole; of going out-to-in, was inducing the form to self-reflect.

He saw the mythical extension of the self on display all around us, and yet we still tried to ‘think’ rationally. Even ‘word’ in Greek is ‘mythos’ – word as myth. In an information age, our culture becomes work and words, and what is work if not the progression of technology? The word technology itself originated as ‘techne’ which translates as ‘art’.

The medium known as technology becomes the very message of ourselves; of us gradually manifesting our being so that we may internalize our existence.

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