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The medium is the message

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A statement by Marshall McLuhan, meaning that the form of a message (print, visual, musical, etc.) determines the ways in which that message will be perceived. McLuhan argued that modern electronic communications (including radio, television, films, and computers) would have far-reaching sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical consequences, to the point of actually altering the ways in which we experience the world.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

BEHIND THE PHRASE

What does the medium is the message mean?

The medium is the message is an expression coined by Canadian educator and theorist Marshall McLuhan that is often interpreted to mean that the forms and methods (the “media”) used to communicate information have a significant impact on the messages they deliver (including the meanings and other perceptions about those messages).

In very simple terms, the expression implies that the form of communication being used—book, podcast, social media post, etc.—will affect  the perception of the message that it delivers in some way (even, perhaps, if the same message is communicated with different media).

The saying is often used in the context of media thought to be very influential on society, including forms of media that are thought to have changed—or to have the potential to change—how people experience the world.

For example, the expression may be used in the context of discussion of the social media platform Twitter and how its limitations on the character count of posts influences the way people communicate and perceive messages contained in those posts.

Where does the medium is the message come from?

The phrase the medium is the message was coined by Marshall McLuhan, a mass media theorist. McLuhan first used this phrase as early as 1964, when it was the title of a chapter in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. He later used it as the title of a book he published in 1967.

McLuhan used the word medium to refer to anything that affects how people communicate or send messages to each other. He used the word “message” to refer to “the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”

McLuhan introduced the expression before the rise of digital media, but it is often used in discussion of the ways the internet has changed how we communicate, what we choose to say, and what we choose to see and hear.

Did you know … ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with the medium is the message

What are some words that often get used in discussing the medium is the message?

How is the medium is the message used in real life?

The medium is the message is often used in academic or philosophical discussion of mass media and its effects on society and communication. People interpret the expression in different ways.

Try using the medium is the message!

True or False?

The medium is the message only applies to television.

How to use The medium is the message in a sentence

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