Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Medium is the Message - Part One

In the early 1960's, Marshall McLuhan postulated his now famous theory of media, that the medium is the message. This means, in its most simplified form, that messages we convey to each other as human beings are tainted and shaped by the medium by which we choose to communicate them. For example, a news event that is reported on television, the newspaper, and an Internet blog will all be somewhat different. Television is a medium where brevity is key, so the message is shaped accordingly. Newspapers have limited space, but they are a little more free to expound on facts than television. An Internet blog is virtually limitless in space and storage, thus much more information can be contained. In this, the medium of communication helps to shape the message delivered. We can perceive some messages as being more important than others, or more facts or less facts give us an impression of what is truly going on. This is where we get terms such as "soundbite culture." Let me give you one visual example. Look at the following ways of conveying a message through different fonts:

As you can see, if I were conveying a message about a person named Jenny, I could give you different ideas about who Jenny is simply by my medium choice. The message is exactly the same (J-E-N-N-Y), but the medium shapes the way you perceive the message.

In more recent times, television and the Internet are shaping our way of thinking simply because they are the predominant media of our day. One result of television viewing is shortened attention spans. For example, a typical television show will change the image you see every three seconds, on average. You are moved from one shot to the next in rapid succession in order to keep your attention. Watch a television show from the medium's early days. Better yet, place a child in front of an old TV show, and watch the temptation of boredom set in. You will notice things move at a much slower pace, and the shots and images are not changed as often.

So, in the end, messages can be enhanced, obscured, or obsolesced simply by the form of communication we use to transmit that message.

So, what does this mean on a Christian blog? You will have to tune in to part two to find out! But until then, think about how the Christian community transmits the Gospel of Christ. We hold good news! And that good news must be communicated with others. How do we do that? How is that done in America now?

. . . to be continued.


1 comment:

  1. You piqued my curiosity, but I think I see where this is going. Looking forward to part 2...