Summary of First Four Chapters of Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media”

Due: Introduction Marshall McLuhan, an and media pundit, came up with the idea that humans can adjust their nervous system through a global neural net via the use of electronic media and devices. The structure of the modern age is as an effect of the ‘field’ awareness imposed by electronic communications technology. He described the numerous changes that are accompanied by such a network. The author proclaimed that ‘the medium is the message’ (McLuhan, Marshall, & Terrence, 34). Marshall argued that the medium contains its own message which is independent of the content. Due to the fact that his ideas were based on the context of the rise of television as a technology, the message of any medium is always formal. It depends on its structure or scale and the kinds of patterns it produces. According to human psychology, the medium structures the way individuals interact with the world regardless of their content. By saying that the medium is the message, he is concerned with what it does to human beings and how the changes it makes on individuals vary.

According to his “hot media/cool media” concept, electronic media consumption comes with various habits. Media can either excite the senses or not according to their level of interaction with the senses. If a medium is “hot”, it contains a lot of information hence individuals just watch or listen. This means that it excites and saturates only one sense. Radio, film, and print are categorized as hot as they involve sound (for radio and film) and vision (for film and print). “Cool” medium refers to a low-resolution medium that requires maximum audience participation. Cool media does not capture individuals as hot media does. Though being debatable, television is considered as cool media as it does not “force” an individual into one behavior.

Technology has unconscious effects on human beings. The effects are non-verbal and non-conservative. Any effect manifests itself on individuals without their benefit of awareness or conscious attention. Electronic media habit effects upon human beings are quite independent of any thought that they might have about them. Human actions have been pushed into pure process by electronic technology that effects even precede causes (McLuhan, Marshall, &Terrence, 67). Equilibrium in sensibility occurs when one area of experience is intensified while another is diminished. This brings about the sense ratio between the reasoning power of man and the imagination. Typographic man refers to the way individuals communicate which has significantly changed by moving from sound to vision. In this age of print, individuals’ ideas are structured differently than they were before print. According to his “global village” idea, every connection that individuals make, there is a medium that stands in between. This is different in relation to the way individuals used to live in villages where they relied on oral knowledge.

Electronic media habits indicate the way in which peoples’ inner senses and imaginations are made up of synaesthetic experience. Any new technology brings forth the amplification of human faculties hence creating a new environment. By extending senses, technology can combine multiple senses to bring about one experience in the mind. The reasoning power of man and the imagination can combine multiple senses to produce a single experience due to the fact that different faculties compete for the same attention. Media, on one hand, can isolate our senses by focusing on one issue at a time; that is, either vision or sound, or it can integrate the senses since it produces expressions that are either changeable or multiple. The latter effect is what induces individuals to express the collective unconscious in a tangible form. The negative effects of electronic media consumption can be combated. The basic and best way to prevent the negative effects of electronic media consumption is avoidance. Although change is inevitable, an individual can choose to distance himself/herself from advanced and complex electronic media consumption. Living a simple life is the best way of avoiding such complex technological advances and the best strategy to counteract any negative effects of consumption habits.

 

Reference
McLuhan, Marshall, and W. Terrence Gordon. Marshall McLuhan. Corte Madera, CA: Ginko Press, 2005. Print.