Colin Miller Team 15- Critical Perspective

Good writing style Colin. You make some excellent points, however your thesis is not a true thesis so you might want to review that. You use quotes directly from McLuhan, which is okay, but I would have liked to see more overall analysis of his points. Otherwise, good job.

Thesis: Professor Marshall McLuhan used critical perspective in his thinking for arguably his most famous expression, “the medium is the message.”

An aspect of the critical perspective that McLuhan utilizes in his thinking is that he questions commonly held assumptions. According to his interview in Playboy, he states that people are oblivious of the effect (positive or negative) of technology on them, saying, “most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them.” He goes on to explain how because of this, the medium is not only the message, but also “literally works over and saturates and molds and transforms every sense ratio.” McLuhan basically states that contrary to public perception, the medium, not the content, is the message that reaches people.

Another way that McLuhan incorporates the critical perspective is that he expands the bounds of debate in his thinking. He sums up how open-minded his thinking is in his very first response in the Playboy interview, saying, “my purpose is to employ facts as tentative probes, as means of insight, of pattern recognition, rather than to use them in the traditional and sterile sense of classified data, categories, containers. I want to map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks.” He is demonstrating that he doesn’t have a solid point of view and is willing to listen to anyone whose views differ or contribute something different. When asked if this methodology is a tad eccentric, he just as openly responds, “Any approach to environmental problems must be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to encompass the entire environmental matrix.”

Aiming for the betterment of society is another way in which Marshall McLuhan incorporates critical perspective in his thinking of “the medium is the message.” Towards the end of the interview, McLuhan is asked whether or not he feels optimistic about the future with electric technology. McLuhan says “There are grounds for both optimism and pessimism. The extensions of man’s consciousness induced by the electric media could conceivably usher in the millennium, but it all holds the potential for realizing the Anti-Christ,”. In this part of the interview, McLuhan warily has hope for this technology-dependent future so long as we take the time to understand how it influences us. However, he says it is up to society itself, stating, “it is how we perceive them and react to them that will determine their ultimate psychic and social consequences.”

Marshall McLuhan’s most famous expression of thought is arguably “The medium is the message.” The thought behind this one phrase alone managed to incorporate all of the attributes of the critical perspective. It was his belief that we need have an understanding of our new technology-filled environment. With that technology, he realized that culture and even values could change drastically. Hence the reason why the medium, not so much the content within it, is the message.


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