“The medium is the message” – What does that even mean? And what is convergence?

When we were told that “the medium is the message”, so many questions sprung into my head. What exactly is a medium? How can a medium be a message? What does this even mean? But thanks to the weekly reading by Federman, I have some answers.

I thought the medium must be the way the message is given. Eg. Radio, Television, music etc, and that because it was the message, it must be more important than the actual content. But far from the conventional meaning, the medium is actually anything we conceive or create, or as McLuhan would say “any extension of ourselves”*. I love the example Federman uses when he expresses that “the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others…speech takes our sensorially-shaped minds out to the world”*. So in this case, speech would be the medium.  

The message, I thought was the actual content, as it would usually be if you got an email, the message would be the content in it. But again, i was wrong. The message McLuhan is referring to in his concept, “the medium is the message”, is the change that a new idea or innovation introduces to society. In a controversial television program for example, the message may not be about a character doing shady things and whether they will be caught, but more about being a catalyst for a change in public attitude towards a particular issue. Another great point that Federman makes is that “a McLuhan message always tells us to look beyond the obvious and seek the non-obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated, or extended by the new thing” *.  

Media convergence is the “flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of experiences they want”. A great example of media convergence is the mobile phone. It was originally intended to make and receive phone calls while out and about. As a result of convergence it has overlapped with the functions of a computer, now being able to do so much more than just make calls. Even most basic mobiles nowadays have a camera, or access to the internet, there is very little room in today’s society for the basic Nokia ‘brick’.

I loved my little brick and playing snake was the most exciting thing since fairy bread but, I have to say… I love my smartphone more. But looking at the issue of convergence makes you realise how much technology has changed in the short span of 18 years.

* – Federman, M (2004)


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