This week we had Andrew McLuhan as a guest lecturer talks about his grandfather the Marshal McLuhan, a communications and media scholar that has become widely famous for coining the term “The Medium is the Message.” Also, the class discusses multi-media and transmedia content.
In addition here is my submission for Andrew’s contest! My interpretation of the Medium is the Message in the 21st century transforming the medium from newspaper to digital technology.
First off I would like to take a moment to illustrate how fascinating it was that our class had the opportunity to talk with Andrew. So far during my time in university, I had heard multiple guest speakers, in various classes, talk about real-world connections to the class materials. While many of them have been deeply fascinating there seems to be a large disconnect since most if not all the students have no idea who the speaker is. That is why I found having the grandson of Marshal McLuhan was such an interesting experience. I took CMNS110, Introduction to Communications Studies in my very semester studying at Simon Fraser University, where we discussed a lot of Marshal’s work regarding The Medium is the Message. I already had some background knowledge on the topic and from what I understand, Marshal was somewhat of a celebrity in the communications world. So, basically, we were talking to the grandson of a minor celebrity… pretty cool!
The Medium is the Message:
Marshal McLuhan coined the term “The Medium is the Message” to separate the notion of content and its delivery, essentially saying that the way content is presented is part of the content itself. Philosophical right! But his ideas were and still are relevant in ways we can’t even imagine. Take for instance the very concept of a portfolio. The portfolio is merely a delivery system to showcase your design work. However, the design and presentation of the portfolio itself then become part of your work and together it makes up your design style. In this case, the compilation of the content, the medium, is transformed into something larger, your message.
I believe that understanding this principle is vital to understanding the influence and impact of technology. I found the class discussion of Zoom fatigue concerning Marshal’s theory another fascinating example. The transition to online learning is actually a prime example of the impact of the medium on the content. For instance, online classes are covering the same content and topics as in-person classes historically did so why are so many students struggling so much more than they did? Personally, I have definitely felt the side effects of online school. For the most part, it has a blessing in disguise to be home on Vancouver Island and spending time with my grandparents. But there have also been unintended consequences such as the severe lack of socialization and isolation from classmates. Basically, I’m happy to be home but I’m also very lonely, and I’m probably not the only one. It’s because the delivery system has changed, and thus impacted how the content is absorbed for better or worse.
There are thousands of examples that I could talk about regarding the Medium is the Message, but I think you get the gist.
The McLuhan Institute:
Continuing the work of his grandfather, Andrew also mentioned his plans to create an interactive database that traces the phrase “The Medium is the Message” from the first time Marshal said its current-day use. This timeline of sorts would track how the phrase itself has changed its meaning over time, as it is continually applied to new technologies and interpreted differently by many people. This idea of traces its use throughout time would provide some critical insight into the influence of changing technologies and hopefully impact how they are studied as multi-dimensional mediums. I found this concept to be an extremely interesting endeavour and am really curious to see it come to fruition.
Transmedia & Multimedia:
Regarding the topic of mediums, the class also discussed transmedia content. Transmedia content encapsulates a storytelling technique that branches to different mediums. I believe that my designs are a good illustration of interdisciplinary and transmedia content because I often use multiple mediums to illustrate the process of my design. For example in SURROUND by PRYVACY the goal was to create an interactive art piece. The final product was shown in a class exhibition as a physical and working prototype on our idea to highlight surveillance issues. However, through telling this story our teammates used a wide variety of mediums to communicate the message. I was responsible for the visual identity and ethos of the project, creating promotional materials such as handouts, assignment documents and posters. Other members of the project worked on aspects of programming and physical construction. Bringing everything together into one single piece for a moment in time. Now it is translated into a summarized format as part of my portfolio. In this sense, the content I create is in and of itself transmedia.
However what I learnt from the lecture was that my personal ethos and branding, who I am as a designer, is very unilateral. I essentially only have two outlets, my online portfolio and my youtube page which is mostly for assignment submissions. I don’t reach across multiple channels or platforms like others in my field which is where I think I am falling behind. It’s not from a lack of trying, at the beginning of the class I made an Instagram account where I could post my design work to accompany my portfolio. I was hoping that it would motivate me to create content on a more consistent basis outside of school. However, I have been far too insecure to post anything yet. On Instagram, I would be connected to all my family and friends who would be able to see my work, and while that is exciting it is also really nerve-wracking! On the other hand, I have no problem posting on my website because it feels like my own private exploration in a sense. I haven’t shared my URL widely with extended family or friends and so it feels more personal. My portfolio exists if I need it but I haven’t actively promoted it. Perhaps this is because I plan to change the design of my website after the class is over, so creating something more personal will motivate me to share my content.
Anyway, while I am achieving in some aspects of transmedia content I am definitely lacking in others. There’s always room for improvement.