Numbers > Number 18 > The medium is the message and Social Networks: How the concepts of Marshall McLuhan apply to digital platforms of social exchange between users
Study
ISSN: 1885-365X
BERARDI, Flor Investigadora Contact https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9024-5954

The medium is the message and Social Networks: How the concepts of Marshall McLuhan apply to digital platforms of social exchange between users

2 de noviembre de 2021
14 de noviembre de 2021

Abstract

Marshall McLuhan has widely been identified as “the prophet of the media”. His concepts have revolutionised communication and are still being applied today.
It is therefore interesting to contrast the relationship between Marshall McLu- han’s theories and current technologies, with social networks and personal elec- tronic devices, such as smartphones, being the most widely used channels for interaction between human beings today.
Concepts that were applied to media, such as radio and television, are now being applied to new media such as cyberspace, a place where we redefine our- selves and interact in a way that, not so many years ago, was thought impossible.
In this article, we selected the most important concepts developed by Marshall McLuhan, regarding the new communication paradigm that we are living today with the development of social networks.

1. Introduction

Marshall McLuhan, born in Canada in 1911, was a philosopher and professor at the University of Wisconsin and Saint Louis University. He was the originator of several concepts such as Gutenberg Galaxy, global village and extension of personhood by mass media. McLuhan’s theories explored issues related to information, communication, technology and how new and developing media influence society. McLuhan is known as a pioneer in the study of media, and today he is considered a visionary.

We can exemplify this with the term “Global Village”, which was conceptualised in the late 1960s as the human interconnectedness on a global scale generated by electronic means of communication (McLuhan, 1995). The electronic media to which the author referred were television, radio and the phonograph; humanity would have to wait a few more years to learn about the benefits of internet connection.

McLuhan explains that the Western world has shifted its focus from the use and development of mechanical technologies, in which means were used to move our bodies in real, physical space, to a time when the central nervous system is now expanded “to encompass the entire globe, abolishing time and space, at least as far as this planet is concerned” (McLuhan, 1964).

This shows not only that Marshall McLuhan’s concepts are still valid, but also that society has found a way to communicate across space (and also time) to form these so-called Global Villages regardless of the device.
Nowadays social media have facilitated interaction between humans from different parts of the world, generating social networks in the global village turning them into super-connected units across time and space, knowing that we are immersed because “there is absolutely nothing that cannot be avoided as long as there is a desire to con- template what is happening” (McLuhan and Fiore. 1967), thus functioning as an unavoidable wake-up call, which absorbs and abstracts us, giving us a false sense of seeing reality, when it is only a snippet of the medium we are consuming, (McLuhan and Fiore, 1967). Social media thus functions as a call for attention that is impossible to avoid, that absorbs and abstracts us, giving us a false sense of seeing reality, when it is only a snippet of the medium we are consuming.

The concepts of Marshall McLuhan that will be discussed in this article were chosen because they are very important axes that are transversal to the new medium in which we are communicating: cyberspace. They will be related to different aspects coming from the current world of social networks, and their respective social media, more specifically Instagram, Twitter and Facebook:

 

  1. Global village and globalisation
  2. The medium is the message

       3. The extensions of the human being.

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