Caroline Turner
Public Relations
Professor Butkus
10/23/14
The Medium is the Message
After studying the works of Marshal M...
itself involves public relations as we can apply this to study the medium we use to reach our
audience. This information i...
the internet has opened a new world that must and it is necessary for the public to understand that
the medium is the mess...
sometimes it is not easily seen to the eye. Using transportation as a simple example of tracing
technological change, we c...
PR_essay__2-_The_Medium_is_the_Message
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PR_essay__2-_The_Medium_is_the_Message

Published on: Mar 4, 2016
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Transcripts - PR_essay__2-_The_Medium_is_the_Message

  • 1. Caroline Turner Public Relations Professor Butkus 10/23/14 The Medium is the Message After studying the works of Marshal McLuhan, a teacher, philosopher, and public influence in media and communications prominent in the 1960s and 1970s, I agree with his theory that the medium is the message. Throughout the book, McLuhan uses many different forms of illustration to convey his message, allowing us to apply this theory to almost anything. This theory goes beyond solely media studies and is relevant to public relations. I agree that the message is not in the content, but that the medium is the message, and further it is used by all public relations to connect to groups of people. As technologies continue to grow and change, the mediums and the messages too will change and grow with them. The public, surrounded by media’s messages in the world today, is definitely affected and touched by these mediums. In Marshal McLuhan’s, Understanding the Media: The Extension of Man it can be derived that the medium is the message, and his concept of hot and cold media helps to illustrate this point. When explaining the discourse of hot and cold media, McLuhan states that, “A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in ‘high definition’….the state of being well filled with data.” (McLuhan, p. 23) For example, in speech a whisper would be a cool medium because so much has yet to be filled in by the listener; whereas a shout would be a hot medium because it allows for less participation from the listener. McLuhan is able to apply this theory to everything from electric light bulbs to styles of dance, the point remaining that each medium is able to convey a different message, therefore the medium is the message. The idea of hot vs. cold media
  • 2. itself involves public relations as we can apply this to study the medium we use to reach our audience. This information is especially informative while creating a communication plan; by segmenting and assessing the audience target group, a public relations professional may utilize the most effective medium to reach that audience. For instance, if you are targeting an audience of young mothers in a campaign to aid them one might look to elementary schools, blogs, and local libraries as a more interactive source to reach the mothers; rather than a broad location such as the newspaper or TV, which would require more participation and energy from the mother. By using this knowledge, that the medium is the message, public relations can better utilize the right tool to reach the audience through the most effective medium. Focusing deeper on the theory that the medium is the message another excerpt from McLuhan’s book, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, further develops the relationship between current technologies and communicating and the way public relations engages with the public. McLuhan states that, “technological media are staples or natural resources, exactly as are coal and cotton and oil. Anybody will concede that society whose economy is dependent upon one or two…is going to have some obvious social patterns of organization as a result.” From this one can gather that everything that makes up the medium helps to convey the message itself. For instance, when appreciating art, if the canvas is colored with red crayon, red paint, or even red blood, the color red has a whole different meaning according to the medium. Our society uses technological media as a “natural resource” today, and sometimes can overlook the effects this has. In this age, it is not only businesses and corporations that are sending out information and messages, but more than ever the public themselves are now directly engaging with these information and messages. Lacking the traditional gatekeeper in between to relay and filter the messages, the technology of today and
  • 3. the internet has opened a new world that must and it is necessary for the public to understand that the medium is the message. It can be said similarly, it is not solely what you do, but also in the way you do it. Public relations comes into play here, as gatekeepers are less and less playing a role, in order to relate to the people on both ends and make connections as more companies and people are accepting this way of thought. McLuhan then furthers this idea by including a piece from one of my personal favorite psychologists, Carl Jung, as Jung writes, “Every Roman was surrounded by slaves. The slave and his psychology flooded ancient Italy, and every Roman became inwardly, and of course unwittingly, a slave. Because living constantly in the atmosphere of slaves, he became infected through the unconscious with their psychology.” (McLuhan, p.21) We as people are built by the institutions that raised us, and the experiences we have been through. From this, it can be concluded that in a sense we become the messages we are surrounded by; we become the ads that we sing along to, and we become a part of the multi-way media that we engage in daily. As we become more integrated as a whole, it is important as a Public Relations Professional to enhance understanding and connectivity across different groups of people. McLuhan would argue that the I-Phone is an extension of man. Every day it helps us to complete ordinary tasks such as waking up, to enabling us to access the world through the internet, only to name a couple uses. This is important in order to realize the power the I-Phone now has. Used by one, it makes changes to that individual, but as the public and society as a whole uses the I-Phone, it makes significant changes to us, including the messages and information we receive. Becoming aware of the relationship between ourselves and the mediums we use are important in order to understand the whole message itself, and to see the broader picture. Technology does shape and shift the way we communicate with others clearly, but
  • 4. sometimes it is not easily seen to the eye. Using transportation as a simple example of tracing technological change, we can see the underlying messages that are found in the medium. The President of the United States travelling to the podium, for example, is a small feat but yet the medium he uses nevertheless is a message. If he flies into the podium, it can be derived that this may be a message of emergency, or the president is excessively extravagant. If he travels by foot, then the message could be expected to be traditional and organized, and everything is going as expected. In public relations, as technology advances and evolves it is increasingly important to understand the medium in order to understand the entire message as it evolves also. Moving from print to radio, we discovered the advances in communicating through audio. Moving from radio to TV we discovered the advances in using visual and audio communication. As a public relations professional it is important to harness and understand the good and bad of using these different mediums in order to reach out to the targeted audience in a positive way. By using the lessons that McLuhan illustrates through multiple different discourses such as his example of hot and cold media, we can see that decoding the medium is necessary to get to the real message. We use social media, texts, emojis, images, video clips, and much more to toss ideas to each other daily, and as technology grows so will the world of communicating. Public Relations must grow and adapt with these technologies as they act as our most important tools and skills to continuing understanding and connection with the public. The ideas and concepts behind Marshal McLuhan seen in his novel continue to be, now more than ever, apparent in the way we communicate with each other and express ourselves today.

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