Communication has large impact on both individuals and society. Televisions, newspapers, radios, books, and other types of medium are used to deliver messages to audiences from producers. Medium as one important part of communication, its impact on society attracts has to be mentioned. Medium theory is an approach that focuses on the relationship between medium and society and investigates how medium affects the society. As one major contributor of medium theory, Marshall McLuhan (1964) explores the notion that “the medium is the message” which indicated that each medium changes human relations and relations with time, place and reality in human history. And other medium theorists also suggest that medium can reduce people’s sense of place and the interactions. In order to examining the credibility of these arguments, this essay will apply medium theories especially McLuhan’s theory to mobile phones as a case study. I will outline main arguments firstly and then examine through mobile phones.
Before exploring further about the medium theory ， it has to be explained about the meaning of both “medium” and “the medium is the message”. McLuhan defines medium as sense of changing medium. McLuhan (1964) indicated that the “‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or patterns as that it introduces to human affairs” (McLuhan, 1964: p8). Thus, the message is change about human affairs, which suggested that the message of any medium is social shifts or human relations. The change of “Scale”, “pace”, “patterns” can be regarded as speed, directionality, level of interactivity. Basically, this concept suggested that the importance is the alternative medium itself that shape of speed, directionality, levels of interactions in modern society. McLuhan (1964) sufficiently used electronic lights as an example to explain this idea. By comparing the obvious context of electronic lights with nonobvious changes of “scale”, “pace”, “patterns”, it could be argued that the message is higher speed human associations, higher level of human interactions, extended and enabled human functions. Therefore, people should look beyond the obvious and seek the non-obvious changes or effects on human functions and society that are enabled,
enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new technology.
Then, the medium theory argued that each medium changes the relations with time and space in social connects, human associations, and reactions. Firstly, by considering the changing of society, the concept of time and space are introduced with considering the social connects. Gidden indicated that “time and space remained essentially linked to place” (1991: p16). But after introducing new technology into society, this relationship is changing. Then, his “time- space distanciation” introduced the speeding up of communication flows, and shrinking of distance; exposure to people and events that take place elsewhere, which implied that social connects are stretched across time and space, and events and behaviors undertaken elsewhere also have impact on society. Gidden explained this idea through a systematically analyses on different types of technology. Especially in electronic age today, “ we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned” (McLuhan, 1964: p3). McLuhan sees all human history can be divided into oral, print, and electronic societies, which proposed technology promotes the societal shifts including human associations.
Secondly, the changing of time and space caused by medium also changed human associations. Along with the societal shifts, McLuhan (1964) indicated the level of interdependence reduces, and people become more and more individualistic. Medium and technology promoted social communication, which promote more opportunities for people to communicate in some ways. And Meyrowitz (1997) highlighted Horton and Wohl’s...
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