Reaction to Marshall Mcluhan's 'Medium Is the Message'

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On what points do Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman disagree in relation to the social impact of print media and television? The impact of print media and television upon society has been debated for many years. When technological advancements such as the telegraph, the television and computers arrived, the print media industry as a whole was shaken up and the impact upon society was profound. In the 1960s, media theorist Marshall McLuhan came up with a few key theories which are still put in to use today. The main outline of his theory was that the medium is more important than the message. For example: a newspaper and the concept of newspaper report was more important than the actual story it was reporting. As technology has advanced, he believes we have come to inhabit a ‘global village’ (Hodkinson Pg 22) with the various communication methods around us. These technologies, these methods have expanded our sphere of communication and have encouraged our ability to process logical thought. Neil Postman, on the other hand, another key media theorist, disagrees that the technological developments of late have in fact brought about social ills and have impaired our ability for logical thought. He states that television is destroying and dominating our lives; something which print media does not do. Postman and McLuhan disagree on the impact of television in our lives; McLuhan on one hand suggests that television was a ‘cool’ medium, low in intensity and high in participation. Postman disagrees and suggests that television undermines viewer engagement and the low levels of concentration required discourage rational thought. This goes against McLuhan’s belief that logical thought is encouraged by television. McLuhan argues that television has made the media more casual, as it is spontaneous, intimate, informal and incomplete, inviting participation. Postman disagrees. He states that ‘the alliance of telegraphy and photography is at a level of dangerous perfection’...
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