Are we blind to new media’s effects on man? [MMMM]

Your Monday was McLuhanless, so let’s make Tuesday a day to reflect on one of the core messages of Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message.

So often, people hear this phrase and think they know what it means. McLuhan, however, was speaking less about message and more about the impact that various media have on humanity. His reflections have helped me quit glorifying new media (ie. Internet-based, social media) in my work; now I guide my consultees to recognize both the positive and negative effects of these media. And I believe this is a fair-headed, more Catholic approach.

McLuhan:

By stressing that the medium is the message rather than   the content, I’m not suggesting that content plays no role–merely that  it plays a distinctly subordinate role. Even if Hitler had delivered botany lectures, some other demagogue would have used the radio to retribalize the Germans and rekindle the dark atavistic side of the tribal nature that created European fascism in the Twenties and Thirties. By placing all the stress on content and practically none on the medium, we lose all chance of perceiving and influencing the impact of new technologies on man, and thus we are always dumfounded by–and unprepared for–the revolutionary environmental transformations induced by new media.

With all we’ve got to deal with in the Church, we can’t afford to be unprepared and dumbfounded. We’ve got to take off our blinders and put on our McLuhan Glasses, realizing the impacts new media have on families, on youth, on culture, on religion.

(Quote from McLuhan’s interview with Playboy, 1969)

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2 comments

  1. “His reflections have helped me quit glorifying new media (ie. Internet-based, social media) in my work; now I guide my consultees to recognize both the positive and negative effects of these media. And I believe this is a fair-headed, more Catholic approach.”

    It’s a tension I experience. For instance, whenever I post items on my parish Facebook page, I often realize that people are “liking” and interacting with posted items when they should be doing something else (working, studying, etc.) I feel conflicted about enabling and encouraging distracted or impulsive behavior.

    • By posting on the parish Facebook page, you’re definitely inviting engagement, but people have to discern for themselves the role that new media have in their lives. It would be unhealthy, on the other hand, if the parish decided that all communications with young adults would be through Facebook. My point is that we need to be aware of the negatives, and strike a balance in how we engage with various media as Church. The human journey has always been about making prudent decisions, hasn’t it? 🙂

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