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Advance of Media Technology

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In a quite long historical period, human society has changed greatly because of the advance of media technology. The reason and purpose for the emergence of media technology and the impact of its development have aroused many ideologists' thinking. As a representative of media ecology, Marshall McLuhan tends to view the relationship between media technology development and human social changes from a macroscopic and long-term perspective. In his exposition, he highly affirmed the great significance of the existence and development of the medium itself in social development. Meanwhile,some of his views, such as the theory of "technology determinism", are too absolute to explain the relationship between media science, technology and society integrally. There is no comprehensive consideration of the complex factors such as social consciousness, economy, political and social relations rather than technology. Therefore, there are certain limitations. I will analyse Marshall McLuhan’s concept of ‘the medium is the message’ in this essay, evaluate the limitations of this view and use some cases to demonstrate my arguments.

In his theory, "medium is the message" is the core concept. That is to say, the media itself is a truly meaningful message. What really revolutionised our life is not the content of the medium, but the transformation of the medium itself. McLuhan (1964) argued that “characteristic of all media, means that the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium. For the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” The medium brought great influence to our perception and thinking, behaviour and social structure. The improvement of media not only increased the scope and speed of transmission, but also changed the content of information, and became the driving force of social development. He believes that the emergence of every kind of media will create a new social behaviour mode, so it can be said that medium can be used as a symbol to distinguish different social forms. McLuhan regarded the medium as the "extension of ourselves", which is more important than the content of medium, while people tend to ignore the value of the former. He used the electric light as an example to explain the meaning of the medium, “For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth.” The electric light, which does not contain information, usually get little attention, actually it shapes human in the process of using it, accelerates and expands human being 's function. However, the media here is a broad medium that can be both concrete and abstract. The relationship between media and its content is not the relationship between loading and be loaded, "any media’s ‘content’ is another media".

Some of McLuhan's viewpoints are reasonable. In 1895, Lumiere brothers first sold tickets and screened films in Paris, which is regarded as the arrival of the movie era, technically, they are not the complete innovators, they were just reformed on the basis of Edison's invention of the Kinetoscope, allowing more people to see images simultaneously that only one could see before. But this change is not just a technological advance, the invention of the film opened up a whole new business landscape, changing the way people get information. It can be seen that the same information gets a completely different response through a brand new form of media communication. The decisive factor is not the content of medium but the different media tool, which corroborates McLuhan's view. For the whole human history, what really matters are not the information of the media, but the constantly developing and changing medium itself, the media changing our method of transmission and receiving message, changed the human cognition, feelings of the world and, the form of behaviour to affect the world, the function of these fleeting information compared to the medium which brought huge influence on human society seems relatively minor.



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