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Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media Essay


Though the definition of media does not arouse heated debates, its role remains an object of active discussion. We can find different approaches to formulating what media means in our life. “The media play a very important role in our lives. Media help fulfill two basic needs – they inform and they entertain”, says Helen E. Katz in her (2003, p.2).

In contrast to this concise and restrained definition, it is interesting to recollect Tony Schwartz’s metaphor: he calls media “the second God”, which is “all-knowing and all-powered”, existing “both outside us and within us”, but “always with us, because He is elsewhere” (1983, p.1).

In his works, a famous philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan provides several definitions of media that reflect their role in people’s life. In his (1964), McLuhan claims that “all media are fragments of ourselves” (p.284). Below, I would like to discuss the meaning of this phrase and express my own considerations about it.

Not intending to pick on wording just in order to philosophize, I nevertheless have to focus on the use of the world “fragments” in McLuhan’s phrase. We can see different meanings in this word: does it highlight that the essence of media reflects the essence of our “selves”, or personalities? Or does it tell us that media help us to share some pieces of our “selves”? To discuss it in detail, we need to get familiarized with McLuhan’s ideas closer.

In his (1964), Marshall McLuhan offers us a phrase that has become an aphorism, “The medium is the message”. The significance of (1964) consists in focusing on studying the media themselves rather than messages they communicate. Not only do media offer us the new opportunities in sharing information; they create the new environment around a human, which changes his/her life significantly.

McLuhan is the author of the notion of “global village” offered in (1964): it reflects that the media have eliminated the importance of time and space for communication and have turned the population of our planet into an integrated community where all people are able to interact. It is important that the word “village” does not just symbolize active communication between all people, but also highlights people’s involvement into each others’ lives: we become aware of others’ problems and even have the opportunity to contribute to solving them.

However, does studying media separately from messages they deliver lead us automatically to the idea that messages are a piece of our “selves” and media themselves are not? Having been studying the Internet as a kind of media, I notice that its essence is quite consonant to intents, attitudes and desires people have been demonstrating through centuries. I will provide an example to illustrate my idea.

People always inclined to individualism and independence, but at the same time wanted to keep the opportunity to communicate. Instead of living together in caves, they gradually began live further and further from each other; when the distance became too large, they invented post.

Thus, they were able to keep each other aware of what happens in their lives and stay “involved”. In fact, a website, an element of the modern “global village”, serves to the same goal: we do not need to cross the threshold of our home to communicate, we are defended by the walls of our houses, but we enter an address and get “involved”…

Culture has several definitions, and one of them is a sum of everything created by people. In this sense, media are a component of culture. Everything that a human creates has his/her imprint, reflects the peculiarities of his/her “self”. Analogically, media are the “fragments of ourselves” that reflect who we are and what we desire.

References

Katz, H. E. (2003). The Media Handbook: A Complete Guide to Advertising Media Selection, Planning, Research, and Buying. USA, Routledge.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York, McGraw-Hill.

Schwartz, T. (1983). Media, the Second God. Garden City, N.Y., Anchor Books.

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IvyPanda. (2019, February 12). Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-and-our-selves-discussing-mcluhans-view-on-media/

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"Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media." IvyPanda, 12 Feb. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/media-and-our-selves-discussing-mcluhans-view-on-media/.

1. IvyPanda. "Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media." February 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-and-our-selves-discussing-mcluhans-view-on-media/.


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IvyPanda. "Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media." February 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-and-our-selves-discussing-mcluhans-view-on-media/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media." February 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-and-our-selves-discussing-mcluhans-view-on-media/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Media and Our “Selves”: Discussing McLuhan’s View on Media'. 12 February.

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