Monday, February 11, 2013

Media as culture

Marshall McLuhan argues for modern media such as radio, TV and movies as tools of culture and a medium for artisan expression in "Sight, Sound, and Fury" (Section 51 in Peters & Simonson).  Once a proponent of "book culture", McLuhan used to argue that new media was not the learning tool or cultural outlet for the artist. After preforming some of his own experiments on his students and embracing the collective consciousness that newer media offer McLuhan became a convert.  
A group of students was divided into four groups. Each group was given an identical lecture but in a different medium; one read it, one heard a radio broadcast, one heard it given live in a hall and finally one viewed a broadcast. After the lecture the students were given a quiz. Surprising to McLuhan and his colleagues, the group who watched the broadcast did the best followed by radio, then live lecture and lastly those who read the lecture. This lead McLuhan to believe that media could be used as a tool of education and a thus a valuable asset to culture.

McLuhan references the Phaderus in his article and argues that new media is only the logical next step in the evolution of ideas and culture. McLuhan, however does not see things as pessimistically as Plato and argues that book culture actually initiates conversation, thus leading back to the oral roots.  Taking things a step further, McLuhan also argues that the media helps to give everyone a sense of mutual and communal "oneness" and is a shared experience that we can all benefit from.

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