McLuhan and Liu demonstrate academic enthusiasm in their writings about the relationship between a communicative medium and the content of works in that medium. It is perhaps this same enthusiasm that blinds them to the advantage of incorporating accessibility into their own texts.
Make your work readable if you want people to read it.
Comments on McLuhan and Liu
In The Medium is the Message, Marshall McLuhan demonstrates a cautious optimism about the development of new media, or at least an understanding of the inevitability of evolution. His discussion of firearms as a medium of expression raises questions. Is there a difference between medium and function? Can deliberately not firing a gun be then considered an act of expression? McLuhan largely comes down on the side of medium as something that inherently imbues the works created with certain messages.
Meanwhile, Alan Liu posits a different approach to interacting with media in Imagining the New Media Encounter. He suggests that each time a new form of media is introduced to the collective understanding of a society, that society’s way of understanding it follows a pattern:
- The new media is something strange and foreign, whose unfamiliarity reveals the strangeness in ourselves.
- The new media is part of a cycle, the latest in a long line of forms of expression.
- The new media will have an effect on people’s psychology, often accompanied by predictions of how it will doom it.
- The new media does reshape the society in unpredictable ways. Liu goes on to suggest that both the creation and consumption of media are deserving of study, especially in the case of the still-fledgling digital media we are immersed in today.
Both these works are grounded in the academic traditions of the physical book, with exhaustively stated ideas. However, the relatively short paragraphs in Liu’s work give some hint at the changing tide as media adopts forms more suitable for digital consumption. However slowly, they are adopting the forms that suit their audience.
In this class, we seek to cultivate an understanding of the relationship between our media and our society, especially including the ways in which different media affect us. Though human nature has not fundamentally altered in millenia, we do ourselves a diservice if we do not take care to examine that which influences us more than most anything- the stories we tell ourselves.