Medium Theory Final Essay – Brian Gilfillan

Word Count – 536

Medium theory is important in order to understand how people react to certain things through the media and what people want to see. The Currents in Communication textbook defines medium theory as “particular characteristics of each individual medium or of each particular type of media.” Furthermore, medium theory analyzes the senses used to attend the medium. This influences the medium’s “use and its social, political, and psychological impact” (59). The medium theory is essentially used to study the way people react to the medium.

Two of the most well known medium theorists were Harold Adams Innis and Herbert Marshall McLuhan. Innis argues that social and political power is gained through control over communication media and that elites can more easily control media than others. Also, Innis says that media such as hieroglyphics lead to small, stable societies because stone carvings last a long time and cannot be revised. Additionally, McLuhan suggests “the use of technologies affects the organization of the human senses and the structure of the culture” (61). McLuhan would then divide the history of medium theory into three different eras: oral, writing/printing, and electronic.

There are different aspects in which medium theory has been used throughout the history of media. The textbook gives a couple examples in which medium theory has been used in different eras. The first era mainly consisted of oral societies. In this era, the ideas and concepts depended upon the living memory of people. Individual expressions, novel ideas, and complex ideas are limited because they are hard to remember. However, the oral world includes “involvement with all of the senses of hearing, sight, taste, and touch” (63).

The next era included the printing press. The upper and middle class were able to go to the libraries instead of having to rely on oral communication. The literate were now able to read and write about things and they were able to different viewpoints and perspectives. This was the beginning of the transition away from communicating orally.

Lastly, the electronic era started a new world of media and communication, while also bringing back some of the ideas from oral communication, such as reaction and perception. However, electronic media is not limited to a time or space and it can be viewed by a larger audience than any other form of media.

Web 2.0 has a major role in the way media is received by the general public. Firstly, Web 2.0 can be defined as “a second generation of the World Wide Web that is focused on the ability to collaborate and share information online. It is a new way to interact with others on the Internet and share your opinions on different topics with many people. The media uses many different social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to show the people what is happening in the world.

Web 2.0 also allows people to communicate easier with emails. This is important for businesses to communicate with each other in order to for them to succeed and be collaborative. More people will be accustomed to the Internet because of Web 2.0, which will give them completely different skill sets than people from the different eras of media.

Works Cited

Currents in Communication textbook


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