Technological Determinism: Never-Ending Evolution of Media

Nathan Friefeld
4 min readJun 19, 2022

Technological Determinism has had many contributions from individuals of past decades but Marshall McLuhan is the one who will and continues to lead the discussion. The man who takes ownership of what Technological Determinism is.

His central point, not only Technological Determinism, is that historical eras of social structure each have been the product of the dominant communication medium of the time. Based on his ideas, someone can argue the positives and negatives the ideology comes with.

Strengths

  1. Based on the communication method during a specific time-period, that was the dominant communication. We as a society started off with verbal communication. With advancement in technology, verbal turned into newspapers, radio, and now mobile. The pathway is linear and continues to support one of his many ideas.
  2. Tribal Paradigm: Oral communication between one person and another was a more relational aspect. Today that has become less to do with mobile. “It’s this intermittent use of cell phones that can be a problem — where you look at your phone, the conversation doesn’t go anywhere, and you’re sending a signal that there are more important things to do than to talk to someone else”. Comparing the popular mediums, face-to-face interaction has shown to create more relationships whereas today you have lost that sense of communication.
  1. The Global Village: One of Marshall’s predictions and one that ended up coming true is the Global Village. With the internet taking form, it has allowed everyone to be connected virtually. Ability to create communities on social platforms and having their second family online. He may not have made the Global Village ideology come true, but he did predict it.

Weaknesses

  1. Electronic Paradigm: Marshall discusses that it allows people to see and hear at a distance. In essence, he is correct based on the ability to have a conversation with one person in a different part of the world. What I disagree with is the aspect of simultaneously listening/hearing. An example was given that someone could pay attention to a TV and talk on the phone. This is like someone talking to you while reading a book. You won’t necessarily be 100% focused and you will miss out on key information.
  2. Medium is the Message: What mattered the most was the actual item that was providing the message rather than the message itself. An example given was someone was watching TV rather than reading a magazine. My issue with this is you can take away the medium and still have the ability to find the message. At the end of the day, the message that someone is watching will be more important. I would rank the message #1 and the medium #2 unlike Marshall. It differs from the Cultivation Theory because Cultivation Theory relies on the message being portrayed repeatedly on channels. So the main viewpoint is almost the exact opposite.
  3. As mentioned in Strengths, the communication during a specific time period will be the dominant communication. You could also consider this as a weakness. We live in an era where everyone is using social media. Yes, people are using mobile to access it but there are other means of media to access it. What if mobile isn’t the actual dominant medium but the actual application itself like Facebook, Instagram, and other channels. This idea would go further than the Mobile Paradigm making apps/communication software the actual dominant source of information for pop culture.

Overall, Marshall McLuhan was pretty spot on in his predictions about pop culture and how individuals use mediums to receive information. As technology continues to advance, previous concepts will end up getting tweaked to fit the current narrative in order to become acceptable. Just how I argued that the Mobil paradigm could end up turning into the Application Paradigm. It also seems every other paradigm switches off between relational to more individual. I believe we are currently more individual centric when it comes to communication with others and do not rely on the relational aspect. Who knows. Maybe the next paradigm is that society will once again value communication for the relation aspect and make us become human once again.

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