The medium is the message, (stupid).

9 09 2008

Ah, yes, who remembers Marshall McLuhan and his famous statement in Understanding Media (1964)?

In claiming that “the medium is the message” McLuhan expresses the sentiment that there is a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time…. a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.” (

We have been blessed to have multiple inspiring and challenging conversations with people over the last few weeks/months. As you may have guessed from reading some of our blog posts, we are a little fed up with how the web has been and continues to be used. We are also find the lack of vision and willingness to interact openly on the part of those who communicate for organizations, more than perplexing. But perhaps what Extanz finds most concerning is how underestimated, and you could say, diminished the power of social media tends to  become as it is relegated to interpretations of ‘all about me blogging’, ‘a group of drunken college students and their photos’ and ‘meaningless noise in 140 characters’. You know who I am talking about here….:)

Let’s face it, we remember the days of Napster, Kazaa and all the aggravation of the record companies. We remember how P2P was considered radical, dangerous and controversial. We remember the origins of the Internet, when it was known as the Arpanet and designed for information sharing, collaboration, and institutional and community coordination. These ways of organizing and communicating are built into the very fabric of the web, its DNA if you will. That’s why web 2.0 has come on so fast, because those technologies are moving the web away from its reliance on experts, on one way transmission of information and to some degree, away from producer control. What Napster and its comrades initiated was the rise of the prosumer = part producer, part consumer. It highlighted the connections between the relationships we build and the technologies that can serve, support and sustain them. It forced us into conversation with each other and it also raised the critical questions of authority and control. Information wants to be free, or so the battle cry suggested.

But here’s the issue. Where does information live? It lives within you, me and we. And herein lies the rub. Recently some bloggers have been talking about risk and trust and how they collide in the implementation of social media. Social media is seen as risky, Amber Naslund contends because of its ability to influence the multitudes = people may critique what you do, say something bad about you, you lose control over the message etc etc. Naslund does an equally good job of providing defenses to these contentions which she says, are largely based on the open, organic, ubiquitous nature of this particular medium. On the other side, as we have stated before, social media depends on trust and the cultivation of same. As Rex Lee puts it “A lack of trust will cause people to withhold information, to waste effort validating each message instead of integrating, to be less receptive to compromise, and to just be overall less committed, often choosing the least amount of commitment possible. Ultimately this means organizations are, less agile, less innovative, of average performance, and peppered with incomplete analysis.”

The fact that social media is open, is organic and is ubiquitous can provide some level of trust as there is a certain level of transparency in a relationship based medium.The power of social media, that collection of technologies born out of and through web 2.0, lies in their persistent commitment to participation, connection and interaction. All technologies, web 1.0., 2.0, 3.0 etc carry the values of their creators. That we see these technologies and forms of media ascend now says much about the people producing-consuming them. So can we reframe the title to ask – what is the message we are sending about who we are when we choose social media as our medium of communicating….OR perhaps more importantly, what message are we sending when we DO NOT?





One response

26 02 2009
What’s the old Napster got to do with the new PR? « Extanz - Social Media Marketing and PR 2.0

[…] these philosophical underpinnings of Extanz’ work before in our posts on Trust 2.0 and The Medium is the Message, but we thought we try and spell it out here. See what you […]

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