Thursday, April 11, 2013

The medium is the message

"The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning (at least according to Wikipedia) that:

 “the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”

I read that phrase as an architectural student in McLuhan’s book, The Medium is the Massage”(legend is “massage” was a typo that the author liked) and it began a fascination (obsession) with communications.

As an architect that fascination drew me toward “storytelling” architects that ranged from Gaudi to Venturi (Learning from Las Vegas remains one of my favorite books).  As a pastor – who gets to communicate every Sunday – I am constantly learning from gifted communicators both in the church world and the marketplace.

Experts in communication agree on the importance of simple, repeatable messages.  Andy Stanley would call it the big idea. Chip and Dan Heath tell us that is what will make "it" stick.  Seth Godin returns again and again to the power of word of marketing.  Kem Meyer is a proponent of less noise and less clutter (which actually is an outflow of another architect’s - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - who is the one who first said less is more  -van der Rohe is also the originator of God is in the details – there’s your architectural history lesson for the day)

But even when we attempt to keep it simple, communication is always a challenge.  George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the challenge of communication is the illusion that it has occurred.  And today the communication challenge is magnified by the constant changes in technology.

The rotary phone that sat on my dad’s desk (which is why we “dial” numbers and “hang up” from calls) bears little resemblance to the smart phone sitting next to me as I type this (and on which I am keeping track of the early scoring as play begins at The Masters).  Changes to technology and the increasing potential of social media continue to amaze me.  I now get most of my news, weather and sports via Twitter (though I am about ready to abandon Facebook which more and more feels like an exercise in egotistical voyeurism and a place to post political rants or pictures of cats with inspirational sayings).  

My latest fascination is with QR codes and the potential for using them to reduce noise and clutter.  For instance the QR code at the top of this blog links you to this page – I know you are already here, but imagine that you weren’t – where I could be giving you a list of upcoming events at Mountaintop (instead of rambling about communication).

Communication is changing – you just read a blog – and the medium is the message.  But in the end its all about telling stories and each week I get the privilege of telling the greatest story of all.

Maybe I should create a QR code as a link to the youversion of the Bible…..

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