Bookmark: "I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message"

Sebastian Greger


“McLuhan’s view is that mediums matter more than content; it’s the common rules that govern all creation and consumption across a medium that change people and society. Oral culture teaches us to think one way, written culture another. Television turned everything into entertainment, and social media taught us to think with the crowd.”

I’ve long been fascinated by Luddism as well as the Amish’s reflected adoption of technology; and I’ve gotten my fair share of criticism for resisting to blindly follow the mainstream in technology adoption – personally as well as in my design work.

This op-ed by Ezra Klein unfolds how American tech-solutionism, paired with capitalist systems, promotes media that claim to be all about the message but actually are first and foremost dominating society as a medium.

Furthermore, the text borrows from the concept of the “attention economy”, highlighting how our own choices what to pay attention to fuel the attention of others:

Attention is contagious. What forms of it, as individuals and as a society, do we want to cultivate? What kinds of mediums would that cultivation require?

The text could well be read as anti-technology, luddite or alarmist, but it is actually – and this brings me back to my conceptual appreciation for the “Amish way” of adopting technology – the opposite. It’s the attempt to highlight that we do have agency in how we want technology to change us and our environment:

There is an optimism in that, a reminder of our own agency. And there are questions posed, ones we should spend much more time and energy trying to answer: How do we want to be shaped? Who do we want to become?

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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