Why the medium is no longer the message

An old adage of communication — “the medium is the message” — helped to focus a communicator’s attention to the form in which the communication took place (the medium of the message).

The idea came from the mid-20th century, when the industry of communications first blossomed into a global phenomenon. Powerful institutions and elite groups did not have an economic incentive to care about it before. The decade was a seminal part of an ethnic, class, and economic awakening in America. America changed when it began to admit its own diversity was a strength, not a weakness. (We’re still having trouble convincing ourselves of this idea even today.)

By recognizing diversity as a benefit to society, those who sought to sell ideas to the average American were required to abide by the new rules of diversity acceptance. These new rules brought something to light elites never had a financial interest to consider before: what is said by elites is usually said in a place, time, and manner where public access to their messages is limited.

In other words, as long as corporations, organizations, governments, and politicians continued to play by the rules of a segregated society, they risked shutting themselves out of accessing bigger audiences. Elites had to consider whether the medium in which they spoke was accessible to those they wanted to win over — for votes, for money, for loyalty: name your message.

We will soon reach a threshold of technological advancement that will change the way businesses, governments, and powerful groups communicate; it has already begun.  How have we surpassed the “medium is the message” — and why now?

Instead of ignoring the medium, modern communications technology has simply changed the way people access information by making everything the medium.

If everything around you is a way to find out all information, the value of the medium is now shifted to its competitive value against other mediums.

In two generations, maybe less, almost every young person and adult in the world will have at the very least a rudimentary way to access the majority of the history of human knowledge using technology.

Some people call this idea “the internet of things” — but that is a very dull way to look at what’s actually going to happen to the world. It is not about the internet, and it is not about things. It is about people.

When everything can be used to access information — the medium no longer matters. What does it matter where you hear a message, if a message is the same through all points of access? It doesn’t.

So put down your sourcing of mediums. Put down that “thing.” Lay to rest your “via Twitters” as if Twitter had inherently changed the value of the message. Say goodbye to your “bloggers” and begin to read their ideas. In the future, all audiences will have access to information using an uncountable variety of ways. As communication technology gets faster, accuracy will be the only determinant in its success. Accuracy of what? The message. The message is the new focus.

We aren’t there yet. Medium still matters very much because communication streams are segmented. For example, there are still billions of people who live in poverty. We can hardly take care of the basic needs of people, such as food and shelter, nevermind education.

But technology does not work at the speed of human progress, and the technology will be ahead of our own abilities to raise our fellow man up from the limitations of economic and political corruption and inefficiency. With any luck, the 21st century will be the first century where the message is judged by its value to a healthy society.

With any luck.

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