The Medium is the Message

23 Jul

I studied Communication and Fine and Performing Arts at Simon Fraser University. I really enjoyed my studies and wouldn’t change much about my university experience. It was a fabulous time. As a Communication student much of that time was spent studying the wonderful work of Marshall McLuhan, Canada’s media guru.

McLuhan would have celebrated his 100th birthday on July 21, 2011. Almost every Communication class I took had at least one lecture that focused on McLuhan and his theories (hot and cool media, the tetrad, metamedia, figure and ground media, the global village). McLuhan play a very large role in my undergraduate career and I think it’s only fitting to dedicate this week’s blog post to the Canadian visionary that has shaped the way we look at technology and globalization.

For one of my Fine and Performing Arts classes our final project was to create an installation that interacts with a specific space on campus. Being the communication nerd that I was (and admittedly, still am) I chose the School of Communication lobby, as it is where I spent most of my time. I love this space; its new, clean, has lots of natural light, and is full of amazing people.

My installation was made up of 21 freestanding cardboard letters that spelt out “The Medium is the Message”. Each letter was about 1’x2’ and required 5 coats of paint. Bringing this installation to life was a surprising amount of work, but I’m still so happy with how it turned out. Everyone enjoyed it and thought it was very playful and McLuhan-esque. In the evenings students had fun rearranging the letters to spell dirty words. Oh to be a carefree student again!

If I remember correctly I got an “A” on my tribute to Marshall McLuhan and to the best of my knowledge the School of Communication still has my installation in storage and brings it out every year for SFU’s Open House, which is very flattering.

Happy belated birthday, Marshall McLuhan. My undergrad career would have looked very different without your influential theories.

I leave you with some of Marshall McLuhan’s famous one-liners to ponder. Feel free to add your favourites the list:

  • The medium is the message.
  • The global village.
  • The future of the future is the present.
  • The effects come first; the causes, later.
  • If it works it’s obsolete.
  • Age of Anxiety.
  • Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.
  • Art is anything you can get away with.
  • We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.
  • Ads are the cave art of the Twentieth Century.

For a fascinating video compendium presenting Marshall McLuhan live and in his own words (along with those of U.S. novelist Tom Wolfe), visit:


4 Responses to “The Medium is the Message”

  1. Christi July 23, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    I love this on so many levels, Smart, playful and interactive. The implicit reference to type- setting is a winner. Well done Brianna

  2. thebbcreative July 24, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Wow – that’s some pretty high praise Christi! Thanks. Hope to see you next weekend.


  1. Blogoversary! « - November 20, 2011

    […] The Medium is the Message […]

  2. Thoughts on Murals and Such « - September 9, 2012

    […] enjoyed university and am happy with my chosen profession (communications). I enjoy, and am good at, coordinating […]

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