A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Is the weather naturally more entertaining than the news on radio or TV?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The perceptive Dr. McLuhan.

In his study of media McLuhan was always on the lookout for ways of seeing past the messages media delivered to see how they worked on us as media.  One approach he used was to look for rough natural experiments in which the effect of the medium can be isolated, or in this case caromed or bank-shot, from the message.  Here, in a passage from Understanding Media, he argues that the weather is more entertaining than the news on radio and TV.  Why?  Because it’s electric.

Questions:  Was it true in the 1960s when McLuhan made this observation?  Is it true now?  Is the news naturally more ‘arresting’ in newspapers than the weather? To help you make up your mind here is a current weather report and an entirely different explanation for this phenomenon by the content-biased Charlie Brooker focusing on what’s wrong with news reports.

Weather:

News:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtGSXMuWMR4

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Yes!

“It is curious how much more arresting are the weather reports than the news, on both radio and TV.  Is not this because ‘weather’ is now entirely an electronic form of information, whereas news retains much of the pattern of the printed word?”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 307.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, October 16th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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