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.

The problem with the Shannon-Weaver model of communication

Marshall McLuhan (February 1, 1979, age 67). Communication is not about transportation!

You are undoubtedly familiar with the Shannon-Weaver model of communication.  I was just telling Pierre Trudeau about it.  Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver were mathematicians who said that the chief difficulty of a sender in getting a message through to a receiver is “noise.”  And their remedy for noise is to increase the electrical charge in the circuit.

This type of thinking is what’s wrong with most communications.  They don’t hear you and your solution is to shout? That’s a transportation solution.  What’s needed is a transformation solution.

Me (May 2010, age 57).   But how do you affect transformation?

One thing you can do is stop looking at communication as a transportation problem.  Frame your task from the beginning as transformation.

Transportation is ridiculously easy with current technology, which perhaps accounts for its attractions. I’m curious to know, what do you think? Why are we spending too much time on transportation and too little on transformation? 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 524-25.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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