My emerging approach to understanding McLuhan has been to find out what content he consumed to produce the messages he gave us. So I've been discovering guys like Edward T. Hall, and Harold Innis. Especially, H. Innis! Reading him has been like an "Aha!" After a while, I realise, "Hey, there's a lot of valuable things here McLuhan skipped over." A larger framework for understanding media and communication can be found in Innis's work.
Well, as part of that reading and some conversations I've had with friends trying to convince the worth of McLuhan's message, resulted in my looking at the above cliche critically. It's a great cliche, and many people use it to actually cover up the message or to cover up their misunderstanding about media. My complaint about the above cliche, I think, is that it doesn't say anything about the receiver of the message. Did McLuhan assume that the receivers, listeners, readers, watchers, were faceless? What was their role in receiving of the message?
So with the receivers of message in mind, I thought the cliche could be improved if it was expanded to: "The medium is the message which becomes the content of a new media." This actually is nothing new and comes from McLuhan's own words. I'm just inviting you to change the meme a bit here. The emphasis on the expanded cliche is to say, that the receivers actually negotiate with the message, and take action in translating the old message into content, using it in a new medium. Literacy consumed speech or orality, print consumed the alphabet, tv consumed print, etc. The expanded cliche also reflect Innis's concept of balancing the bias of commincation. I find it interesting to note that Innis was actually more oral than McLuhan was, and McLuhan in this sense was more linear than Innis... but that's arguable. Maybe, it's just one balancing the other...
I wonder, what will the new medium that consumes the electric medium (tv, radio, wireless phones and internet) as its content?