The Quiet Medium: A Qualitative Application of Marshall McLuhan’s Theories to Software

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Digital media
media philosophy
digital humanities
media theory
new media

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Pomplun, R. (2019). The Quiet Medium: A Qualitative Application of Marshall McLuhan’s Theories to Software. Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies, 1(3), 207-236.


Software dominates the current state of society, yet, it does not receive much attention as being a vastly influential medium (Manovich, 2013). This paper analyses software in the context of Marshall McLuhan’s statement, “the medium is the message” (1964, p. 7). Hereby, I investigate and question Lev Manovich’s statement that “software is the message”, which he intended as an approach to update McLuhan’s ideas in Understanding Media (1964). Does Manovich challenge the idea of software not being a medium? In the process of my analysis, I draw on McLuhan’s theories in a wider context of his general work, the focus, however, lies upon the background of the “the medium is the message”. My aim is to test Manovich’s theories in saying that software is such a pioneering medium which is so different from all previous media that McLuhan’s theory of the medium being the message needs to be rethought. Software is an influencing and powerful technology that dominates and revolutionizes the contemporary cultural landscape. However, I argue, it could still be regarded within the framework suggested by McLuhan in the 1960s, and any claim that software is a different form of media, such as for example in the works of Lev Manovich, are overestimated. The paper offers a perspective on how past concepts around media can be applied to and interpreted in contemporary media.


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