SAS as Medium, Knowledge as Message: Marshall McLuhan and Hot Synergy in the Research Hub

SAS as Medium, Knowledge as Message: Marshall McLuhan and Hot Synergy in the Research Hub

When Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in 1964, he posed a bold new paradigm for making sense of electronic communication. Life Magazine called him “the oracle of the electric age.”  Others called him a fool.  McLuhan's overarching premise – and enduring catchphrase - was that the medium is the message; that is, a medium and the message it carries are inextricably linked.  Hot media like radio and reading, painting and sculpture, completely involve and immerse the actor.  Linear video such as most TV programs is cold, leaving the actor a passive observer, void of inference and imagination.

McLuhan argued that “any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment.          Environments are not passive wrappings,” he said, “but active processes” (viii).  He could not have foreseen the internet with its many communication machinations.  Like any good conceptual structure, however, McLuhan’s ideas capture the essence of digital communication and provide the perfect frame for describing our sprawling and vibrant research community. 

Through the Research Hub, in McLuhan’s words, “a totally new environment has been created” (ix).  McLuhan described the world he saw as a global village, and that is certainly what we have in our Center and individual research teams.  He described technology as an extension of our collective nervous system “in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time” (19).

Our virtual research teams are like that.  They are hot, immersive, and require us to interact in ways that are, ironically, often more immersive than traditional, physical meetings.  Through these virtual platforms, we extend ourselves.  Thus, our research community requires more of us but also delivers more.  Our message becomes intertwined with our medium.  We are both real-time and archived, present, past, and future, and we are all enriched.

Like our research teams, the graphic you see is interactive, immersive, dialectic.  The collage as metaphor mirrors the relationships and activities within our research communities.  As pulsing islands we merge, create meaning, and extend our work through events larger than our individual selves.  We are unique. We are innovative.  We are synergistic.  We are hot.  And that is our message.


McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding New Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.