Tasks Due Last Week

  • Review: Mainstream Modernism + American Corporate Identity
  • Discussion: Week 8
  • Reading Response 7
  • Week 8 Agenda Checklist

This Week’s Topics

At the end of this session, students should have an understanding of the following:

  • How to submit your Research Journal for mid-semester review
  • An understanding of the prophetic and influential ideas presented by Marshall McLuhan in the late 1960s, specifically the theories in his book “Understanding Media” and his quote “The Media is the Message.”
  • Why these ideas relate to the persuasive technology that we interact with on social media platforms and how they are affecting human society.
  • Guidelines and due date for the Week 9 Discussion
  • Prompt and due date for Reading Response 8


Greetings! I hope you all had a good week and were able to catch up on some of your work for this class and/or other classes. I’m excited about the topics we will be covering this week and next and look forward to hearing your thoughts in the discussion. Please be in touch if you’d like to discuss any updates to your Research Project proposals or if any other concerns: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu.

Feedback on Revisions

Grades up to Week 7 have been posted to the Gradebook. Grades for Week 8 and any late/revised assignments will be posted this coming week.

If you took advantage of this last week to catch up on your missing assignments or any revisions to reading responses, Research Paper 1, or your Research Project Outline, I will try to get through what I can this week. If you are missing a grade on any assignment, please contact me: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu.

Don’t forget to submit your Weekly Agenda Checklist, indicating the tasks you’ve completed. This is required.

Submit your Research Journal

Each week you should be adding to your online Research Journal, documenting and critically reflecting on your influences, history, culture, likes, and dislikes. This practice of being curious about your own design aesthetic is a way to gain experience engaging with critical design theory and preparing for your research project.

Twice during the semester, you will share your Research Journal with your professor (and your classmates only if you wish). If there is anything in your journal you don’t wish to share, you may duplicate the journal, remove the parts you want to keep private and submit it for review.

Due Dates

  • Week 9 – Monday, November 8th, at 11:59pm
  • Week 15

Submission Process

  1. Get your Research Journal ready to share.
  2. If you haven’t already*, create a post with the following metadata:
    • TITLE: Research Journal – Your Initials
    • CATEGORY: Research Journals
    • TAG: Your Name
  3. Write a brief reflection about your experience keeping this Research Journal.
  4. Below the reflection, create text link called: My Research Journal
  5. Select the text, click on the link icon, paste the sharable link into the link box and press return. Your text link should look like this: My Research Journal
  6. If you’d like to keep your post private, so only the professor can see your Research Journal, choose Visibility > Private when you post.
Gutenberg - Content Visibility Private
Set your post visibility to Private if you wish.

NOTE: if you have created your journal post previously, make any updates to your post to conform to these guidelines.


Below find the information covered in this session. Complete all of the following activities, videos, and assignments.

1. The Medium is the Message (2+ hours)

Last class we looked at the American version of Modernism as corporate identity design and advertising in the 1950s-1960s began to take shape. This week we will move closer to the Postmodern era and examine Marshall McLuhan’s ideas about media as television was becoming the dominant medium. His theories were radical at the time and have been influential in the study and practice of design and media theory. They are especially important now with regard to the persuasive advertising model used by social media.

Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian professor and philosopher. He is known for coining the phrase “The medium is the message”. This statement first appeared in his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man – The Medium is the Message, which was published in 1964. And in his more experimental text “The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effect“, co-created by McLuhan and Quentin Fiore in 1967.

McLuhan died before the birth of the internet, but many believe that his theories about electronic media were prophetic; that he envisioned the internet decades before its arrival. He spoke about communication technologies as having the ability to create a “global village” and the increasing loss of privacy as a result.

McLuhan argued that we should focus on the medium of communication itself and he defined media as a technological extension of the body. He used the term “media” in a very broad sense including the spoken word, the written word, the printed word, telephone, films, radio, television, etc.

There are many excellent interpretations and critiques of McLuhan’s ideas. Let’s watch a few videos to help us to understand his ideas in the context of today’s contemporary media.

Marshall McLuhan – A film by Daniel Savage

Marshall McLuhan – A film by Daniel Savage

The media has the power to transform human nature and furthermore, no matter how powerful or persuasive the message, it’s the media that has changed our thought patterns and behavior. What does this mean for the “electronic environment” we inhabit? How do we decipher what media is fact and which is fiction? Discerning the difference is crucial now, more than ever.

Daniel Savage: The Medium of the Message – ADC LAUREN FESTA

What does “The Medium is the Message” really mean?

The Medium is the Message explained by Dan Olson (2015)

“The idea is that the mediums have a far greater impact on the fundamental shape and nature of society than any message that is delivered through that medium. What has had a greater impact on society and the way that we interact with one another, all the content of every Youtube video ever made or the existence of Youtube itself? All the conversations that you’ve ever had, the existence of your cell phone?… How do the mediums that you use help shape the world?”

The Medium is the Message explained by Dan Olson

This Is Marshall McLuhan – The Medium Is The Massage (1967)

Created in 1967, this video could be describing the new mediums of today: the internet, social media, online video, video games, virtual reality, etc. Watch from start to 08:23 (or longer if you have time.)

This Is Marshall McLuhan – The Medium Is The Massage (1967)

“The electric age is changing you, it’s changing your family, it’s changing your neighborhood, it’s changing your education, your job, it’s changing your government, it’s changing your relationship to others. These little circuits are making our world go. The electric age is having a profound effect on us. We are in a period of fantastic change that’s coming about at fantastic speed. Your life is changing dramatically, and you are numb to it.”

This Is Marshall McLuhan – The Medium Is The Massage (1967)

Social Media is the Message

McLuhan believed that media (in the broadest sense) is an extension of humanity, of the human body, and mind. How does media affect us? Our bodies? Our relationships? Our understanding of the world? Are we being changed right now?

Tristan Harris, the founder of the Center for Humane Technology, believes social media as it exists now “is a simultaneous utopia and dystopia.” The utopia the user experiences is the dopamine hits and efficiency of on-demand everything, and the dystopia of the giant manipulative matrix that we are living in. How do we recognize the Matrix if we don’t know that we’re in the Matrix?

The Social Dilemma – UPDATE!

Unfortunately, Netflix took down the free version of The Social Dilemma from YouTube after I published this initial post. If you have a Netflix subscription go ahead and watch The Social Dilemma. If you don’t, no worries, the following videos which include clips from the movie and related interviews, give a good if not better explanation of the dilemma.

In the documentary, The Social Dilemma, early leaders in social media, like Tristan Harris, have revealed that the medium of the internet, specifically social media, is becoming an existential threat to human society.

While he didn’t foresee the negative effect on society, consider Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic theories about electronic media in the late 1960’s, specifically how technology is an extension of humanity. Think about the current design of social media and the consequences of our growing dependence on it.

What will become of society if the persuasive technology used for for-profit social media advertising is allowed to continue as it is now? We will respond to this and other questions in our Discussion this week.

Clip from The Social Dilemma (45 secs)

92nd Street Y – Interviews with Filmmaker and Tech Experts (1hr 15 min)

Interview with The Social Dilemma: Filmmaker and Tech Experts in Conversation

Tristan Harris – A New Agenda For Tech Presentation (54 mins)

Tristan Harris – A New Agenda for Tech Presentation

2. Discussion: Week 9 (30 min)

For our Discussion post this week, respond to the prompt in the Discussion Week 9 post.

Add your ideas in a comment in this Discussion post by Friday, November 5th at 6pm to allow time for responses. Add at least 4 follow-up responses to your classmates’ comments by Monday, November 8th, at 11:59 pm.

3. Assignment: Reading Response 8 (2+ Hours)

Follow the assignment guidelines and prompts for Reading Response 8 – DUE Sunday, November 7th, at 6pm Monday, November 8th, at 11:59 pm

You will be reading and annotating an excerpt from Roland Barthes’ 1977 essay, Rhetoric of the Image.”

Refer to Assignment: Reading Response 8 for prompts.


Week 9 Agenda Checklist

Below are all of the tasks, big and small, for this week. The deadline is Monday, November 8th, at 12:59 pm. Successful and timely completion of these tasks will contribute to your grade. Submit your Weekly Agenda Checklist, indicating the tasks you’ve completed. This is required.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu

Tasks from the Week 9 Agenda

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