Making Curriculum Pop

Cartoon & Clip: Acoustic vs. Electric vs. Digital and the Message of Each Medium

While this cartoon from the June 22, 2009 Issue of the New Yorker is funny - it is also a great image to explore Marshall McLuhan's famous quote, "the medium is the message." McLuhan believed that any medium (as defined as an extension of the human body or the mind) "exerts its most potent effect by changing the form scale and speed of human relations and activities." (Gordon, 2003). So the question this cartoon forces us to think about is the difference between the "message" of the the guitar vs. that of the iPod.

From here, it is easy to think about other situations where re-mediation occurs. This clip from “Guitar Queer-O” (Season 11, Episode 1113, Airdate Nov 7, 2007) explores the same issue as the cartoon above. If it weren't for the inappropriate use of the word "gay," this South Park clip would be usable in a 7-12 classroom...

If you've got extra time you can watch the entire South Park episode here at Comedy Central.

Thinking about McLuhan's ideas, what are the implications of these different media for you as an educator? What are the different messages you must contend with as you integrate media/popular culture into the classroom?

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Replies to This Discussion

I like that term re-mediation. It was makes me completely rethink the term and its use in schools today. As an elementary literacy coach I see teachers trying to make use of technology for technology's sake. They have it, they are told to use it, so they often use technology in the only way that makes sense to them. Perhaps it is the teachers who need remediation- in how to see beyond their own personal connections (the father in the South Park clip) to what is possible through new technologies. I fear we are limited more in vision than in access. That is the 21st century digital divide. Your reference to McLuhan reminds me of a quote: “Having a tool to perform an activity changes the nature of the activity (Wenger, 1998, 56).” How those tools are used (or not used) can alter educational experiences, and we all know our educational experiences can forever alter lives. Thanks for helping me re-think re-mediation. Shift has happened!

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