I found the message behind this phrase difficult to understand at first, and that’s because of the medium it’s being expressed in; a paradoxical proverb. Though when explained to me in a way that’s easy to understand, I noticed the truth behind Marshall McLuhan’s words. Content is in many ways determined by the means used to create it.
The example of vinyl records setting a precedent for the structure of modern pop songs is particularly interesting. Although the medium has been far superseded as a way of listening to music, many songs still adhere to the 3-4 minute track length that was originally a limitation of vinyl singles and their rotations per minute. I imagined how inconvenient it must have been for teens who grew up in the age of vinyl records to create unique experiences with each listening session because of the limitations of vinyl, compared to now when apps like Spotify or YouTube provide a constant stream of music mixes relevant to our interests. I’ve expressed this idea by editing a peanuts comic, where poor Charlie Brown laments the restrictive vinyl medium.