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McLuhan’s nightmare

Dick Martin (Public Relations, Employee Communications, and Brand Management, AT&T Corporation, Bedminster, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




This paper aims to re-examine Marshall McLuhan ' s most famous aphorism – “the medium is the message” – within the context of recent sociological findings and concludes that business strategists should take heed of McLuhan’s warnings, both in their personal and professional lives. Marshall McLuhan was a sociologist of the 1970s whose observations about the impact of modern technology were quoted more widely than they were actually understood.


The article reviews recent findings on the sociological and psychological impact of digital technologies and examines them within the context of McLuhan’s theories. The article includes a basic explanation of McLuhan’s classic aphorism – “The medium is the message.”


Digital technologies promised to make the world smaller, but, in many ways, they have made us smaller. The fragmentation of audiences, more powerful tools for filtering information and the heightened availability of personal media have all led to increased polarization and a decline in empathic perspective sharing.

Practical implications

This article invites practicing strategists to consider the implications of these developments in their personal and professional lives and offers practical advice for doing so.


The article presents an original perspective on McLuhan’s thesis, drawing from a broad range of recent studies.



Martin, D. (2014), "McLuhan’s nightmare", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 58-65.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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