McLuhan’s General Theory of Media (GTOM) and the Role of Reversals: Figure/Ground; Concept/Percept; Cause/Effect and Visual/Acoustic Space
We suggest that despite the fact that McLuhan claimed not to have a theory of communication that, in fact, the body of his work does indeed constitute a theory of media and their effects, which we term as Marshall McLuhan’s General Theory of Media (GTOM). We show that his reversals (figure to ground, concepts to percepts, cause to effect, visual to acoustic space, medium to content, all summarized in the fourth law of the Laws of Media) are interconnected together with his systemic ecological field approach and that they form the basis of his GTOM. McLuhan’s Laws of Media are then further compared to scientific laws of nature and man-made laws to govern the interactions of societies.
McLuhan’s notion of media as “extensions of man,” or extensions of humankind, reverses in the digital age as humankind (as users of digital media) become an extension of the digital media instead, as data becomes a part of (or an extension of) those media: media as “extension of man” reverses into “man as extensions of media.” The way that humankind becomes an extension of today’s digital media is that companies such as Facebook and Google capture all of the data their users key into their systems and exploit that data commercially to third parties that then use that data against the better interest of those that provided that original data. Legislation is required to put an end to the misuse of people’s personal data. If the medium is the message then one of the messages of digital media is the creation of super monopolies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, with practices that threaten democracies, as was the case with the Cambridge Analytica scandal that compromised the 2016 US presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.