“Claude Shannon’s Information Theory, Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, and Jean Baudrillard’s The Ecstasy of Communication are very dissimilar works. Shannon’s paper, A Mathematical Theory of Information, was published in The Bell System Technical Journal in 1948 as a framework for engineers to approach problems related to transmitting information content through communications channels. McLuhan’s book was published in 1964 as a warning about the impact of media on the individual and society. Baudrillard’s essay was written in 1983 as a commentary on Post-Modern society at the dawn of the age of global telecommunications networks.
“But all share the common subject of communication, each work approaching the subject from a slightly different angle: Shannon developed a theory related to the information content of communication, McLuhan focused on the medium of communication, and Baudrillard discussed the nature of communication networks. Each work also embraces the idea that communication takes place within an environment – a system, a time-and-place context, a node on the web of human relationships.
“In this paper I will discuss each work as a treatise on communication, with the goal of extracting from each work essential ideas about communication that I will attempt to compare and analyze in the final section. In my analysis, I will focus on two aspect of the works: their formal properties, which I believe reflect the transition from Modernism to Post-Modernism, and the content of the works, which together describe a complete communication system.”
From Jacobson, Susan. “Perspectives on Communication: Shannon, McLuhan and Baudrillard.” http://pages.nyu.edu/~sj10/pubs/seminar.html (26 June 2005).
Cross posted at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives