McLuhan's Relevance in Today's Society: A Look at Social Media on Mobile Devices

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Public Relations


Dennis Kinsey


Social media, Computer-mediated communication

Subject Categories



Marshall McLuhan devised numerous notions regarding media, including the medium is the message, hot and cool media, and Laws of the Media. Such notions have been deemed controversial by various intellectuals. They have also often been misunderstood. Scholars such as Levinson and Logan have applied these three notions to media including the computer and the Internet. Using Levinson and Logan's research as a theoretical framework, this study implemented the qualitative method of textual analysis to determine the applicability of the medium is the message, hot and cool media, and Laws of the Media to social media accessed on mobile devices today. In addition, the theory of computer-mediated communication was used to guide the research. The social media studied were Twitter and Flickr. The mobile devices used to access these social media were the iPad (4th generation) and the iPod touch (3rd generation). The iPad (4th generation) was released in 2012, while the iPod touch (3rd generation) was released in 2009. The two mobile devices were used for purposes of comparison, as the iPad has Retina display. It also has a larger screen with a higher resolution.

For this research, 100 tweets regarding trending topics were studied every day for a week. In addition, 100 pictures from the top 10 subscribers recommended by Flickr upon signing up for the service were analyzed. The results proved to be multifaceted, as many themes emerged from the data. The notions of the medium is the message and Laws of the Media were deemed to be more applicable than hot and cool media to Twitter and Flickr accessed on the mobile devices. Besides determining the applicability of McLuhan's three notions to popular social media, the research provided a better understanding of how people communicate using computer-mediated means.


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