The protocol is the message

April 9, 2008

Marshall McLuhan was one of the first to study mass media as a cultural phenomenon. He coined the phrase “the medium is the message” and divided different medias into hot and cool medias depending on the participation level of the person consuming the media:

“Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue.”

What is the web 2.0, social media (as opposed to the mass media of McLuhan) equivalent? Maybe it’s in how people use different protocols of communication for different purposes?

Maybe the protocol is the message?

We call people for another reason than we email them or send them an SMS. The act of making a phone call bears a meaning in itself.

An indication of this is how soon people expect a reply for the different protocols. The blog Future Mobile reports:

84% of users expect a SMS response in five minutes according to an online survey by 160 Characters that looked at how different messaging platforms elicit differing response times.

Tomi Ahonen on Communities Dominates Brands on the same survey:

By contrast about half of users of e-mail expect a reply within about a day.

Techdirt adds a social behaviour aspect, arguing that people even wait for responding to email on purpose to give the impression of being more busy than they really are:

Last year, we noted a study that said many people purposely responded to emails fashionably late at work, because replying to quickly implied you didn’t have too much work to do. However, it appears the situation may be somewhat different when it comes to instant messaging and SMS text messages.

Fascinating. There’s definitely more to a message than meets the eye.

Also read my old post on emotional bandwidth.

…and while we’re on the subject, here’s a collection of “break up SMS” such as:

Roses are red, violets are… ah the hell with it. Get your crap and get out

77 characters.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder


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