Rethinking Media and Technology: What the Kennedy-Nixon Debate Myth Can Really Teach Us

Paul Myron Hillier 1 *

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The presumption that communication technologies – TV, the Internet, social media – have fundamentally changed society has a deep cultural resonance. Indeed, the predominant framework for theorizing “media” – within both the academy and in popular culture more broadly – is rooted in technological determinist presumptions. The primary goal of this article is to challenge this framework, to demonstrate the ways it is incompatible with critical theory, and to make as case for a method and tradition that more productively problematizes technology itself. Taking on one of the most repeated claims and examples for the “effects” of media technologies, the Kennedy-Nixon debate, the article makes a case that a limited, binary theoretical model has fundamentally influenced the deductions. What’s at stake here is how to properly theorize media technologies and propose solutions to social problems and issues.


Marshal McLuhan Raymond Williams Technological Determinism Kennedy-Nixon Debate Critical Theory Cultural Studies


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Article Type: Research Article

Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp. 143-156

Published Online: 15 Apr 2015

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