Hot and Cool Media

I’ve been reading a lot of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, and not been blogging a lot about it because I’m not sure how those ideas affect education per se. Innis is well known for his time and space-biased media, which basically states that the mode of media used to transport knowledge has a time or space bias. Time-biased media are long lasting but do not travel. Space-biased media are portable, but not necessarily long lasting. I suspect that Innis would have rethought this concept now, considering that almost all media are long lasting and almost immediately available worldwide. McLuhan has further pushed the idea to hot and cool media – which works better as a continuum than as an either/or dichotomy. Cool media is high in participation, which is the prevaling trend – media is becoming universally higher in participation.

Perhaps it’s time to reframe the media classifications that have served us well for the last fifty years. Certainly it’s difficult to classify some of the trends we’re seeing. How do you classify a viral video? What constitutes participation in it? Does continuing the viral aspect of it through e-mail How does someone classify a mashup? Do these classifications make sense anymore? I guess I’ll have to get reading some more modern media and communication theory to see what has been done in this realm.

One thought on “Hot and Cool Media

  1. Seems to me the Internet, with the power of the user to engage whenever they want, is both hot & cool (lukewaarm ?) On the Internet, the user can choose to participate (and make a hot medium cool) whenever they wish these days. For example, if I am scanning articles in GReader, it’s primarily hot, until I decide I want to engage and leave a comment, at which point the medium cools.

    To me, this is consistent with McLuhan’s thinking, especially when you consider that media can be both hot and cool depending on context. The hot/cool distinction was never supposed to be applied in isolation, but a distinction to be used when comparing one type of media to another. Which is what makes McLuhan so damn beguiling, and the whole notion of hot vs cool an exercise in media studies frustration for me :).

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