“Hot & Cold”

Marshall McLuhan was one of the first modern examples of an electronic media theorist. His ideologies on the impact media have on society were extremely jarring to the public, which led to some of his thoughts being met with great scrutiny, especially from those in radio and television. McLuhan died in 1980 as a man who had fallen out of fashion and was often criticized for his polarizing takes on media and how it is seen through the eyes of people.

One of McLuhan’s most controversial theories was called hot and cold media. This was a scale in which McLuhan put many types of media such as radio, television, movies, newspapers, etc, on a scale of hot and cool. Hot meaning it takes less involvement to understand such as TV since it uses pictures and sound and easily communicates the point of what you are watching. Cool would take more involvement and more brainpower for one to process and understand, examples being radio and newspapers. This theory was criticized heavily, as the public thought was that different types of media could not be set in separate concrete categories, especially with advances in technology ramping up to light-speed with new tech being introduced every day.

After reading more about McLuhan’s theory, I have to say I would have been part of the angry mob that criticized him throughout his career. With today’s multi-faceted attack of media with TV news, social media, blogs, radio, and overall clickbait, I feel that there are simply too many different types of media to put in these two vague categories. Maybe if McLuhan had expanded his categories and gave more criteria for media, these arguments would not have taken place, and maybe we would even see McLuhan in a better light.

Actually, my first thought when understanding the hot and cold media theory was my main argument against this theory. That argument would be that every person who engages with media will engage and interpret it in a different way. Some may read the results of the 2020 US Presidential Election and just shrug their shoulders and move on, some may embark on a V for Vendetta-style terrorist attack on our own Capital, and yes, of course, there are about a million different reactions between those two. In the grand scheme of things, I believe McLuhan generalized the average media consumer of the time, which I believe to be one of his biggest mistakes.

Now, I do believe Marshall McLuhan meant well his hot and cold media ideology, he just executed it horribly. If he was alive today, I think we would revise his idea ten-fold. I understand what the man was trying to accomplish and show, and I believe with some tweaks and possibly more criteria, hot and cold media would be a heavily debated idea for generations to come.

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