Marshall McLuhan was a media theorist who was responsible for early discourse on media culture, and its impact on our societies. His most well known phrase was, “the medium is the message”. The medium in which content goes through (medium being computers, phones books), is constantly changing our world and by influencing how we view ourselves. McLuhan had theories about hot and cold media; hot media involved clear visuals and high quality sounds which resulted in more direct understanding of the message trying to be received and required little sensory participation for the message to be received, whereas cold media is low definition of sound or visuals or quality of media or media that isn’t so direct, and that requires more effort to understand the message.
I think this theory can be true in a sense, but it leaves out people who have disabilities, people who think differently, and people who are wired to experience/consume media differently. I feel that hot media can require a range of sensory involvement depending on the type of medium that it is broadcasted through, how it was thought out, how involved the viewer of the media is with deciphering its message, and how the message is can impact them. People can have varying interests in these fields of media and I think it’s also important to categorize the person who is consuming the media and their personal relationship with how they choose to interact with it. I found McLuhan’s description of acoustical space interesting he writes that hearing sounds is more straightforward because we all hear the same thing at the same rate, but when we look at the same things, we look at them in different rates and blur out that of which we don’t view as important. McLuhan hints kind of that hearing requires less mediation because the message is being delivered “directly” towards you and the quality of it is high enough to be an extremely clear message. Whereas, with cold media you are seeking out the message, deciphering it, and or finding it on your own grounds rather than it be given to you in such a clear manner as hot media delivers. But that isn’t always true either, because you can easily block out sounds that you don’t want to hear or miss sounds that you didn’t think were there; your mind works in the same way of dealing with sounds as it does with dealing with visuals, in its own way. Simultaneously we alter ourselves in order to adapt to the technology at hand while also using the technology in our own way. However while we use it or learn to use it, we are still being shaped by it. I would agree with McLuhan in his thought that the medium in which the content is delivered through, is more powerful than the content that is delivered through it. The medium is shaping the content but also providing access of the content to others, to the content itself, and connecting people with people within its existence.
I learned recently in art that, not only is the art itself important, but the environment around it, is perhaps even more valuable. Simple idea, but the environment really changes the tone of the art and the message of the art itself. The art will invoke different feelings in different places, additionally we need to take into consideration the way the art (or media) can change and the way that we feel about it changing (because that will evolve the way we interact with it) and how we interpret the art by what is surrounding it when we are creating it. The original art is the environment. The original media is the environment.
There has to be more depth when thinking while consuming content because we all have personal experiences that we need to take into consideration to fully appreciate the message of what is passing through the medium, the way the medium is impacting and changing us, and the way that the message is delivered to us and how we evolve the delivery of the content in return; of which all these ideas together change or influence us straight from the medium itself in some way. Messages of the media impact us in different ways depending on how we are impacted by it, and impacts the world before, and during our interaction with it.
I think that the hot and cold theory is fitting for its time, but it isn’t very relevant anymore in today’s society because of the technological advances we have made since the theory was created, and how the technological advances has affected the reliability of quality of the medium. Better quality mediums I assume, would have an impact on our sensory involvement, meaning we are still being shaped by the medium at the forefront of the experience. But perhaps if the theory could evolve with the medium simultaneously, then it could still be relevant. I think our sensory involvement has also evolved with or against (I think both) media so it’s not only the way media is impacting us and influencing us, but how we react to it and how our reactions to it also further evolve the media itself. This needs to be taken into consideration when designing because the mind has to be open and willing to the new changes of the media and the speed in which is also evolves at which will in return evolve and change us.
The evolution of media and how it is influenced by its predecessor
“The technology shapes the experience”
Illustration by Taylor Norbury