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An application of McLuhan's theories to television - Essay Example

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An application of McLuhan's theories to television

In Understanding Media McLuhan declared that the media are extensions of our senses or faculties. He looks into how each of the media are capable of rearranging our social lives even to the extent of depersonalization and absolute alienation. The Mechanical Bride asserted that the real significance of the media lay in their ability to modify human relationships and perception. Although Understanding Media was published as early as in 1964, McLuhan had predicted along with his famous theory of media as extensions that one day there could be the collectivization and corporatisation of all information. It has been rightly pointed out that the Internet is nothing but an extension of one's powers of cognition. We open the 'home page' of a person the moment we choose to think of him. Then we proceed to click on links if need be. The retrieval of information in good time from the vast store house of the human brain is the pioneer google!
Of the many theories that McLuhan has propounded, that of hot and cool media has gathered a lot of attention, especially in the light of the advent of computers which defy McLuhan's classification in the sense that it can be both hot and cold or neither hot nor cold. Before one discusses the complexities involved in the issue, a brief look at what McLuhan actually said in Understanding Media (1964) would be handy:
A hot m...
Telephone is a cool medium, or one of low definition, because the ear is given a meager amount of information. And speech is a cool medium of low definition, because so little is given and so much has to be filled by the listener. On the other hand, hot media do not leave so much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience (23).

Communication is an ever growing phenomenon and is commensurate with the ways by which societies evolve. Although one can say that the moon and the tide communicate it has more to do with natural phenomenon than communication; the ant that discovers a drop of honey locks antennae with another that comes its way, but this apparent act of empathic communication is, according to Edward O. Wilson, based purely on genetic programming1 and not on will (the ant cannot choose not to communicate); only man can choose not to communicate, to communicate and yet not communicate, to lie, to imagine. The spectrum of possibility is too numerous to enumerate. So, as long as it is a human being who is the Receiver of the Sender's (mass medium) message, what if the former treats the hot as cool and vice versa. What if the silence from the other end of the telephone is construed as an acceptance of one's invitation to romance What if the very heat of the medium in describing everything makes the viewer turn off his sense/sensibility saying the medium is not cool enough McLuhan's theory sounds original but not comprehensive. It seems to lack an attention to corollaries.

McLuhan's other observations that complement the basic premise of hot and cool media are more illuminating. He says that a ...Show more

Summary

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1981) was a media analyst whose theories are still considered valid by technocrats and media savvies. His fiorst book was called The Mechanical Bride and contained 59 short pieces on individual 'exhibits' drawn from newspapers, magazines and film posters…
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