In 1964’s Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan categorized media in a way that’s still being referenced and debated today: “hot” media, which provides large amounts of information and solicits low participation, and “cool” media, which provides little information and creates a more active spectator/user. Cool media, then, would seem to exhibit less control over an audience/participant, allowing for a greater diversity of experiences with a particular medium. While this definition has been debated and discounted in various ways, it serves as a good lens through which to analyze the ways that media are changing in the 21st century. Television, according to McLuhan, is a “cool” medium due to the commitment and attention it needs from the viewer, as well as its attention on process rather than a “tight” finished product (McLuhan 31). Though this definition may have seemed accurate in 1964, now it seems faulty. Has television become a low-participation “hot” medium, like radio was in McLuhan’s time? With the introduction of the high-participation, high-information Internet, have McLuhan’s definitions been shattered?
The practice of Liveblogging throws an interesting wrench into these “hot” and “cool” classifications, as it’s a case of one medium interfering with another. In the introduction to his book Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins writes, “Old media are not being displaced. Rather, their functions and status are shifted by the introduction of new technologies” (Jenkins 14). When television viewers liveblog, it complicates the notion of the “active” audience. The act of liveblogging involves extreme participation, as it is a fast-paced practice involving reading, writing, and maneuvering with web technology. This audience is extremely active, but the medium with which they are participating is the Internet. So how does television play into this?
An exchange on a liveblogging forum for the television show Mad Men appears as follows:
This exchange interests me because all of these online fans are responding to the same scene within seconds of one another. All of these comments relate directly to scene, and, at least in this exchange, none of the posters are responding to each other. Here the question arises: are these viewers actively interacting with the Internet and, due to their state of distraction, passively interacting with the television show? Is the screen of their computer dividing their attention, turning the television screen into a hot medium? Their comments would imply otherwise. These posters seem to be viewing the show very closely, and rather than going off on tangents, they are responding directly to what they’re watching. It seems as though the show is the primary focus here, with the blogging itself as an afterthought.
On the other hand, some exchanges take on a different form entirely:
- Colonel Dubby: Someone could write a thorough academic media critique on undergarments in Mad Men.
- cupcakes @Colonel Dubby: and then joan should design a line of garters. i’ll wear them all and feel hotter than hell.