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Marshall McLuhan: A pop philosopher

The Story


The world's first expert on pop -- the culture of mini-skirts and hula hoops -- discusses his theories on "hot" and "cool" media. Marshall McLuhan adapted these references from the TV jargon "high" and "low definition." High definition means well-defined, sharp and detailed visually, such as a map. Low definition refers to indistinct images scanned by the eye, with which the viewer is left to fill in the blanks, such as a sketch. McLuhan says television is a cool or low definition medium, offering little information but the user participates with most of his senses. He explains that a book is a hot or high definition medium, presenting the user with lots of information at a level of lower sensory participation. Another of McLuhan's pop idioms, "the medium is the message," borrows from the era's abstract artists who place the highest importance on the medium with which they work. According to McLuhan, television is the canvas for a new environment of all human association and perception.

Medium: Television
Program: Other Voices
Broadcast Date: June 22, 1965
Guest(s): Marshall McLuhan
Host: Jim Guthro
Duration: 5:26
This is the audio of a TV report for which video is unavailable.

Did You know?


• McLuhan exemplified hot media as: radio, print, photographs, movies and lectures; and cool media as: the telephone, speech, cartoons, TV and seminars.

• The CBC says McLuhan first verbalized the term "the medium is the message" in 1959 at a Vancouver cocktail party he attended after hosting a symposium on music and the mass media. But McLuhan said he coined the phrase two years earlier at a radio conference.

• Attempting to calm those alarmed by the coming of TV, he said his words were, "You have nothing to fear at all. Your medium is unique, and the medium is the message and will relate to any new medium."


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