Remembering Marshall McLuhan - Hot Media; Cool Media
Please know that we have absolutely no plans or no intention to make Ranch & Country Magazine into a digital-only publication. We publish a digital version online along with each print issue. But print is really what we do.
Still, one can’t help but notice the trend toward digital. Some of our millennial friends do not even know how to write a check. All their banking needs are managed digitally. Information about anything and everything can be accessed online. Libraries have all but vanished. All the daily news is just a few keystrokes away. Airline tickets - why fiddle with paper; it’s all on your phone. And your phone buys you that Starbucks coffee to drink while you wait for the plane.
In the 1960’s, a philosopher and pop culture guru named Marshall McLuhan famously wrote “the medium is the message.” By this he implied that whatever form of technology is used to deliver information actually becomes a part of the information. For example if a hot news story comes out and a person reads it in the newspaper, McLuhan claims that the newspaper vehicle is part of the reader’s experience of the story.
In this regard, he went on to distinguish between “hot media” and “cool media.” He defined hot media as film, movies, and print, like magazines and newspapers. He defined “cool media” as television and anything that is digitized. So in this day and age cool media would include the computers and ipads and phones that we use all day all the time.
Hot media, reasoned McLuhan, provides the opportunity for complete involvement on the part of the viewer, without effort, without the viewer having to do anything. Cool media on the other hand requires something of the viewer - cool media is actually made up of pixels, and on some level, albeit well below the conscious level, the viewer is required to do something, ie to put the pixels together into a meaningful configuration.
When I first learned of McLuhan during my college years, I thought there might be something to his views. I knew my experience of going to the movies was quite different from watching t.v. Some years later, McLuhan (who died in 1980) flashed through my mind as I purchased my first digital camera. Not long after that all cameras were digital.
Clearly we are moving along a continuum toward what McLuhan called “cool media.” We still go to movies, but we watch more and more of them on t.v. cable service or through Netflix and Amazon. We spend hours looking at our phones and computers. Our lives are dominated by a visual barrage of pixels.
Here at Ranch & Country Headquarters, we notice that we are getting more and more “digital subscribers.” They are perfectly satisfied to view Ranch & Country Magazine online. They say, “We don’t want the hard copy - save a tree.” But then, we have many other subscribers who say, “I don’t even look at the digital. I want my hard copy. That’s the only way to go.”
So here’s a challenge for you if you’re reading this in print: Go to www.RanchAndCountryMag.com and click the link for “See our Summer Issue.” The digital version will open. Flip through, and then compare your experience with flipping through this print version.