"Marshall McLuhan's distinctions between 'hot' and 'cool' media, and his notion of the television-created 'global village,' seem to be without much meaning, except on a trivial level. (If anything, thbe spread of wider comminication nets tends to bring about the disintegration of larger socities into fragmentary ethnic and primordial units.) But there are real consequences for the cohenence of a culture in the relative weights of print anfd the visual in the formation of knowledge. The print media allow for self-pacing and dialgue in comprehening an argument or in reflecting on an image. Print not only emphasizes the cognitive and the symbolic but is also, most imprtantly, the necessary mode for conceptual thought. The visual media -- I mean here film and television -- impose their pace on the viewer and, in emphasizing images rather than words, invite not conceptualization but dramatization.In the emphasis televison news places on disasters and human tragedies, it invites not purgation or understanding but sentimentality and pity, emotions that are quickly exhausted, and a pseudo-ritual in pseudo-participatio in the events. And, as the mode is inevitably one of overdramaitzation, the responses soon become either stilted or bored."
- Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976), pp. 107-108
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Have long heard of Bell's book; and, finally reading it now, have to wonder what all the honoraries were for. A simple (yet incisive) core thesis, reiterated again and again, to the point of redundancy. And swathed in pages of sweeping cultural generalizations that are constanl;y fatiguing in their lack of nuance.
And, despite his merits, McLuhan's a fairly easy target.If his metaphors and conceptualizations seem off the mark; well at least he deserves the credit for venturing into territory that no one before him thought worth critiquing, etc.. Still, I have to admit that Bell's bit cited above proved exceptionally prescient; considering how things have played out since,*
* Except for "ethnic" and "primordial" [sic, 2x], substitute maybe ideological and (extremely) localized.