Now reading (& a footnote to McLuhan bio)

Thomas Love Peacock, Crotchet Castle (1831)

McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)
Back to McLuhan’s big book after a detour through his biography.

Gordon’s authorized biography of McLuhan is essential reading for contextualizing McLuhan’s work, but sometimes it reads like a very partial tribute, sometimes like a very selective response to McLuhan’s critics (I’m as wary of his reading of poststructuralism as I’m intrigued by the fact McLuhan looked into it), and sometimes like a very gratuitous entrenchment of McLuhan’s ideas against changes in the mediascape. At one point Gordon insists on the ‘coolness’ of TV even in its late HD format. This prompted me to tweet that HDTV is definitively ‘hot,’ whereupon I was quite rightly cooled by respondents of my own on Facebook:

Well, it’s not exactly a thoroughly fleshed out categorization, is it?

Hot and cool is really an out of date type of categorization for media … more hybridity and less binaries are needed in understanding media.

These replies nuance the understanding of McLuhan’s ideas, represent major shifts in their reception (i.e. as obsolete), and, most importantly, remind me that critique can involve getting more drawn into the logic of a theory than one would have wished or realized. (That is, before this work I’d have been more likely to write off hot/cool myself than to apply it to media today.)

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