Mcluhan’s Ecological Approach: The Hot Media of Global Warming

Marshall McLuhan coined the terms “hot and cool media” in the 1960s to designate the degrees of participation and sensory decoding that certain forms of media require. Film, experienced in the scopic darkness of the cinema was hot because it intensified perceptual experience, washing over us and immersing us in narratives with minimal cognitive dissonance, whereas print media was cool, detached and of “low-definition” requiring much more analytic engagement to extricate meaning due to its highly abstracted forms. This essay borrows and adapts the term “hot media” to designate the fundamental toxicological suture between human industrial practices and sensate environments that results in the production of dirty pictures. McLuhan’s characterisation of hot media as collapsing the distance between the event and human perceiver still holds within an anthropogenic register in which it becomes increasingly impossible to disarticulate nature from culture. Hot media troubles the prevailing conceptions of image manufacture as an entirely human conceit and nature as a purified state separate from the artifice of culture.