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<nettime> No Soap! Radio?
Newmedia on Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:28:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> No Soap! Radio?


One of the least understood *distinctions* drawn by Marshall  McLuhan was 
the one he made between HOT and COOL media.

In simplest  terms, this refers to the broad differences between behaviors 
and attitudes in  an environment saturated with radio (HOT) and with one 
saturated by television  (COOL).

A handy way of considering this in terms of "politics" would be  to 
consider the sort of environment that *shaped* the rise of a Hitler or a  Stalin or 
a Mao or a Kim Il Sung -- all radio-based (HOT) -- and the sort of an  
environment that gave us an Obama or an Angela Merkle or a Gorbachev or a Tony  
Blair -- all television-based (COOL).

Much of the frustration felt by  today's *activists* about how whatever 
they try to do it just seems to be  "commodified" and absorbed by "late-stage 
capitalism" is the result of trying to  apply radio-era tactics in an age 
dominated by television sensibility.  If  you don't *understand* media, then 
you are doomed to make the same mistake  over-and-over!

The last time there was a *concerted* effort to understand  the impact of 
"media environments," the focus was RADIO (i.e. in the 1930s/40s)  -- which 
involved some of the most "respected" social scientists at the time  
(organized out of Columbia and Princeton, including Lazarfield, Cantril and  Adorno) 
and which produced today's "opinion research" industry as well as fields  
like Social Psychology and Communications  Research.


There were  some fascinating studies done about the relative "propaganda" 
deficiency of  TELEVISION (compared with radio) -- resulting in the 
complaints of FCC head  Newton Minow about a "vast wasteland" and Fred Friendly's 
efforts to start  "public television" -- which produced at least one PhD about 
how TV could *not*  be used to "teach" anything (by Tavistock-related 
Marilyn Emery) and, indeed,  the 1953 Ford Foundation funding that launched 
McLuhan's own career studying  "Changing Patterns of Language and Behavior in the 
New Media of Communication"  (i.e. television.)

And, if you don't understand the differences between  RADIO and TELEVISION 
as *environments*, then you will really be confused about  the Internet -- 
which is fundamentally different from either of  these.

First, despite all the efforts by Facebook, Google et al to  harness the 
INTERNET as the successor to *television* advertising (e.g. the  design of 
their business models and the "demographic" data collection their  systems are 
organized to try to sell to advertisers), these businesses cannot  succeed!

Second, consider the widespread *hair-on-fire* reaction of those  committed 
to television-era mass-media "rationality" -- particularly to the  "values" 
of democracy/tolerance/non-discrimination/equality/globalism -- to what  
the INTERNET has done to their cherished ability to "curate the  news."

Today, the NYTimes foreign affairs columnist, Tom Friedman, takes  aim at 
the Internet-based "radicalization" of the Boston Marathon bombers.   He 
reminds his readers, "That's why, when the Internet first emerged and you had  
to connect with a modem, I used to urge that modems sold in America come with 
a  warning label from the surgeon general like cigarettes.  It would read:  
'Attention: Judgement not  included.'"


The  NYTimes is a part of the dying *television* environment (having 
previously been  a part of the *radio* environment), so it cannot comprehend what 
has happened --  as the ENVIRONMENT has once again shifted to something 
quite different.
This past week, Eric Schmidt's publisher printed 150,000 copies of his "The 
 New Digital Age" -- an attempt to bring the Council on Foreign Relations 
(among  others) into the INTERNET era.  The first words of the book are "The  
Internet is among the few things humans have built that they truly don't  
understand."  The heuristic he uses to drive home this distinction is the  
notion that we now live in two worlds -- one physical and another that is  
Let's see how well the television-saturated "policy" audience he's aiming  
at deals with his claims.  So far the term used to describe the book, which  
many presumed to be another expression of Californian "libertarian"  
tech-utopianism, seems to be "sobering"!  

Not HOT (like radio,  although with many similar qualities) and not COOL 
(like television, against  which it is most directly opposed), the INTERNET 
brings with it a new set of  behaviors and attitudes.

Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY

P.S. For  those unfamiliar with the history of the phrase "No soap, radio," 
the Internet  provides some guidance --  

P.P.S.  There are many  commonplace distinctions that can help you to 
distinguish between the RADIO and  TELEVISION expressions of the same urges -- 
such as the distinction between  Aleister Crowley and his protege L. Ron 
Hubbard or the distinction between  Erector Sets and LEGO.  As an exercise, try 
to imagine what  synthetic-gnostic-religion or a build-a-bridge-toy would 
look like in the  *digital* age.

P.P.P.S.  For those interested in how NEW MEDIA can  be compared with those 
mediums that came before, the best approach is still "The  Laws of Media: 
The New Science" by Marshall and Eric McLuhan (a work that is  apparently 
largely unknown in Europe, due to the way that McLuhan was  mis-represented on 
the Continent.)

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