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How might Marshall McLuhan's theory of hot and cold media be used to explain the surge of interest in mobile technology, especially text and picture messaging?

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How might Marshall McLuhan's theory of hot and cold media be used to explain the surge of interest in mobile technology, especially text and picture messaging? 'Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among the other organs and extensions of the body', Marshall McLuhan in 'Understanding Media' (1964, p43). A comment which has possibly never been truer than when understood with regard to a mobile phone. McLuhan's theories have recently been given new life with the onset of the Internet; however, they can also be usefully applied to the massive explosion of mobile technology. Given it is a medium which some may consider to be cool; its impact on society has been immeasurable. In today's society it is difficult to meet a person between the ages of fifteen and fifty who do not own a mobile phone. Like televisions, it is the electronic accessory of the moment and it is advancing fast. Only five years ago text messaging was in its infancy and not all phones offered it; picture messaging was unheard of. Nowadays picture messaging is very much here and already the technology has moved towards video messaging. Some 'mobile phones' would be more accurately described as hand held computers as the telephony is only a fraction of its capabilities and often not even its main function. As with most mobile phones the main function consumer's use is text messaging. According to McLuhan in 'Understanding Media' (1964) ...read more.


Barthes also wrote about Text itself and its semiotics, arguing that words are strong and can be used as political weapons, as they have been in post World War II politics. He charts the beginning of the 'moment of the text' as 1968 (Hartley 2002). This seems to have affected the whole of society as people now talk to each other less, preferring to e-mail or send text or picture messages. McLuhan has commented on discourse and text. According to a website called 'Marshall McLuhan: spinning the web of the future', <accessed 13/12/03> 'specifically, McLuhan feels that the best way to convey information between two people is to maximize the use of the senses...[therefore] ancient oral civilizations appeared to have the greatest and most clear form of communication.' That is not the written word, but the spoken. This has, however, been criticised by Miller (1971) who 'disagrees with this assumption because he feels that humanity has evolved with technology and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The reality is that further technological advances have given humanity the ability to communicate using mediums that are essentially extensions of the spoken word.' McLuhan expressed concern over the effects of technology and its result in the loss of human identity, although he did not see it as a bad thing, it was something to be maintained and supervised. His concerns could be justified, however, in that nowadays people talk to each other less, preferring to communicate by the written, or typed, word. ...read more.


'Texting' has become a common, everyday form of communication; one that did not exist during the lifetimes of Marshall McLuhan or Roland Barthes and it can be assumed that neither would have anticipated this surge in technology. Both would express concern at its immense popularity as it risks people becoming less sociable and having less actual conversation. Another side to that argument, however, could be that it increases human interaction, it just takes place in a different way. People can now contact their family, friends and acquaintances much easier and faster. To send a text message to say 'hello' is far quicker and easier than making a phone call which could result in lengthy conversation. Whereas once a person may have decided against the phone call for that reason they will now send a text message. It is probably safe to say that, given that human beings are an innately social species, and indulge in conversation for pleasurable as well as functional purposes that if what they desire is a conversation then that will be sought above a text message. It is hard to predict where society and culture will go with this ever increasing technological development. In the next year or so we can assume that videophone will become much more popular and that mobile phones will continue to develop into small computers than 'phones'. Living in a century where convenience is emphasised and encouraged and our lives are busier it is likely that less face to face interaction will take place however with the help of the mobile phone we can avoid losing contact altogether. 1,910 1 ...read more.

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