McLuhan's Messages, Echoing in Iraq Coverage

“Because McLuhan saw the media as extensions of the human body printed books as extensions of eyes, radios as extensions of ears he believed that each new technological advance would reshape humanity and traumatize it, too. ‘We shape our tools and our tools shape us.’…. The tanks rolling into Iraq from the south were not just tanks but extensions of marching legs and protective skin. The night vision goggles were extensions of eyes. And what about those television cameras attached to the tanks? They were harder to classify…..Are the television cameras the witnesses to war, or are they part of the weaponry?” Sarah Boxer

McLuhan’s Messages, Echoing in Iraq CoverageNY Times)

I found the reason I was hooked by the cable coverage of the war was becuase I sat there, inert and overwhelmed. While TV may have been cool and engaging when McLuhan wrote, I think the multiple boxes, scrolling bars, flashing logos, etc., makes TV a much hotter medium now. A McLuhanite blogger from Toronto ponders whether the grainy camera footage from the embedded reporters will cool down the medium once more.

I haven’t had cable TV at home for six or eight years, but I spent the first week of the war in a guest house with cable. I usually get my news from GoogleNews, but I didn’t have web access. I felt trapped and hemmed in by the TV coverage — I couldn’t accelerate the story when the anchor was repeating stuff I already knew, and I couldn’t click on the reporter’s face to see what else he/she had written. I found it all terribly frustrating.

But I suppose this could be explained by observing that McLuhan’s “hot” and “cold” categories are relative. I remember as a kid doing an experiment where you put one hand in ice water and another hand in very warm water, and then put both hands into a container of room temperature water. One hand feels warm, and the other hand feels cold, even though you are holding hands with yourself. A very odd experience.