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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

HDTV is Hot

Friday, January 05, 2007

Douglas Rushkoff has a column up over at Discover Magazine about High Definition television. It's the first thing NPH has read about HDTV that 1) isn't enamored with the technology and 2) doesn't assume it to be a simple progression of television as a medium.

In fact, Rushkoff argues, because of the ridiculously-high pixel levels featured by high definition plasma screens, what we're dealing with is a whole new medium, an entirely new content delivery system, and not just an improvement on an old one. Because whereas television, with its vertical lines and internal bulb, projected an image outward that a view more-or-less passively received, an HD receiver highly intensifies the resolution, amps up the color palette, and provides an aspect ratio that, in Rushkoff's words, "can cover my whole field of vision instead of just a little square." All this, he says, "turns the TV set from a flickering box into razor-sharp hyperreality."

Which may not be entirely good. Rushkoff draws upon Marshall McLuhan's categories of "hot" and "cool" media to raise some concerns (a "cool" medium invites active interpretation from a subject who is aware of themselves as a recipient of the medium, while a "hot" medium stokes the emotions and diminishes both interpretation of the medium and self-awareness in the recipient). Ultimately, the hotter the medium the weaker the active interpretation of it. And HDTV is hotter than anything we've ever had.

It's a good article, and thought provoking. NPH doesn't have an HDTV, so we can't validate from experience Rushkoff's contention. But y'all should read the article, if only for its description of what watching "The Sopranos" is like in HD.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:55 PM

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