This analysis was compiled during the research process of a brand redesign for the South Korean blockchain company, Hashed. More details on the project here.
In order to speak effectively about media, one must establish an understanding of the two fundamental categories that a medium may fall under: hot and cold.
Hot media is that which engages one sense completely. It demands little interaction from the user because it ‘spoon-feeds’ the content. Typically the content of hot media is restricted to what the source offers at that specific time. Examples of hot media include radio and film because they engage one sense of the user to an extent that although the user’s attention is focused on the content, their participation is minimal.
Cool media generally uses low-definition media that engages several senses less completely in that it demands a great deal of interaction on the part of the audience. Audiences then participate more because they are required to perceive the gaps in the content themselves. The user must be familiar with genre conventions in order to fully understand the medium. Examples: TV, phone conversations, comic books.
The Web Medium
Background reading from McLuhan would blow hot and cool about today’s Internet [The Guardian]:
Reading, to put it simply, is a lonely pursuit, while speech is a social one. So when we became readers, rather than listeners, we sacrificed our shared, tribal consciousness and became locked into private consciousness.
Electric media, being cool technologies that promote interaction, would bring back our lost tribal consciousness, McLuhan believed. But our tribes would no longer be small, isolated groups. Because the new media spanned the planet, we would become members of a “global village”.
McLuhan understood that as media become more interactive, they also become more potent tools for manipulation and control. They not only transmit information to us but gather information about us. In anticipating the internet, McLuhan sounded a warning as much as a welcome.
Blockchain and the Web as Participatory Media
In a modernly connected society where the web medium dominates all others and participation in it has become near homogenous, consumption of content is indistinguishable from creation of content. Both are inherently participatory and each is necessary to the other: the front to the other’s back. It is a type of observer effect generated by universal connectivity and participation in the collection of media that operate via the framework of the Internet.
Societies attuned to the latest iteration of connected media processes have come to instinctively understand this observer effect, and embrace their naturally compulsory role in it.
This is also the fundamental principal of blockchain.
There is a monumental difference between a web medium powered by a distributed-style, blockchain-based, connective framework and a mainframe-style, service-based, connective framework: control.
The blockchain-powered web of the future that Hashed wishes to build wholly embodies the simultaneous creation-consumption anatomy of the web medium. It enables fully distributed and equitable participation and is shaped by those who connect to it, and them only. A blockchain-powered web’s medium, content, and technological anatomies are fundamentally the same.
The current framework of the web is a collection of services designed for asynchronous media consumption, working to carry out consumption and creation as distinct processes. Connecting to web services built upon this segregated framework requires them to be put to use in a manner that contradicts the nature of medium which they compose. The fundamental opposition between the web’s current anatomy and its application allows for manipulation of the medium itself, as the proctors of the services that power it retain the ability to oversee operation of the consumption and creation as distinct processes (which should be communally overseen, automatic, and simultaneous), controlling each as they choose.
Korean History and South Korea’s Relationship with Modern Media
Asian and most other Eastern cultures are traditionally orally-focused, which has led to a historically collective-oriented culture. The textual focus of the West has led to our historically individual-oriented culture.
The Asian oral tradition set the stage for a cultural understanding of collective mediums. Korea’s history further clues us into how South Korean society gained an innate understanding of the connected sense as part of the cultural constitution.
The massive changes afflicted upon Korea between 1900 and 1950 followed several hundred years of isolationism, and led to a governmental, economical, and cultural reset in South Korea. The nation was formed anew and its inhabitants left isolationism and entered a state of prosperity precisely as the tech-powered media that exploded the world into a global village took hold. “Since the 1960s, the country has developed from one of Asia’s poorest to one of the world’s wealthiest nations.” [History of South Korea — Wikipedia].
Initially, South Korea’s understanding of media was exercised through censorship and control tactics by its early government and leaders. Governmental control over newspaper, radio, and television media was upheld until the 1980s, when mounting public outrage led to reform. At that point, journalism and media development exploded and have enjoyed moderate to significant freedom ever since; the number of available TV channels nearly doubling from 74 to 125 from 1985 to 1989. Laws restricting consumption of music and television to sources of South Korean origin were lifted as well.
The drastic, unrestricted inpouring of global information and entertainment, as well as the broadening of media access, was hugely formative, creating the relationship with media that South Koreans have today. All of this coincided with the most significant and bombastic period of worldwide media development in modern history. The result is the nation’s innate understanding and considerable mastery of new technologies and media, as well as a penchant for speedy adoption. “When it comes to Internet use, South Korea ranked third in the world in 2003.  According to statics [sic] of the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication, 78.5% of families own a computer, of which 93.6% use the Internet (2005).” [Media of South Korea — Wikipedia]