By "infinitely masterable and expressible," on the other hand, I mean that the system has an inexhaustible expressive range, which, like the finest instruments, requires a lifetime to master — and furthermore, that this expressive range is wide enough that different users can develop unique styles or creative "voices" in that medium.
Mc Luhan's definitions establish a strongly inverse link between the "temperature" of a medium and the degree to which it invites or requires audience participation: hot media demand little completion by their audience, while cool media, "with their promise of depth involvement and integral expression," are highly participatory.
A quick glance at the tradeshow floor at SIGGRAPH is all that is necessary to observe that the trend in the computer graphics industry to date has been the development of high-resolution, high-bandwidth, mega-polygon experiences.
For the past year I have attempted to explore abstraction by creating prototype "visual instruments" that afford continuous, expressive handles into the real-time performance of dynamic, abstract animation.
Much of this work has been inspired by, and performed in close collaboration with my colleague Scott Snibbe, to whom I am indebted for introducing me to the domain of performative abstraction, and with whom I presently share many of the motivations expressed in this statement.
I seek to build In doing so, I interpret Mc Luhan's specification for cool media — that they demand "completion by a participant" — quite literally.
The notable property of cool media, I believe, is that they blur the distinctions we make between subject and object, enabling the completion of each by the other.
Consider, for example, how a three-year-old child can sit before a piano or a pencil and almost immediately intuit its basic principles of operation.
Yet we take for granted that pianos and pencils are also rich enough media that the same child could spend the remainder of her life mastering them.
An example of such a subject/object distinction is that between author and authored, the blurring of which, according to psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, is critical to the Zen-like experience of creative flow.
Another such distinction is that between sender and recipient, to whose dissolution, wrote philosopher Georges Bataille, we owe the delight of communication itself.