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Understanding Media helps us address the whole person when supporting learning with online environments. Since this involves understanding our human perceptive systems, and then how our media systems interact with those human perceptive systems, it can get very complex in a hurry. 

Marshall McLuhan took on that challenge is his media research and publications more than 40 years ago. One of the predominant critiques of his theories was that they sounded good, but what did they really mean? For example, he classified various media as hot or cool. OTOH, we know what he’s talking about when he says television is cool, and radio is hot, based on whether we are active participants (hot) or passive receivers (cool). We can say TV is cool because we can have it on in bright rooms as more or less background subtext, that we can ignore if we want. Or we can sprawl on the couch and space out to some inconsequential rerun of Baywatch. 

But if we really drill down and think comprehensively, we notice that just saying TV is a “cool medium” isn’t telling us all we need to know about its inherent qualities and the elements of our experience with it. There’s much more going on…such as, what is the connection between experiencing TV and our unconscious processes? What are we “taking in” that we are unaware of? There were the famous experiments that said that images flashed very very briefly on the screen would be ignored by out conscious mind, but received by our unconscious we could be sold soap and not know it. A sort of Manchurian Candidate experience.

Be that as it may… we are far from really knowing how our unconscious works today, and how our conscious minds work as well, and how our senses, nerves, and brain parts create our perception and our “living experience”. Even a hundred years after Freud and Jung, and half that after McLuhan, we are still understanding through a glass darkly. But we need to know in order to design media experiences to best enhance learning.

So, there’s the study of psychology, both clinical and experimental…there’s neurology and neurolinguistics…there’s semiotics, and there’s the huge filed of virtual reality…which necessarily interacts with our human perceptions…which one might say constitute their own “version” of mediated “reality”. What’s a curious and committed voyaer on the path of finding out the best media forms for learning to do? It’s all way too complex.

Or is it? Academics, scientists, and others the world over are working hard to “find out”. Some work on elaborate perceptual studies over at White Sands Missile Range…and in the PSL at NMSU… Others might study how people use social media…incluidng ubiquitous video which is possibly going to supplant the 140 character tweet, or the even shorter little “message” utterance. 

Here’ below is one part of one research field that comes out of cognitive science and linguistics and comics, but not just those fields of study;… Written in Academic Paper style…which admittedly is not the same ease of assimilation as just watching the TED talk.

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