Nicole StarosielskiApr 20, 2022
Media Hot and Cold
Duke University Press 2021
Media Hot and Cold (Duke UP, 2021) attunes the reader to temperature as a crucial but often overlooked terrain of control, communication and contestation. The book skilfully unpacks the complex technical operations of a vast array of heat-based communication technologies in parallel with a close analysis of the cultural and political resonances of these media, taking in early experiments in heat ray technologies, the development of the thermostat, undersea fibre optic cables and torture sweatboxes from the US plantation. Today’s thermal media are framed as politically neutral and scientifically objective technologies of personalised comfort and climate mitigation. However, Starosielski pushes back against this reading, arguing that the manipulation of temperature as a means of coercion and domination has been integral to the construction, normalization and maintenance of unequal relations of power. The book is a timely and significant call for an unflinching analysis of the sociocultural function of temperature in a period of unprecedented thermal volatility.
Gummo Clare is a PhD researcher in the School of Media and Communications, University of Leeds.