I learned the terms “hot media” and “cool media” during my weekend reading. These terms were coined by Marshall McLuhan, and don’t seem to have caught on outside of academia.
Hot media are information sources that are packed with data (often simultaneously transmitted to multiple sensory organs at once), and that require little or no interpretation or analysis on the part of the recipient. Television and movies are prime examples.
Cool media are those information sources that offer relatively little data, but which require the receiver to interpret, interpolate, analyse, and draw conclusions about the information they receive. Books are the prime example of cool media.
There are people who proudly say, “I don’t have the time to read, but I only watch the Discovery Channel and Public Broadcasting.” If you think you’re getting smarter just like readers, you’re not. You’re still mainlining information, and the parts of your brain that have to exercise when you read (or otherwise take in information in an abstract form) are shut down.
I’m not suggesting one shouldn’t watch television, or that you can’t learn something from it. I’m just saying that if you don’t read, but try to educate yourself via TV, you are the intellectual version of this guy…