Market Rebels

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Book: Hayagreeva Rao. Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovations


From an interview with the author:

Question: What is the concept of “cool mobilization”?

Answer: Like hot causes, cool mobilization activates emotion and enables the formation of new identities, but it does so by engaging audiences in new behaviors and new experiences that are improvisational and insurgent. The origins of cool go back to jazz that was improvisational—and in contrast, to the big bands.

Later, Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist, distinguished between hot media and cool media on the basis of their definition and the extent to which they elicited participation.Hot media like radio and newspaper engage one sense (hearing or vision) and are highly defined and so require little involvement. By contrast, cool media like television engage multiple senses and the involvement of an audience because they are not as highly defined. I use the term “cool” to capture the insurgent and improvisational dimension in jazz, as well as the low-definition and high-involvement experiences mentioned by McLuhan.

Consider the Slow Food movement—a collective endeavor seeking to defend traditional culture and cuisine that arose in Italy. The hot cause was fast food and its stultifying homogeneity and unhealthiness. The cool mobilization was “slow food”—the communal enjoyment of locally available cuisines. The movement started with a “lightning rod” issue—the establishment of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome—that instantly crystallized the movement’s grievances.

Carlo Petrini, a leader of the gastronomical branch of ARCI (a national network of social clubs tied to the Italian Communist Party), and his associates organized a cool experience that mobilized the interest and commitment of the audience—a sit-in and pasta-eating contest that rewarded the slowest eater. Their protest action proclaimed that Rome was about “slow food.”

Hot causes intensify emotions and trigger new beliefs. Cool mobilization also evokes emotion, but by engaging participants in new collective experiences that transform beliefs. Hot causes are highly defined, and their definition gives them emotional resonance. Cool mobilization has lower definition and requires conscious participation—indeed, participants have to “fill out” the experience through their actions and experimentation. Both underlie the formation of new identities." (