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McGill University
Communication Studies
COMS 200
Alexandra Gibb

COMS 200 1/9/13 Dominant, Residual, and Emergent Culture The Movie Palace (def. from Wikipedia): elaborately decorated movie theaters built between the 1910s and the 1940s. The late 1920s saw the peak of the movie palace, with hundreds opened every year between 1925 and 1930. There are three building types in particular which can be subsumed under the label movie palace. First, the classical style movie palace, with its eclectic and luxurious period-revival architecture; second, the atmospheric theatre which has an auditorium ceiling that resembles an open sky as its defining feature and finally, the Art Deco theaters that became popular in the 1930s. … It was meant to create a fantasy environment to attract moviegoers and involved a type of social engineering, distraction, and traffic management, meant to work on human bodies and minds in a specific way. Today, most of the surviving movie palaces operate as regular theaters, showcasing concerts, plays and operas. - The Uptown Theatre – Chicago - Theatre Rialto – Montreal - Pre-WWII focus was on Hollywood movies - After WWII, television arrives, urban sprawl begins as people move out to suburbs. - The multiplex cinema arrives o More choices = less risky for theatre owners o Cheaper to build and maintain o Less ornamental - What happened to Movie Palaces? o Most were abandoned because they were too difficult to maintain and were more inconvenient than the multiplexes o Being used for different things  Michigan theatre is now a parking lot  Multi-purpose (not just movies) When one cultural practice becomes dominant, another recedes. Process is by no means straightforward (things don’t just vanish). Raymond Williams - Key to the study of Communications - Scholar, writer, particularly known for his revisionist Marxist theory - Appreciated Marx’s materialist approach to history – development of society based on economic activities that meet for material needs. - Williams found Marxist theory useful, but somewhat limiting, arguing that it does not account for culture (art, media, etc.) The Base (as per Marx) - Forces of production - Raw Materials, industrial processes, factories - Relations of production – i.e. working class and employers - Economic system – how goods are made, who makes the them, who sells/buys them Superstructure - Founded upon the base - Institutions: law, politics, religion, education, family, - “a unitary area within which all culture…” The Base (Williams) “when we ralk of the base we are talking of a process and not a state” (33) - Away from the notion of fixed economic or technological abstraction - Towards specific activities of men in real social and economic relationships - Fundamental contradictions and variations Superstructure (Williams) - Towards a related range of cultural practices - Away from a reflected reproduced or specifically dependent content - “unitary area within which all cultural …” Williams sets out to revalue the terms ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ “…if the medium – whether print or television – is the cause, all other causes, all that men ordinarily see as history, are at once reduced to effects” Determinism: Reducing history to a set of effects Study of Limits and exertion of pressure Williams is seeking to expand the base/superstructure model “We have to revalue ‘determination’ towards the setting of limits and the exertion of pressure, and away from the predicted, prefigured and controlled content” Hegemony (Antonio Gramsci) - Dominant class sets conditions for wa of living/perceiving - Circulation of images, ideas, values, practices that maintain conditions favorable to dominant class - Dominant system gives us our sense of “reality” - Appears natural Dominant Culture - In any society, in any particular period - Central system of practices, meanings and values, which we can properly call dominant and effective Incorporation “We can only understand an effective and Almost (but not quite) the same thing: Alternative – “someone who simply finds a different way to live and wishes to be left alone with it” Oppositional – i.e. “someone who finds a different way to live and wants to change society in it’s light” Residual - Experiences, meanings and values - Cannot be verified or cannot be expressed in terms of the dominant culture - Lived and practiced on the basis of the residue – cultural as well as social – of some previous social formation Emergent - New meanings, values, practices, significances and experiences - Earlier attempt to incorporate them - A not-yet-defined part of dominant contemporary practice Movie palace was emergent, then was absorbed by dominant, and is now residual It’s significant how the dominant culture is alert to anything that can be emergent 1/11/13 Media “Biases” Harold Innis – UofT, famous communications + media theorist History - Separate Epochs - Discontinuous - Dominant forms of media - Systems of knowledge consonant with institutional power structures - To understand a particular society from a communications perspective, you have to observe it’s Dominant forms. o Inherent Properties o Use of Dominant media o Economics and Institutional Framework Three Periods of Dominant Media: - Stone, clay - Parchment - Paper Empire - Think big - Effective gov’t of large areas Bias of a medium toward space or time Bias will influence the development of a civilization in which that medium dominates - Dissemination of knowledge - Distribution of power - Efficiency of communication Time biased media - Clay, Stone - Durable - Long-lasting - Heavy - Not conducive to travel over distance or to development of empires Time biased societies - Oral - Tradition, custom, continuity - Poetry, song transmitting knowledge from generation - Community - The sacred, the moral - Religion - Hierarchies - Elite groups - Monopolies of knowledge - Catholic clergy of the Middle Ages – hoarders of knowledge Space Biased media - Papyrus, paper, electronic media - Lightweight - Less durable - Able to travel across space - Administration and trade Space Biased Societies - Empires - Expansion across territories - Administration over great distance - “…The means of appraisal are influence by the media” - Change on the type of medium implies change in the type of appraisal - Makes it difficult for one civilization to understand another Web-Based/Media Empires are essentially modern empires Gov’t dominates Internet as well “The only filter is what you search” - some smart ass who thinks he’s the shit in a 200 level class 1/14/13 Before Writing - Paleolithic age to Neolithic age o Don’t be concerned with specific dates - Reading traces the transition from human civilization from hunter/gatherers to farmers (domestication of plants and animals) - Concerned with the “Near-East” aka the Middle East - Focused on symbols used in a systematic way o Abstract form of three dimensional writing Symbols - Special meaning allows us to conceive, express and communicate IDEAS o i.e. the color black = death o Star Spangled Banner = United States o Cross = Christianity o All Brands have a respective logo o Pink ribbon = Breast Cancer o Skull & Cross bones = poison - Ephemeral - Meaning is arbitrary - Can only be learned from those who use them - When culture disappears – leftover symbol becomes enigmatic - Meaning is acquired Signs - Subcategory of symbols - Carry narrow, precise, and unambiguous information: - i.e. “1” = sign that stands unequivocally for number “one” – has an exact meaning - Communication devices are bound ot action (not just ideas) Early Artifact – Notched Bones (notches in general) - Interpreted as tallies; keeping track of something - Regardless of what they were specifically used for, these linear markings refer to discrete and concrete entities - “Signs promoting the accumulation of knowledge for specific ends” (7) - Early attempt at data processing - Departed from ritual symbols by dealing with concrete data - Translated perceptible physical phenomena (i.e. Moon phases) rather than intangible aspects of cosmology - Abstracted Data in three ways: o Translate concrete information into abstract markings o Removed data from their context (for ex: social conditions, environmental conditions) o Separated knowledge from the knower - Unspecific – open to interpretation - Quantitative information only - Known only to the tallier - One-to-one correspondence (each unite = one notch) - One kind of marking (notch) - One type of data at a time and only a few items per community - Simple use of tallies would be useful in communities where only a small number of items were recorded Arrival of agriculture introduces economy - From there arose the need to trade/barter, and thus place a value on food and other products Clay Tokens - Clay is abundant - Easily shapeable - Entirely man made - Made for specific purpose: communication and record keeping - Sign with single, discrete and unequivocal meaning - Understood by anyone initiated into the system - System of regularized meaning - Repertory of tokens, each with a discrete meaning - Larger quantity of data - Greater precision - Open- able to add new tokens; always expanding and becoming more complex - A code (system of signs for transmitting info) - A syntax (rules that govern language) - Humans didn’t have to rely as much on memory o = Mnemonic device - Systemization of shapes - A fully formed code that could move from community to community - Systemization = expansion - Economic data: each token represented a specific amount of a specific commodity - Qualitative and quantitative Limitations - Cumbersome (in large quantities) - Small amounts of goods - Difficult to keep permanent records - Inefficient – each commodity expressed by special token - Required ever-expanding repertoire - Ill-suited for complex messages Tokens become dominant - A simple system - Clay = common material; no special skills or tools to be worked - Shapes were plain/easy to duplicate - One-to-one correspondence data (logic and rational decision-making) - Timely (agriculture and accounting) New Performance in Data Processing - Mnemonic device – able to handle/store unlimited quantity of data - Flexible manipulation of data (addition/subtraction) - Scrutiny of complex data (logic and rational decision making) - Timely; agriculture and accounting Quipu - Inca of Peru - Civilization without writing - Way to keep records; - Quipu have horizontal at the top then vertical cords hanging beneath; made of cotton and wool; there are intervals of spaces; cords dyed different colors TED talk: - Indus civilization - Massive civilization - Found small objects - Left behind artifacts and writing - No clue what symbols mean - Stamps; used to stamp packages when being sent; packing slips - Hypothesis 1: script does not encode language; just symbols - Hypothesis 2: script encodes and Indo-European language - Hypothesis 3: script encodes a Dravidian language - The indo script challenge; no Rosetta stone; there is no known text - Scripts are short and small - Writing was right to left - Patterns in language o Q? > QU? > ?????? - Entropy of language o Monkey = High o Language = Moderate o Stuck Key = Low - Same script found far away in Iraq o Same script, different language? - Using pictures to represent words 1/16/13 Rosetta Stone: Grecian hieroglyphic text - “an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences between them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.” - We don’t think about the mental and physical process that goes into language and writing Back to Innis (see first day’s notes) - Wrote on time/space/transportation - Each major Civilization has a temporal and spatial bias Stone was dominant media in Egypt - Described by Innis as a time biased media o Very durable, will be around for a long time, heavy Innis compares stone to Papyrus - He calls it a space biased media o Less durable, much lighter so able to move through space “By escaping the heavy medium of stone, thought gained lightness” (Innis, 14) - Chiseling on stone vs. writing on papyrus - Writing became faster - Secularization of writing, thought, activity - Interest, observation, reflection - Scribal culture - Civic administration - Stepping stone to prosperity/higher ran - Scribe- a restricted class - Writing- a privileged profession Mesopotamia - Equivalent to modern day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran - Innis says writing grew out of math, Robinson says accounting - Clay tablets reflected a secular, utilitarian interest o Cuneiform  Oldest human writing system Pictograms - Origin of Cuneiform Robinson argues: - Rebus principle is essential to development of full writing system - Pictographic symbol used for its phonetic value - Full writing system as “a system of graphic symbols that can…” o All scripts that are full writing systems use symbols to represent sounds o All full writing systems are a mixture of phoenetic (speech) and semantic signs (signs) Alphabet - Closed the gap between spoken language and written representation og language (pictographic/image-based) Isolating sound from thought and thought from sound is essentially impossible 1/18 Scripts and Alphabets - Most alphabets use around 20-30 characters - Chinese is largest alphabet - Writing spread outward via Greece to Europe o Not sure how/when this happened - Phoenician alphabet was 22 characters - all consonants - Evolved into Grecian alphabet - Greeks invented literacy – modern though Academic Writing - Transition from craft literacy of the ancient empires to new modern literacy based on the creation of a common reader (Havelok) - Greek alphabet: o Invented literacy and literate base of modern thought o Democratized writing o Embryonic version of elementary schooling o Eliminated reliance on scrubes Standardization of the alphabet - ambiguities of communication … - automatic to write - “Script came to resemble an electric current communication a recollection of the sounds of the spoken word directly to the brain - Intermediary between reader and his/her recollection of spoken tongue - Could better preserve language Oral /Pre-literature cultures - Reliant on mnemonic devices (rhythm, tone, music) - Alphabet abolished need for memorization - Visualized record in place of an acoustic one - Mind was liberated from the burden of memory - Expansion of knowledge - New ideas - Pre-alphabetic cultures were also pre-scientific/philosophical/creative cultures Material Limitations - Parchment (animal skins) - Papyrus (Egypt) - Making these materials = labor intensive - Production of script remained a han
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