MIT 2000 Second Lecture on Innis, Oral Society, Writing, Printing

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Western University
Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

Lecture 2: September 20, 2011 Theory/Orality/Harold Innis - Theorist of communication culture - Historical relationship between society and technologies of time and space. - Time/Space Innis: Time-Biased Media - Orality - Stone/Clay (durable media) - Community, continuity - Practical knowledge - Geographically confined - Societies were not spread out very far, there wasn’t really much imperial rule. They were contained and limited to their geographic scope. - It matters if something was written on stone or papyrus. Some media are more geared towards a time-bias. Those societies would be more interested in history, less on space, gaining more territory - Limited capacity for new knowledge - The Mafia: everything was done face to face, very little was written down for obvious reasons. - Hierarchical social order in the sense of a priest class in Babylonia, the sense of controlling what is appropriate knowledge and what is not - Theocentric - These societies have the potential to be democratic. - They’re prone to being challenged by other societies that rely on space-biased media. Time biased societies are susceptible to this challenge. - THey are vulnerable to “light” media challenge. - Natives in NA at the time of early European colonization. Aboriginal people had no alphabetic literacy. - The capacity to write facilitated dispossession of natives from their land by treaties. Writing history texts would exclude natives from their own history. - “Aboriginal peoples reception of print shows what a devestating impact the europeans literacy had on their society” - friessen. Space Biased Media - Papyrus, paper, printing press, TV - abundant capacity, but the clay tablets are more likely to survive many years though there is less of them. - Large capacity/less enduring (lots of paper, easy to lose/destroy) - Administration - territorial control - Cultural homogenization - Secular - Commodification - Monopolies of Knowledge - Most troubling development - New media often come about and they give an advancement of alternative voices. Theyre more democratic early on. Then over time it seems that that media can get more controlled by fewer people. - Newspapers: Start 1600’s, many many newspapers, didn’t cost lots of money to start one, anyone could. Then newspapers became more reliant on money, became bigger enterprises and required advertising. So the little guy couldn’t really make his own newspaper anymore. - Fewer people controlling the newspapers but more newspapers distributed. Innis “Orality” - “my bias with oral tradition” - recapture the spirit of Greek civilization - dialogue, Socratic method - intellectual exchange - skeptical dogma - Inhibit tyranny and imperialism - What will we lose by all these advancements? - Equip people to challenge these new ideas, the people in control. Origins of Writing - 3200 BCE Mesopotamia - Accountancy - economy - outstripping memory - Pictographic script Sumerian - Rebus principle - Pictographic symbol used for phonetic value - picture of bee and a leaf = belief - Still pretty limited because there’s only so many pictures that can be put together to make words Cuneiform/Clay - Abstract concepts - Rel./legal/medical texts - Objects and ideas - Cuneiform - Pictography to formal patterns - Ideographic and syllabic symbols - non-alphabetic - Cylinders on clay - personal stamps - baked clay tablets - baked so that they couldn’t be altered. - trade/commerce - time biased medium - clay tablets are heavy, you can’t really travel with them - limited to the messages you can send out Spread of Writing - 3200 BCE Sumeria - 3000 BCE Egypt - hieroglyphs - 2500 BCE indus valley (india pakistan) - 1200 BCE China - 600 BCE Central America - Pictographic/schematic scripts Writing: Alphabetic - Phoenicians developed alphabetic script in 1500 BCE, 22 letters -
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