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Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Lecture Notes - Sumer, Cultural Homogenization, Socratic Method

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
MIT 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

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Lecture 2: September 20, 2011
Theory/Orality/Harold Innis
-Theorist of communication culture
-Historical relationship between society and technologies of time and space.
Innis: Time-Biased Media
-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
-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
-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)
-territorial control
-Cultural homogenization
-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.
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-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
-outstripping memory
-Pictographic script
-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
-Abstract concepts
-Rel./legal/medical texts
-Objects and ideas
-Pictography to formal patterns
-Ideographic and syllabic symbols
-Cylinders on clay
-personal stamps
-baked clay tablets
-baked so that they couldn’t be altered.
-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
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