The Media of Early Civilization (p1-4)
The beginning of communications is impossible to pinpoint but not hard to
As the world became increasingly complex the need for “extrasomatic”
memory became important (memory outside the body). This led to the
development of media to store and retrieve information.
Schmandt-Besserat: reinterpreted old archeological finds in a new
o Examined pieces from 12000 yrs ago – fourth millennium B.C, and the
rize of great near eastern civilizations in Mesopotania and Egypt
(thought to have been made possible through the creation of writing)
o She says several old world societies were recording economic
transactions through use of clay tokens, that we used to assume were
toys and charms. They resembled ideograms (conventionalized signs
that do not look like what they represent) These were the basis of the
worlds first writing system.
Harold Innis: dealt with time and space concept, and thought
communications deserved disciplinary or sub-disciplinary status
o Examined communications after Mesotopia and Egypt. Bulk of his
project dealt with Ancient empires and early western civilization
o Elaborated history of comm. around a few core subjects, the most
significant on pertains to time and space.
Old world civilizations had a specific cultural orientation that
was spatial or temporal. (derived in part by the dominant
medium it employed)
Eg. Stone in Egypt was durable, a “time-based” medium. It
favored a centralized absolute government and divine
kingship. It meant that astonishingly accurate calendars were
made because stone was so solid and unchanging
Papyrus was then developed, a “space-based” medium. It
allowed for administration over distance, which allowed the
empire to expand, and a new bureaucracy was needed that was
versed in the new medium
Marcia and Robert Ascher: show that it is not writing that allows for
complex, state-level civilization, but just some medium for keeping records
that is efficient and comprehensive.
o Focus on ancient new world civilizations
o Quipu was used for the Incas (ropes of different lengths, thickness and
color that were knotted and braided to record census, crop prod. Etc.) o Rope was excessively transportable, which was used heavily by the
Incas expansionist empire (going back to Innos’ notion of space based
o Sketches out issues in relationship between 3-D and 2-D accounting
o Explores controversy over relationship between written and spoken
language, and how the linkage between both differs from culture to
o Raises question of how globalization trends might push for new forms
of communications. Eg pictograms used increasingly in public places-
devoid of spoken/written language.
o Shows similarity between old symbols (ancient scripts etc.) and new
symbols of today
Media in Ancient Empires (p14-21)
Harold Innis cont.
o Writing on stone was very rigid, with straight lines or circularity of
lines. It was very decorative because it was so difficult. The switch to
papyrus permitted cursive forms suited to rapid writing, and as such,
through slurring over and abbreviations writing ceased to resemble
pictures and became script.
o By escaping the heavy medium of stone, thought gained lightness
o Writing used to be restricted to government, fiscal, magical and
religious purposes, but with the simplification of writing
administration became more efficient.
o Scribes became highly valued persons.
o The spread of writing after the democratic revolution was
accompanied by the emergence of new religions
Clay and Cuneiform
o By 2900 B.C. the form of t