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Midterm

CMNS 253W Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Neil Postman, Modus Vivendi, Cursus Publicus


Department
Communication
Course Code
CMNS 253W
Professor
Richard Smith
Study Guide
Midterm

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CMNS 253 Midterm Study Notes
Prologue:
-Metamedium - digital, interactive, multimedia delivered by switched networks
-Neil Postman that massive collection and speed of light retrieval of data have been of
great value to large scale organizations but have solved very little of important to most
people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved
-“the uncontrolled growth of [communications] technology destroys the vital sources of our
humanity. It creates a culture without moral foundationundermines certain mental
processes and social relations that make human life worth living
-Meanings of words do not exist in the words themselves but are a product of creative
process of communication.
1. Information Age
-Rene Descartes (1596-1650) humans were clockwork machines accessorized by
immaterial and inscrutable soul
-Smudging of boundary between human and machine of brain
-Copernicus earth orbits the sun
-Man is the measure of all things” meaning man is centre of values; values are not
external to him or in some way given’ or predetermined.
-Newton: a linear world in which equations all plotted in straight lines or regular curves
- Information is the elimination of uncertainty’
-By dissociating time from human activity, the mechanical clock created a new model of
reality -> more efficient, but impoverished.-> able to organize time
-Systems are best understood by examining their bottom-up’ behavrior rather than
looking at them from top down. -> response to understanding that natural systems were
not created complete and fully mature but rather evoled over time according to rules
which we do not completely understand
-age of return of rhetorical humanist world view -> democratic outlook
-Human society depends on information and communication to organize itself at both the
individual and collective levels
-Maps our current understanding of physical reality
2. Need to Communicate
1.Humans are born with linguistic grammar wired into brains which allow to learn to speak
2.humans learn who they are through communication with others
- first writing discovered on Sumerian clay tablets dated 3300 BC; hieroglyphic inscription
began appearing in Egypt around 3100 B
-Greek alphabet invented about 730 BC
-Oral culture stood in the way of intellectual growth -> trapped men’s minds in poetical or
musical state (understanding and learning are emotional and not rational, subjective and
not objective, concrete and never abstract)
-Alphabet made abstract/philosophy analytical though possible, also allowed information
to be removed from its human, emotional, tribal context for examination and evaluation,
transmission and transformation
-McLuhan believed that by dependence on spoken word for information -> people drawn
together into a tribal mesh
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- also questioned whether the transition to literacy was an entirely positive
development. Oral -> literature disrupted the pervious balanced interplay of all
senses.
- distanced people from the world in which they live
-Effects of phonetic literacy were greatly extended by the printing press
-Technological infrastructure that allows the information t be transmitted from place to
place
-Cursus publicus staged relay system of postal delivery whose speed was not to be
duplicated
-Postal service allowed strong central government
-Telegraphs , electric telegraphy, a digital medium, provided an evolutionary pathway for
the digital computer
6. A Worldwide Web
-Cable was ‘loaded’ by wrapping the centre conductor with a ribbon of nickel-iron alloy call
Permalloy
-Telephone cables -> satellite transponders
-Global cable grew = global market grew
- Eg. Shipping movements, prices, supply and demand could be learned instantly
for stocks and bonds and currencies, etc
- Eg. Grain market: telegraph combined with parallel improvement in ground and
marine transport technologies, involved north America directly in what
had been a European-dominated world market for grain
- includes developing lower prices and more accessibility
- created free trade (19th century)
- high tariff walls international trade up to WWII
-Telegraph created powerful lobbies in commodities sectors and in industry for protection
from too much foreign competition
-Telegraph changed the definition of news’
- news used to be mainly analysis and interpretations of events that were often
days, even weeks, months, old,
- telegraphs made relevance in news less relevant
- once it was possible to bring news to each individual word from around the
world, it became necessary to do so.
- news moved away from being analysis and interpretation of events of interests
and importance to readers useful or functional information toward
simple happenings
-What is newsworthy? The fact that events occurred at all made them news or
newsworthy; the more dramatic or unexpected the occurrence, the farther from home, the
more weight its exoticism carried in the balance with its possible relevance to readers
-Unfortunate that the bright promise of the telegraph as a instrument of moral force and a
common carrier of intelligence fallen into hands of crass commercial monopoly
-**Information needed by citizens to organize their lives and make
responsible choice in a democratic society -> however, all are dependant of
their survival on satisfaction of maximum number of subscribers, and
idealism was inevitably forced to find a modus vivendi with coarse
commercial imperatives
-Neil Postman says that telegraph gave a form of legitimacy to the idea
of information need not be tied to any function it might serve in asocial and
political decision-making and action but may attach merely to its novelty,
interest and curiosity
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