Know concepts, examples and implications
Definition of media, mediated communication
Media: A plural of medium. the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers,
and magazines, that reach or influence people widely: The media are covering the speech
Mediated communication = using any external means to convey communication
Each means of mediated communication creates its own pattern, its own signature of human
behaviour. Collapse of space and time. Expands personal knowledge base and provides ever
more information remote from the here and now; information becomes anonymous. Takes our
attention from the here to connect to the there
The technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through
technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an
unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is seen as an occurrence
beyond which events cannot be predicted.
Proponents of the singularity typically postulate an "intelligence explosion", where
superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, might occur
very quickly and might not stop until the agent's cognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any
The term was popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial
intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible
causes of the singularity. The specific term "singularity" as a description for a phenomenon of
technological acceleration causing an eventual unpredictable outcome in society was coined by
mathematician John von Neumann, who in the mid-1950s spoke of "ever accelerating progress
of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of
approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as
we know them, could not continue." The concept has also been popularized by futurists such as
Ray Kurzweil, who cited von Neumann's use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann's classic
The Computer and the Brain.
Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 whereas Vinge predicts some time before
Media ecology An approach that views communication technologies as environments
Technological determinism; affect
Technological determinism presumes that a society’s technology drives the development of its
social structure and cultural values. Technology and new technologies are thought to be the
primary cause of major social and historical changes at the macro level of social structure, and at
the micro-social level in terms of their profound social and psychological influences on
• The ideology of a “hard” or pure technological determinism has been rejected.
• Technological determinism is a totalizing claim. Technology operates in more nuanced
ways. Technology has affect.
• To affect means “to have an effect on something or someone.”
• In a media studies context, affect also points to the ways that meanings circulate
between, among, through, in, and around human and non-human settings alike. (For more
on affect, see The Affect Theory Reader (2010), edited by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J.
• The weather, for example, has affect. It is a non-human agent that has “an effect on
something or someone” and its meaning weather circulates between, among, through, in
and around things both human and non-human.
• The weather, however, does not determine (for example) a person’s mood.
• Technology operates in the same manner.
Walter Ong: Writing is a technology that restructures thought
In his essay, “Writing is a technology that restructures thought”, walter ong submits that literacy
is not an innate human understanding; but a learned process which has developed along with
technology as humanity has progressed. He argues that many people do not make the distinction
between having an idea and putting it down on paper; a thought is only legitimate if it is written
Ong compares platos theory of writing as an arbitrary human invention to modern day criticisms
of technology, notably the computer. He posits that writing is a technology, much like typing on
the computer. To write one needs tools and training. Ong comments, ‘Once reduced to spave,
words are frozen, and in a sense dead…removed from the living human life world, its rigid fixity, assures its endurance and its potential for being resurrected into limitless living contexts
by a limitless number of living readers. The dead, thing like text has potentials far outdistancing
those of the simply spoken word”.
To my surprise, I was struck with the age-old lament present in Plato’s Phaedrus that the new
technology, in this circumstance – writing – will alter the fabric and structure of society, and
result in its inevitable decline. Imbued with today’s contemporary discourse over the fear and
uncertainty, or excitement and fervor in many quarters, concerning the digitalization of all things
print, I had not consciously thought of writing, the actual words, characters taken and put on
tablet or parchment, as a form of new technology or revolutionary advancement since grade
school. The current state of rapid digital turnover in the twenty first century seems less
significant than the conversion of oral language to the new written form.
Through Socrates, Plato laments with increasing anxiety over the potential loss of one’s mastery
of memory, and the distance that emerges by capturing the oral and making it written. Moreover,
the absence of an appropriate interpreter and teacher who controls the knowledge, which
Socrates decries “drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who
understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it” (118). The underlying
sentiment that disturbs me in the artificial dialectic between Socrates and Phaedrus is that Plato
seems to envision a “right type” of student and thinker that is most deserving of this advanced
knowledge rather than a more democratic, and yes, modern vision for the dissemination of
I realize that this excerpt from Phaedrus is over two thousand years old and it may be unfair to
impose a modern sensibility on the idea of who has access to knowledge. But many of Plato’s
ideas seem pertinent in today’s quickly changing Internet landscape – does this new technology
improve the current curriculum or does it diminish it, making it a mere reflection and unequal
substitute of the former model?
Writing separates knower from the knower
Writing separates the knower from the known and thus sets up conditions for ‘objectivity’ The
idea of speech as more real appears to relate to a sense of speech as involving less mediated
access to the external world. Ong notes that 'writing separates the knower and the known' (Ong
1986, p. 37), and although he admits that all uses of language do this, including speech, he insists
that writing deepens this separation. He grants the advantage of doing so, suggesting that 'it promotes "objectivity"' But he insists that 'in all human cultures the spoken word appears as the
closest sensory equivalent of fully developed interior thought. Thought is nested in speech'
Dennis Baron: accessibility, function, authentication
In “From Pencils To Pixels,” published in1999 as a chapter in Century Technologies, Dennis
Baron describes the stages of the development of communication technologies. These stages
include: the invention of the new technology, its increasing accessibility, its functional uses, and
how it can be authenticated. Second, the development and evolution of production with literacy
technologies is analyzed within the text. Next, how literacy has been affected by literacy
technologies throughout time is discussed. In sum, the article, “From Pencils To Pixels,” Dennis
Baron discusses the stages, evolution, and impact of literacy technologies throughout time.
Baron’s main focus throughout the article are his ideas about the stages of literacy technologies
and how they apply to every new product. The first stage is the invention of the new technology,
and then comes the accessibility, function, and finally, authentication. When a new product
comes out people are skeptical, at first. Therefore, the product is only available to a small group.
As the accessibility of the technology becomes more widespread, the public begins to put it to
use doing familiar things. Once it is more developed and people become familiar with the
product, it eventually evolves into new uses and forms. The final stage Baron talks about is the
authentication of these new technologies. Authentication is very important because people are
more likely to use the invention if they feel safe using it.
An example Baron uses to display the stages of new literacy technology is the telephone. Baron
states, “The introduction of the telephone shows us once again how the pattern of
communications technology takes shape”(Baron 45). At first, the telephone was seen as
impractical and not many people thought there was much use for it. Once telephones became
more established they started to replace other technologies such as the telegraph. Baron writes
about how the telephone has become one of the main ways information is passed around. It starts
to become more familiar to users, which allows it to evolve into new uses and forms.
Baron discusses the development and evolution of the production of literacy technologies. For
example, the development of the pencil is not all that different from that of the computer because
of the way it was produced and the way it evolved through time. Baron talks about when the
pencil was first introduced it was expensive because they were hand carved one by one. Now
that they have become more popular you can buy one for three pennies due to the development
of mass production. Baron explains, “One pencil historian has estimated that a pencil made at home in 1950 by a hobbyist or eccentric would have cost about $50” (52). The same goes for the
computer. When computers were first established they were very expensive and rare. Baron
makes points about the evolution of new technologies and how they all go through the same
development process. People strive to improve them coming out with new versions that have
more capabilities than the last at lower cost.
Finally, Baron dips into how literacy has been affected by the use of new literacy technologies.
He argues that even though new literacy technologies offer new opportunities for learning, they
also present opportunity for fraud. Therefore, the original text is easier to manipulate and
becomes harder to trust. First, Baron describes how literacy has, in his opinion, improved by
giving examples such as, “Ten years ago, math teacher worried that if students were allowed to
use calculators, they wouldn’t learn their arithmetic tables” (50). He follows this sentence up by
describing how calculators are essential in math courses now a day. Baron also brings up how
teachers preferred pencils without erasers. This was because they thought it was better if students
were able to get it write the first time. No erasing or crossing out. Now teachers are making sure
students revise their work until it is perfected. It is extremely rare to find a pencil without an
eraser in this generation. Another example he uses to demonstrate the affects of technology on
literacy is about spell check. When the spell check function first came out teachers did not
inform their students about it. They were afraid students would eventually forget how to spell
correctly. In present time, teachers advise everyone to use spell check on their assignments
before they are turned in. Even though many are skeptical about how the constant computer use
will alter literacy and text in the future but Baron believes, “The new computer communications
technology has the ability to increase text exposure even more than it already has in positive,
productive ways” (51).
In the article, “From Pencils To Pixels,” Dennis Baron discusses the stages, the development and
evolution, and impact of literacy technologies throughout time. He describes the four main stages
all new technologies go through: invention, accessibility, familiar function, and authentication.
Later, Baron discusses the development and evolution of new literacy technologies. Stating that
the development of the pencil is not all that different from that of the computer. Finally, Baron
concludes his essay with information about how these new technologies have affected the
literacy of our generation. Have they improved our knowledge about reading and writing or have
they made us lazy? Baron even gives his own opinion on the matter of how computers will affect
literacy in the future. Overall, Dennis Baron has given us something to think about by stating the
stages, development, and affects on literacy these innovative technologies have had.
Harold Innis: time-biased media, space-biased media and their necessary balance
Time-biased media: Clay and stone tablets
hand-copied manuscripts on parchment or vellum
oral (based on presence, little tangible remains after the utterance)
Durable/less easy to transport
More centralized and hierarchal
Contemporary media such as radio, television, mass circulation newspapers, and the internet
Light/easy to transport