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Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Telephone Company, Second Industrial Revolution, Shutter Speed

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

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September 14 Early Communication
Memory Palace:
Simonides of Ceos, 5th century BC
o A banquet hall collapsed and there were a number of people who were killed in
the rubble
o One of the survivors was Simonides and in his mind he went from room to room
remembering the people he saw in the banquet hall before it collapsed
Memory: Spatial, Visual
We’re better at remembering spatial and visual phenomena rather than names of
o Ex. Much easier to remember faces (visualization) than names
Epic Poems of Rajasthan, India
Oral tradition
Bhopas: type of person who learns and recites epic poems/songs (type of vocation that
dates back to middle ages and who spreads these epic poems from village to village)
Epic Poems:
o Mahabharata poem that is 100,000 stanzas long (takes 4 adys to recite)
Historically, the bhopas have been illiterate because they’ve been taught only
Taught bhopas (who were young children) to read and write and compared them to
bhopas who were illiterate found that the children who were literate were slower
and learning memorization
o Once we learn how to read and write, it can negatively impact our memorization
Oral Society
Words are cast as evanescent events (they happen in a second and then it’s over)
Power of spoken word: language as mode of action
o Societal knowledge is produced through speaking
o That what a society comes to know can only be conveyed through speaking
Interlocutor (memory/knowledge)
o When you speak to another person, you have to have that other person there in
order for communication to happen
Cognitive structure/way of thinking
o When there is no written record that can be passed on, societal knowledge is
interconnected with the spoken word and the imperatives of memorization

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Oral Society and Recall
How do spoken words become memorable thoughts?
o Mnemonics and formulas something that helps you memorize something
o Rhyming, proverbs, repetitions, alliteration all help to memorize something
Serious thought requires memory systems
Experience intellectualized mnemonically
You can only know what you can recall (from your brain, not from a written source)
Oral Tradition
Rich in metaphor
o Multi-sensory
o Illiterate
o 9th centure BCE
o Iliad/ Odyssey
Oral Society
Jongleur (middle ages itinerant minstrel)
o Would go from town to town and recite poems/songs primarily through memory
o Aide-memories/rhyme
Trained memory/worldly mind
o To have a good memory is a worldly mind for people who are illiterate (you are
seen as having more character and moral values)
Theory/Orality/Harold Innis
Harold Innis (worked between the 1920s and 1950s) was a theorist of
Historical relationship between society and technologies of communication
o He could look at the dominant economic activity and understand that certain
types of staple industries produce certain types of social outcomes (hierarchies)
He comes up with 2 types of societies
o Time biased societies
o Space biased societies
Innis: Time-Biased Media
o Orality predominately based in oral tradition
o Stone, clay (durable media) because they last a long time
o These societies emphasized “community”, “continuity” time biased societies
are all about going back in time and seeing where they came from (historical

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o They have practical knowledge as opposed to abstract knowledge
o Geographically confined
o Time-biased societies can be prone to hierarchical social order natural kind of a
leader (theocentric)
o They are vulnerable to “light” media challenge
Innis: Space-Biased Media
o Societies which the medium are papyrus, paper, printing press, TV
o They have a large capacity for these media, but they are less enduring
Ex. Newspapers are read and then the next day thrown out because
there is another one being printed for the next day
o Administration
Allow for territorial control don’t always need to conquer with a sword,
but can now conquer with a pen
o Cultural homogenization
o These societies tend to value secular knowledge as opposed to religious
o They tend to move towards commodification (pricing system becomes more
dominant because of commodification, which means that relationships are less
o Monopolies of knowledge larger and larger media companies start to push out
smaller media companies (ex. Newspaper companies)
o A weakening sense of tradition
Start to “spatialize time” – ex. Getting paid by the hour
Innis: Orality
“My bias with oral tradition” – Innis wanted to resurrect certain things from the time-
biased society that could be practical in space-biased societies
Spirit of Greek civilization
o Dialogue, Socratic method
o Intellectual exchange
Inhibit tyranny
Balance of time-space media
September 21 Writing/Print History
Origins of Writing: Sumeria
Western society: the first instances of writing took place in Sumeria (present day Iraq)
around 3200 BCE
Accountancy: economy outstripping memory
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