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Communication Studies
Ghislain Thibault

Cr owley 1-4, 5-13, 27-33 Media of early Civilization • Communication can go as far back as the newspaper, printing press and the alphabet • Communications media is much older (complex writing systems of ancient Egypt) • Communication is an exchange of information and messages • Early ancestors communicated through nonverbal gestures and an evolving system of spoken language • Extrasomatic memory is a memory outside of the body • Increase in communication led to communications , the development of media to store and retrieve the growing volume of information • Symbol-using to record information about the natural environment, in other words, communications media • Old world societies were recording economic transactions through the use of fire clay tokens • Many of the tokens resemble the characters known as ideograms which are conventionalized signs that do not look like what they represent (a character that looks like what it represents is known as a pictogram) • Harold Innis deals with what happened in the realm of communications and culture • Bulk of his project deals with the role of media in the organization of ancient empires and early western civilization • Innis’ most significant concept is the concept of time and space (old world civilizations had a specific cultural orientation that was temporal or spatial) • Ascher and Ascher show that it is not writing per se that allows for civilization, but some medium for the keeping of records which can function in an efficient and comprehensive manner • It was a series of cords of different length, thickness , and colors that was knotted and braided (each element constituted information) • Quipu, begin a light portable medium, was suitable for administration over distance • Most of the world’s early civilizations came into being using writing as their dominant medium of communication • Andrew Robinson sketches out some of the issues in the relationship between earlier systems of the three dimensional accounting , such as the system of tokens, two dimensional systems and the ways in which the linkage between written and spoken forms (logography and phonography) varies widely from language to language • Also raises question of how the globalization trends in society today might push the demand for new forms of communication Earliest Precursor of Writing • This reading deals with the place of tokens among other prehistoric symbolic systems • Symbols are things whose special meaning allows us to conceive, express, and communicate ideas o Are arbitrary, learnt and ephemeral (change with time) • Signs are a subcategory of symbols, signs are things that convey meaning • ex. The colour black and the symbols standing for death • ex. “I” is a sign that stands for the number one • symbols help us to conceive and reflect on ideas , signs are communication devices bound in action • symbols and signs are a major key to the understanding of cultures • symbols are ephemeral and do not survive the societies that create them ( the meaning they carry is arbitrary) • a fundamental characteristic of symbols is that their meaning cannot be perceived either by the sense or by logic but can only be learned from those who use them • low paleolithic period (early as 600 000 years ago, no symbols have been preserved) • First use of symbols in the middle paleolithic period • THREE FOLD DATA • First, pieces of ocher were recovered in the cave of Qafzel, Israel • Second set of evidence consists of funerary paraphernalia, such as flowers/antlers deposited in burial sites- suggests ritual function • Third category of artifacts is bone fragments engraved with a series of notches (earliest known examples of manmade symbols in the Near East) • Same system of notched bones continues in the upper paleolithic and the Mesolithic • New category of stone slabs bearing fine lines that suggest a horse • Andre Lcroi-Gourhan viewed the iconic representations as symbols of magicoreligious significance • The animal images referred to each species representing one manifestation of a complex cosmology • Early days of archeology, the notched bones have been interpreted as tallies, each notch representing one item of which to keep track • Alexander Marshack says the artifacts were lunar calendars , each incised line recording a sighting of the moon • Linear markings viewed as referring to discrete and concrete entities • Notches signs of promoting the accumulation of knowledge for specific ends • Use of signs to communicate factual information followed the use of symbols in ritual • If this is true, this indicates the first step of data processing • Notched signs abstracted data in several ways: o Translated concrete information into abstract markings o Removed data from their context (ex. Sighting of the moon was abstracted from any simultaneous events such as atmospheric or social conditions) o Separated the knowledge from the knower, presenting data in cold and static visual form, rather than hot and flexible oral medium, that involves voice modulation and body gestures • Graphic signs of Ksar Akil and Jiita generated an unprecedented objectivity in dealing with information • Tallies remained, however, a rudimentary device • Notches were unspecific and could mean anything • Quantitative information on the bones were entered according to the basic principle of one-to- one correspondence , which consisted of matching each unit of group to be tallies with one notch • Could only handle one type of data at a time • Also possible that many preliterate societies used pebbles, twigs, or grains for counting 1. Pebbles lacked the capacity to indicate what item was being counted (like bones) 2. They were non-specific, pebbles and twigs did not allow one to keep track of more than a single category at a time 3. May be presumed that the loose counters were used in the cumbersome method of one- to-one correspondence (each representing one unit with no abstract numbers) Neolithic System • Primary singularly of the tokens is that they were entirely manmade • Tokens were artifacts created in specific shapes from an amorphous clay mass for the unique purpose of communication and keeping record • Tokens were entire new medium • Each clay token was itself a distinct sign with a single significance • The tokens were concept signs (each token stands for a single concept) • This new medium created a system • There was an entire repertory of interrelated types of tokens, each with a corresponding discrete meaning • Token system was the first code- the earliest system of signs used for transmitting information  Repertory of shapes was systematized  May be presumed that tokens were used according to a rudimentary syntax (likely that counters were lined up on the accountant’s table in a hierarchical order, starting on the right with tokens representing the largest units • Token system owed little to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods • Clay was easy to work with • Format of moveable units was one of the very few features that tokens adopted from the past • Such a format enhanced data manipulation • Token system was unique in the kind of information it conveyed, whereas Paleolithic iconic art evoked cosmological figures • Paleolithic or Mesolithic tallies may have counted time, the tokens dealt with economic data • Tallies recorded quantitative and tokens records qualitative • Humans can only identify small sets by pattern recognition • The inability to abstract numbers lead to the token system collapse • The Neolithic symbolic system of clay tokens had the following advantages: The system was simple:  Clay was a common material  Form of tokens were plain and easy to duplicate  Based on one-to-one correspondence, simplest system when dealing with quantities  Tokens stood for units of goods • But, tokens were not easy to transport, fragile, not universal, not currency, too many symbols, too little time, time consuming Code allowed new performances in data processing and communications  Able to handle/store unlimited quantity of data  Brought flexibility to manipulation of information  Enhanced logic and rational decision making • Code was also timely, was an intrinsic part of the Neolithic Revolution Turning point in Communication and data source • Considered second step in the evolution of communication and data processing • Main debt of the token system to Paleolithic and Mesolithic tallies was the principle of abstracting data • Tokens laid groundwork for the invention of pictographic writing • Presaged the Sumerian writing system by the following features: 1. Semanticity (tokens were meaningful 2. Discreteness (information was specific) 3. Systematization (each token was systematically repeated in order to carry same meaning) 4. Codification (consisted of multiplicity of interrelated elements 5. Openness (store an unlimited quantity of information) 6. Arbitrariness (many token forms were abstract) 7. Discontinuity (tokens of closely related shapes could refer to unrelated concepts) 8. Independence of phonetics (Independent of spoken language) 9. Syntax (organized according to set rules) 10. Economic content (information concerning real goods) • Drawback of the token system was its format • Tokens were tangible and easy to manipulate • System was constricted to keeping track of small amounts of goods • The system was inefficient because each commodity was expressed by a special token and thus required an ever-growing repertory of counters • Writing did away with the greatest inadequacies of the token system by bringing 4 major innovations to data storage and communication 1. Pictographs held info permanently 2. More diversity of information by assigning specific parts of the field 3. Writing put an end to the repetition in one-to-one correspondence of symbols • Numerals were created • Symbols consisting of funerary offerings and body paintings, show that Neanderthal humans had developed rituals • Tokens represented a precise unit of a particular good • Writing invented (3100 BC) • Neolithic tokens constitute a major turning point in information processing • They inherited from Paleolithic devices the method of abstracting data • System of tokens can be credited as the first use of signs to manipulate concrete commodities of daily life • Paleolithic symbols dealt with rituals and tallies recorded time • Clay symbols provided the first means of supplementing language Origins of Writing: p. 27-33 September 20 th The function of writing • Writing and literacy are generally seen as forces for good • Political readers have always used writing for propaganda purposes • “Writing”, wrote H.G. Wells, “puts agreements, laws, commandments on record • Made growth of states larger than the old city -states possible • Another purpose of writing is to predict the future • In china, questions about the future were written on “oracle bones” (turtle shell, ox bones) • Anyone who was anyone among ancient rules required a personal seal for signing clay tablets and other inscriptions (stone seals) • Writing used for accountancy was much more common than that on seals and tags • The earliest writing of all , on Sumerian clay tablets from Mesopotamia, concerns lists of raw material and products, such as barely and beer, lists of laborers and their tasks, list of field areas and their owners, the income and outgoings of temples, and so forth- all with calculations concerning production levels, delivery dates, locations and debts Origins of Writing • Writing began with accountancy • Writing developed as a direct consequence of the compelling demands of an expanding economy • The complexity of trade and administration in the early cities of Mesopotamia reached a point at which it outstripped the power of memory and government elite • Recording transactions in a dependable, permanent form became essential • Pictographic origin is how writing emerged (pictorial representations of concrete objects) • Many regard it as the result of evolution over a long period, rather than a flash of inspiration • Writing grew out of a long-standing counting system of clay “tokens” • Rebus Principle was essential to the development of writing (the radical idea that a pictograph symbol could be used for its phonetic value) The Development of Writing • Did writing then diffuse throughout the globe from Mesopotamia? • The idea of writing, did spread gradually from culture to distant culture • Writing developed independently in the major civilizations of the ancient world Script, Speech, and Language • Punctuation marks, semantic symbols etc. are sometimes called logograms • All scripts that are full writing- that is, a “system of graphic symbols that can be used to convey any and all thought” • Scripts use symbols to represent sounds (i.e. phonetic signs) • What differs is the proportion of phonetic to semantic signs Modern “Hieroglyphs” • Writing and reading would work best (maybe) if more logograms standing for whole words were used (like in Chinese and Japanese languages) • Why is it desirable to have a sound-based script? • “Hieroglyphs” are striking back- beside highways, at airports, on maps, in weather forecasts, on clothes labels, on computer screens and on electronic goods including the keyboard of one’s word processor • Some people like to imagine that we can invent an entire written language for universal communication Media in Antiquity: In Class notes CS-100 September 21 st Twitter project: • Informational and promotional (Google fun facts about Marconi) • Relevance with the audience • Grammar • Creativity • Humor • Competitive and Comparative • Gallery now open! What is Communication? • From Latin communication, noun of action from communicare to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform, join, unite, participate in, to make common • What do we put in common through communications? Ideas, stories, emotions, information, goods, news etc. • What means (or channels) do we use to communicate? We use oral language, written language, sign language, books, smartphones, computers etc. • These are inter-media-ries (above) • Other means of communication are taken for granted • Media comes from Latin medium • Generally refers to mass media since the 1920s with the rise of national radio broadcasters and the large diffusion of newspapers and magazines • Signifies in the mass media context a means for communicating to a public or an audience • 1980s and 1990s older forms of media were threatened by modern forms of media (ie personal computer takes over older forms of media) • First Mac in 1984 • ICT – informational communication technologies • Media are understood more broadly as auxiliaries of one’s presence in time and space • “All media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, amplification of an organ, sense or function (..) man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in.” –Interview with Marshall McLunhan, Playboy Magazine, March 1969 • The work of media is also to represent (presenting something again and representing something, ex. sending a letter overseas to a friend, your presence is there, the letter represents you and Facebook comments represent the presence of your friend.) • Stop signs represent authority, they are the extension of authority to create presence of authority • Homo sapiens is the only species using signs and symbols to organize the world • Speech becomes represented in signs and symbols (ex. Sign by crocodile infested rivers to warn people are a sign of human presence) • Evolved because of communication • Human behaviour can be described as a constant distantiation from the natural world: 1. Through the language (signs and symbols) we were able to have emancipation from time and space 2. Through tools (techniques) –emancipation of the human body itself (extensions of human capacity, ex. Forks and knives are intermediaries and they do the work of your teeth) • “The human is a distantiated animal” –Flusser • “Symbols are things whose special meanings allow us to conceive, express, and communicate ideas.” –(CIH, p.5) • Transition from perceivable to conceivable • Ex. The symbol of the heart communicates love • Symbols: **for exam be able to apply examples of symbols to these factors -may be objects, images, sounds, gestures, etc. -are learned -are ephemeral (won’t last over time- especially oral language because we don’t have anywhere to keep them in time and space, ex. “Tweet” is a brand new term -are arbitrary (no relations between the heart and love) • Signs are a sub-categories of symbols and refer to something other than themselves • Generally speaking, symbols represent ideas (such as love) while signs represent things or concrete actions (such as a tree). CIH, p. 5 • All human communication involves symbols and signs. Both are organized in systems called “codes”. • Ex. Lacoste sign in uptown waterloo symbolizes Lacoste because of its placement and representation • A sign IS NOT for which it stands, it is a representation of something else • The earliest precursor of writing: symbols used for commerce -old Stone Age begins at 2 million BC -First evidence of paleolithic religious beliefs at 28, 000 BC -New Stone Age begins (agricultural revolution) at 8000 BC • “The token system was, in fact, the first code- the earliest system of signs used for transmitting information (…) The token system was transmitted as a full-fledged code from community to community, ultimately spreading throughout the entire Near East, with each token from preserving the same meaning.” –CIH p.8-9 • The token system was a representation of other objects (ex. Representing types of sheep by different shapes or rock in a ball of clay for trading) • There is a problem with format when there is increased quantity (can’t represent 1000 sheep with rocks) • Created system that one rock created a dozen sheep for example to adapt to this • Created variations between time and space so you didn’t have to physically be there with your sheep in trade • EXAM Q: **What source of information did this system (token system) reveal? (quantitative and qualitative)  Early tokens • Advantage of the Neolithic symbolic system: -Simple -The code allowed new performances in data processing -different symbols now represented numerous amounts of sheep • Clay tablets were the first surfaces where writing could be found • Reed carved wet clay • “Cuneiform writing was characterized by triangles and the massing of parallel lines.” –CIH p.8 Litthate Culture: Writing- in Class notes September 28 • Bone marks, cave writings, clay were first marks of communication • About tabulation and keeping track (commerce) • Take material world occurrence and make it abstract • Cuneiform writing was the first form of writing we have (wedges) and represents a big shift in human communication: information becomes abstract, no longer material, but symbolic • Innis points out that early writing had to take place very quickly (before clay dries) • Oral to written- oral to textual- shift of information • No parallel between events and language on the page (no visual representation) • Live in predominately symbolic money • Economy based on symbolic representation of money (not actually there- money is in circulation and invested in various places) • Money is an abstract idea • 3 types of writing systems: o Pictographic (visual representation of what’s happening) o Logographic (abstraction from pictorial representations- writing) o Phonographic (complex, correspondence between sounds of words we day and the words that we write down- language that we seek now- connection between how words sound and look) • Pictogram or pictographs= pictorial representations of concrete objects (CIH p. 29) The pictogram resembles object it represents • Logogram= a sign or a character representing a word. The logogram does not resemble that for which it stands (ex. Chinese symbols, Twitter logo)- entire symbols standing for words • Phonogram= a symbol representing a vocal sound (ex. Alphabet) • Still use pictographs today (more than 200 years ago)- became standardized and globalized • Became highly stylized over time (pictographs) • Robinson argues that “modern hieroglyphs” are “striking back” (CIH, p.32) • Problems with logographic representations: o Language barriers o Culture barriers • Problems with pictographic representations: o Cultural barriers What is a primary oral culture? • A culture that has no texts and no reliance on writing • A culture that is based on the production of sound • Sound is: evanescent, dynamic, constantly in movement • Challenge for these cultures is to organize material for recall • According to Ong, knowledge in oral cultures is limited and group minded • Sound is ephemeral- does not last over time You know what you can recall? • Human memory vs. Technological memory • Now store information online, dates of events etc. • Extra somatic (outside the body) storage (internet, computers) Characteristics of oral and literate culture, Walter J. Ong Oral Culture • Main media: orality (sound) • Type of knowledge: proverbs, legends, magic, subjective knowledge • Social values: spontaneity and collectively • Transmission of knowledge: mnemonic techniques for recalling (pre-hostory) • Don’t have history Literate Culture • Main media: Literacy (text) • Type of knowledge: objective and scientific • Social values: isolation and individuality • Transmission of knowledge: Inscription techniques for recalling (history) • Do have history because they can write it down A Great Orality/Literacy Divide • “The trouble with the categories is that they are rooted in a we/they division which is both binary and ethnocentric. (…) We speak in terms of primitive and advanced, almost as if human minds themselves differed in their structure like machines of an earlier and later design.” Jack Goody The domestication of the savage mind p.1 “Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society” – McLuhan • Ong would argue that texting is an eroding of our linguistic skills Are we Living in a “Secondary Orality”? –Walter Ong • “At the same time, with telephone, radio, television and various kinds of sound tape, electronic technology has brought us into the age of “secondary orality”. This new orality has striking resemblances to the old in its participatory mystique, its fostering of a communal sense, its concentration on the present moment and even its use of formulas” (Walter Ong, CIH, p. 54) Is the internet a return to oral culture? Communication • About power • Oral societies- everyone can see , hear, participate • Literate societies • Developments in communications- enlarge audiences while narrowing control over transmission Question everything • Do you buy this? • What ideas about communication have to be in place for this to be the case? • How does this apply to the media you use today (tv, cell phones) Week 3 Readings p. 36, 37, 14-21, 49-55 September 28 2012 Tradition of Western Literacy • Writing enabled civilizations employing it to achieve a size and complexity unparalleled previously • In Egypt and Babylonia, writing developed an auditory dimension • Represented the sound uttered when the object was spoken • Sound signs (phonograms) added to possibilities of writing • Myths and histories were transcribed • Full time scribes were necessary • Situation was challenged by the 22-character Phoenician alphabet • Greek literacy is still not modern literacy as we know • Text provides a glimpse of the conceptual directions that would become dominant after the advent of moveable type printing • Readers should not assume literate is superior to oral in terms of some absolute measure of intelligence- the differences are cultural • The world of primary oral cultures is rich in metaphor, nonlineal creative thought, and memory stepped in a multi-sensory apprehension of the world • Genius is a legacy of both the oral and literate worlds • Ong contributes by showing how secondary orality has become a key element in the way electronic media operates Media in Ancient Empires Stone to Papyrus • Disturbances in Egyptian civilization involved in the shift from absolute monarchy to a more democratic organization Papyrus Technology • Papyrus as a writing medium was extremely light (made of plant) • Brushes made from a kind of rush were used for writing • Time consuming to make • Restricted to governments, financial institutions and religious purposes • Easy to transport and easier to write on • Mediums shape the way we can form our message- adapted to papyrus Thought Gained Lightness • Writing in stone was characterized by straightness or circularity of line, rectangularity of form, and an upright position • Papyrus permitted rapid writing • Stone is heavy medium • A marked increase in writing by hand was accompanied by the secularization of writing, thought, and activity Organizing of Scribes • Writing had been restricted to governmental fiscal, magical and religious purposes • After 2000 BC the central administration employed an army of scribes, and literacy was valued as a stepping-stone to prosperity and social rank • Scribes were in higher positions of society Effects of Writing and Equality • New religions 1. The spread of writing after the democratic revolution was accompanied by the emergence of new religions • Magic and Writing 1. As the inventory of speech and writing (Thoth), he became the writer of magic writing 2. Words were imbued with power 3. Magic and religion alike were sacred, they became independent 4. Preserved gods of the Universe Effects of Change • Invasion 1. The shift from dependence on stone to dependence on papyrus and the changes in political and religious institutions imposed an enormous strain on Egyptian Civilization 2. Egypt succumbed to invasion from peoples equipped with new instruments of attack • Cultural Resistance 1. Egyptian cultural elements resisted alien encroachments and facilitated reorganizations and the launching of a counterattack 2. The conquerors adopted hieroglyphic writing 3. Complexity of these made it possible to avoid invaders • Priests, Property and Power 1. Monarchical centralization was accompanied by religious centralization 2. Problems of dynastic right in the royal family gave them additional power • Magic and Medicine 1. Medicine and Surgery had advanced since mummification had familiarized the popular mind with dissection of the human body 2. Thoth became god of Magic 3. After Hyksos invasion, medicine became a matter of rites and formulae The City-States of Sumer • In Egypt, the ability to measure time and to predict the dates of floods of the Nile became the basis of power • Sumer was a land of small city-states in which the chief priest of the temple was the direct representative of God • Writing was invented in Sumer to keep tallies and to make lists and was an outgrowth of math • Temple offices became continuing and permanent corporations • Specialization and increased wealth brought rivalry and conflict • Clay and Cuneiform 1. Alluvial clay found in Babylonia and Assyria was used for making brick and as a medium in writing 2. Fine clay was well kneaded and made into biscuits or tablets 3. Making of straight lines tended to pull up the clay, and a cylindrical reed stylus was stamped on the tablet 4. Tablet was laid on sharp edge, if the tip was pressed deeply, a true wedge or cuneiform appeared in the tablet 5. Economy of effect demanded a shift from the pictograph to formal patterns 6. Cuneiform writing was characterized by triangles and the massing of parallel lines 7. Conventionalization of pictographs began with signs most frequently used and advanced rapidly with the replacement of strokes by wedges 8. Many signs were taken to represent syllables 9. By 2900 BC the form of the script and the use of signs had been fully developed, and by 2825 BC, the direction of writing and the arrangement of words according to their logical position in the sentence had been established 10. Concrete pictographs involved an elaborate vocabulary with large numbers of items 11. to show modifications of the original meaning, signs were added to the pictures 12. Intro of syllabic signs in a vocabulary that was largely monosyllabic 13. Cuneiform writing was partly syllabic and partly ideographic Clay and Social Organization • Religious Power 1. Adaptability to communication over long distances emphasized uniformity in writing 2. Extensive commercial activity took place and required a large amount of professional scribes 3. Special emphasis was given to grammar and math 4. The art of writing as the basis of education was controlled by priests, scribes, teachers and judges 5. Characteristics of clay favored conventionalization of writing 6. Abstraction was furthered by the necessity of keeping accounts and the use of math, particularly in trade between communities 7. Control of religion over writing and education entailed a neglect of technological change and military strength Orality, Literacy and Modern Media • Literate persons can only with great difficultly image what a primary oral culture (a culture with no knowledge whatsoever of writing or even a possibility of writing) is • Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual. They are sounds. They have no focus and no trace • Sound exists only when it is going out of existence (When I pronounce a word, the first syllable is already gone by the time you get to the second) • Oral people commonly consider words to have great power • All sound is dynamic (comes from inside living organisms) • Deeply typographic folk forget to think of words as primarily oral, as events, and hence as necessarily powered: for them, words tend to assimilate to things on a flat surface • Oral people commonly think of names (one kind of words) as conveying power over things 1. Names give human beings power over what they name 2. Chirographic and typographic folk tend to think of names with labels • Written or printed representations of words can be labels, real, spoken words cannot be  You know what you can recall: Mnemonics and Formulas • In oral culture, restriction of words to sound determines not only modes of expression but also thought process • You know what you can recall applies to oral culture • An oral culture has no texts • In the absence of any writing, there is nothing outside the thinker, no text, to enable him or her to produce the same line of thought again or even to verify whether he or she has done so or not • Aides-memoire such as notched sticks or a series of carefully arranged objects will not themselves retrieve a complicated series of assertions • Sustained thought in an oral culture is ties to communication • Your thought must come into being a heavily rhythmic, balanced patterns, in repetitions or antitheses, in alliterations and assonances, in epithetic and other formulary expressions, in stared thematic settings in proverbs which are constantly heard by everyone so that they come to mind readily and which themselves are patterned for retention and ready recall or in other mnemonic form • Oral based thought tends to be highly rhythmic for rhythm aids recall, even
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