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CMST 1A03 Chapter Notes -Digital Divide, High Tech, Meritocracy


Department
Communication Studies
Course Code
CMST 1A03
Professor
Alexandre Sevigny

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Communication Studies 1A03 Study Guide: Intro to Communication Readings
Minerva’s Owl by Harold Innis
- “Minerva’s owl takes flight at dusk”: communications travel through peaks and valleys.
Creativity and learning attain their highest level only when a society has begun to decline.
- Time Binding Media/Societies: Oral or hand written, stands the test of time because it
is very durable (and hard to work with). Requires concrete thinking (less possibility for
abstraction) and a conserved knowledge of a practical and religious nature. Examples include
pyramids and stone tablets. Values tradition over progress.
- Space Binding Media/Societies: Medias are easier to work with and contain more
information and are easier to transport. Greater possibility for abstraction however, societies
are materialistic and social impersonal. Examples include paper and/or e-mails.
- New media moves from the periphery of society (less structure, therefore more room
to innovate because there was less pressure from a centralizing government) towards the
centre of the Empire, transforming society as they penetrate and become more conventional in
the process. Changes in social organization were accompanied by new modes of
communication.
- Innis’ Theory on Communication: Changes in the mode of communication lie at the
heart of social, cultural and economic evolution.
The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan
- “The content of objects is less important than the fact that they exist in culture and
society” = the ‘medium is the message’ (the content of any medium is just another medium).
- The 4 Laws of the Medium: simultaneous, describes medium’s internal structure.
1. What does the medium enhance or make possible?
2. What is pushed aside or rendered obsolete by the new medium?
3. What retrieval of earlier actions or services is brought into play?
4. What is a reversal potential of the new form?
Playboy Interview by Marshall McLuhan
- McLuhan’s Theory on Media: Media extend and amplify one or another of the sense,
increasing the relative importance of that sense in the sensorium.
- Hot Media: Extend one’s senses in a HD fashion; paints an explicit sensory picture for
us, not obliging us to think or use or imaginations very much. Example: television.
- Cool Media: Gives little information, requiring the recipient to use imagination and
participation to fill in the details. Example: reading a book.
- RE: The Medium is the Message it is the participatory nature of the TV experience
that is important, not the content of the particular television image.

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An Instinct to Acquire Art by Stephen Pinker
- Language is the natural ability to shape the images and impressions that occur in
others’ brains at any given moment.
- A common language connects the members of a community, it is impossible to imagine
human life without language.
- Language is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brain; it is an “instinct”.
Not learned from role models or caregivers, not a cultural invention.
- Universal Grammar: biologically encoded in the brain, inherently known by all humans.
Chatterboxes by Stephen Pinker
- Language is universal to humankind
- There is no proof that there is one single place that is the epicentre of language
development
- Language is innate: children modify language throughout natural processes in every
generation. Can also be created from scratch (example: sign languages).
- You can possess all advantages (social class, education, good parenting, etc.) and still
not be a competent language user if you’re missing a certain gene or piece of your brain.
Mentalese by Stephen Pinker
- The brain’s language is not human language; Mentalese: “the language of the mind”,
the language that permits the brain to allow the different sense to talk to one another and then
form thoughts that make sense to you.
- The idea of thought being the same as spoken language is ‘conventional absurdity”;
example: sometimes it is not easy to find any words that will properly convey a thought.
- Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: people’s thoughts are determined by the categories made
available by their language. (Linguistic Relativity: differences among languages cause
differences in the thoughts of their speakers).
Computing Machinery and Intelligence by Alan Turing
- Turing attempts to answer the question: “can machines think?”
- The “Imitation Game”/ “Turing Test”: The object of the game is for the interrogator to
decide which is the man and which is the woman. The woman’s part is then played by a
machine and if the machine can answer questions and pretend to be human so well that the
interrogator decides wrong, it should be considered intelligent.
- Turing speculates that machines may ‘think’ but in a different way than man does
(critique of the new problem).
- Only digital computers can participate in the game because they can mimic any other
machine. Computers are universal machines.
- Turing claims that anything that could past his test is surely ‘intelligent’; a simulation
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that runs well enough can replace the original so therefore, a machine that looks like it is
thinking is indeed, thinking.
- “The Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System” may be the ultimate
difference between humans and the machines they create (refers to extrasensory perception).
If ESP turned out to exist, only a major revolution in our scientific worldview would be able to
do this phenomena justice.
Critical Discourse Analysis by Norman Fairclough
- Critical Language Study: ‘Critical’ means showing up connections which may be hidden
from people such as the connection between language, power and ideology.
- There is nothing common about “common sense” it is ideological
- Why should we engage in Critical Language Study?
1. Theoretical reason: Importance of language; raises the profile of language in
the production/power/maintenance/change of social relations of power.
2. Practical reason: Social emancipation; helps to increase awareness of how
language contributes to the domination of some people by others.
- IE: demonstrating power through language. An effective communicator must be able
to separate the agenda from the facts. (The agenda being the main point/opinion that the
writer or publishing company is trying to get across)
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff
- “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms
of another”
- Metaphors don’t tell you the whole story about an action or an experience, they evoke
certain aspects about it.
- Culturally bound; metaphors we live by do not necessarily hold in other cultures. They
can serve as a vehicle for understanding a concept only on experiential basis.
- Metaphors structure the space and time that we live in. They are reflections and
implementations of our culture, its values and priorities. Metaphors can be culturally confusing
because one needs to understand all parts of the metaphor to be able to understand.
General Characteristics of Crowds by Gustav Le Bon
- The crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual; when isolated, the
individual may be cultivated and intelligent however, in a crowd he is a barbarian acting by
instinct. “A human in a crowd descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization”
- The Collective Mind: individuality is diminished, so the heterogeneous (diverse) is
drowned by the homogenous (common) and the unconscious becomes predominant.
- 3 Characteristics Peculiar to Crowds:
1. Individual Invincibility: The individual gains a sense of invincibility because of
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