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Chapter 1

MDSA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Written Language, Iliad, Scientific Method

Media Studies
Course Code
Ted Petit

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MDSA02 CHAPTER 1: Writing
Advantages of writing:
Stores transmittable knowledge; not limited to memory; Can travel distances/shared; Can withstand generations
and centuries; Powerful tool over individuals with illiteracy
Oral Cultures
Oral cultures bases itself on two-way restricted info human dimension and human limitation
Writing splits thought from action
Knowledge in oral cultures is passed down through generations by stories; wisdom passed by elders,
Written language undergirds most of civilization, yet there have always been societies without writing most
ancient world remained illiterate (oral culture served most people)
The Beginnings
Paintings date back to caves; more recent alphabetic markings that western cultures identify as writing are diff
than drawing bc they led to the phonetic system of representing sounds that are spoken language.
It mayve begun as physical tokens representing numbers and goods
o ex. Storing info in the form of molded clay objects began about 8000 BCE in summer one theory holds
that over many centuries, triangles, spheres, cones and other tokens were molded to represent sheep,
measures of grain, + other pocessions; these tokens kept track of goods for the purpose of pooling and
redistributing a community’s resources (theory not held true by scholars)
Need for record expanded math was born; symbols indicated different quantities of something
Logograms emerged (written symbols that represented meaning) these scratches were true writing, the
representation of what someone might say
The Role of Priests
Writing became sacred priests, the keepers of the mysteries of gods, found writing as a natural fit for
Keeping records allowed them to inventory food stocks, predict weather cycles
They guarded the skill, they were aware it conferred authority
Priests chose the task of teaching selected youths. Scribal cultures developed priests educated boys in temple
schools (denying others)
From the ranks of school came an aristocratic class, public admin and priests
Literacy + education, and mediated communication, gave them advantage “the learned man rules himself
Socrates: the first to observe how media change us, he called writing “inhumane” for when confronted w/ a
contrary point of view, text is mute h/w writing has prevailed
Linguist Amalia Gnanadesikan developed the first true alphabet calling it a “dumbed down version of writing for
the illiterate”
The first true alphabet may’ve emerged about 4000 yrs ago somewhere in Egypt; copper mine managers or
military officers could learn the alphabet
According to the bible, Moses brought down more than the commands for righteous conduct, but also the very
words of God, in a form unfamiliar to the ppl gathered below
o Media ecologist Robert K.Logan, if one believes that the sight of gods speech was given as marks on
tablets convinced idol worshippers to reform their ways, Logans theory would seem to be early evidence
of the potential of media to effect change
The Greeks
The Phoenicians brought the alphabet to the Hellenic world, which spread over centuries
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