Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Chapter Notes -Elizabeth Eisenstein

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September 22, 2011
Reading Summaries
From “The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences”
Eric A. Havelock (p.10-15)
This reading focuses on the significance of the invention of the alphabet and how it
changed society. Havelock believed that with the invention of the alphabet came the invention of
literacy. The world moved farther away from being an oral society because of the alphabet.
Memorization became less important because they could easily refer back to what they had
written/read if they forgot something about it. Ideas could be written down, preserved, and taught
to future generations. To Havelock, this ability to preserve was the most important use of the
alphabet. Havelock also goes into some of the disadvantages of the early alphabet, i.e. the
alphabet could not be standardized because everyone had different handwriting (“Calligraphy…
[became] the enemy of literacy”) and it was not used much until paper became readily available.
“The Rise of the Reading Public”
Elizabeth Eisenstein (p.16-20)
In this reading Eisenstein explains how literacy changed society from a “hearing public”
to a “reading public”. A reading public is more individualistic than a hearing one because a
hearing public requires more social interaction between people around you (e.g. gathering
together to hear the news at a church sermon). With newspapers people could read silently and
alone to get the same information. There was a “weakening of local community ties” because
people were not forced to spend as much time with each other. But the weakening of local ties
brought a strengthening of distant ties. In a hearing public a person living in one town would get
the same information as his neighbour and brother, but not the same information as his cousin in
another town. But with the invention of newspapers, radio, film, etc. that man in the first town
could get the same information as his cousin in another town if they both read the same
newspaper and saw the same film in their respective towns. In politics rulers used propaganda to
gain supporters. They did not have to travel to every single town to give the same speech, it
could be broadcasted to everyone on the radio at one time. People who had never met before
could have the same experiences together through technology.
“A Cultural Approach to Communication
James Carey (p.62-66)
Carey describes a transmission view of communication and a ritual view of
communication. A transmission view is “...‘giving information to others’.”, and a ritual view is
“‘sharing’… ‘fellowship’… and ‘the possession of a common faith’.” Both views are linked to
religion. The transmission view goes back to the time when Europeans were settling other parts
of the world trying to create a “New Jerusalem”, to bring Christianity to the world (giving
information to others) “for the purpose of control”. The ritual view comes from a view of
religion where prayer and ceremony are important. This view of communication is about
drawing people with shared beliefs together in fellowship. The transmission view is most
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