Harold Innis

Having found this site (see previous Item) and noted the paucity of references to him, here he is again, Harold Innis:

“Innis sees communication media as extensions of the human mind and believes that the primary interest of any historical period is a kind of bias resulting from the predominant media in use. In other words, what happens, and what seems significant in a historical period are determined by the media.

“Heavy media such as parchment, clay, or stone are lasting and therefore time-binding. Because they facilitate communication from one generation to another, these media favored relatively close communities, metaphysical speculation, and traditional authority.

“In contrast, space-binding media such as paper are light and easy to transport, so they facilitate communication from one location to another, fostering empire building, large bureaucracy, commercialism, and the military.

“Speech as a medium, because it is produced one sound at a time, encourages people to organise their experience chronologically. Speech also requires knowledge and tradition and therefore supports community and relationship. Written media, which are spatially arranged, produce a different kind of culture. The space-binding effect of writing produces interests in polotical authority and the growth of empires across the land.

“Innis grew increasingly pessimistic later in life. Changes in communication technology were seen as a revaluation of community and a of loss culture and freedom. What Innis saw most clearly was that the main meaning of electronics was not in the provision of entertainment and information through radio and television. he recognized that the speed and distance of electronic communication enlarged the possible scale of social organization and greatly enhanced the possibilities of centralization and imperialism in matters of culture and politics.”

Update: There are two spellings of Innis on the site but I have (I think) corrected this item to Innis.

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