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Media Ecology

An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition

Lance Strate

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Media Ecology

An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition

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Lance Strate

Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition provides a long-awaited and much anticipated introduction to media ecology, a field of inquiry defined as the study of media as environments. Lance Strate presents a clear and concise explanation of an intellectual tradition concerned with much more than understanding media, but rather with understanding the conditions that shape us as human beings, drive human history, and determine the prospects for our survival as a species.

Much more than a summary, this book represents a new synthesis that moves the field forward in a manner that is both unique and unprecedented, and simultaneously grounded in an unparalleled grasp of media ecology's intellectual foundations and its relation to other disciplines. Taking as its subject matter "life, the universe, and everything," Strate describes the field as interdisciplinary and communication-centered, provides a detailed explication of McLuhan's famous aphorism, "the medium is the message," and explains that the human condition can only be understood in the context of our biophysical, technological, and symbolic environments.

Strate provides an in-depth examination of media ecology's four key terms: medium, which is defined in much broader terms than in other fields; bias, which refers to tendencies inherent in materials and methods; effects, which are best understood via the Aristotelian notion of formal causality and contemporary systems theory; and environment, which includes the distinctions between the oral, chirographic, typographic, and electronic media environments. A chapter on tools serves as a guide to further media ecological research and scholarship. This book is well suited for graduate and undergraduate courses on communication theory and philosophy.

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Amazing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman’s Brave New World Revisited

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Lance Strate

Neil Postman’s most popular work, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), provided an insightful critique of the effects of television on public discourse in America, arguing that television’s bias towards entertaining content trivializes serious issues and undermines the basis of democratic culture. Lance Strate, who earned his doctorate under Neil Postman and is one of the leading media ecology scholars of our time, re-examines Postman’s arguments, updating his analysis and critique for the twenty-first-century media environment that includes the expansion of television programming via cable and satellite as well as the Internet, the web, social media, and mobile technologies.
Integrating Postman’s arguments about television with his critique of technology in general, Strate considers the current state of journalism, politics, religion, and education in American culture. Strate also contextualizes Amusing Ourselves to Death through an examination of Postman’s life and career and the field of media ecology that Postman introduced. This is a book about our prospects for the future, which can only be based on the ways in which we think and talk about the present.
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Edited by Lance Strate

"This series is devoted to scholarship relating to media ecology, a field of inquiry defined as the study of media as environments. Within this field, the term «medium» can be defined broadly to refer to any human technology or technique, code or symbol system, invention or innovation, system or environment. Media ecology scholarship typically focuses on how technology, media, and symbolic form relate to communication, consciousness, and culture, past, present and future. This series is looking to publish research that furthers the formal development of media ecology as a field; that brings a media ecology approach to bear on specific topics of interest, including research and theoretical or philosophical investigations concerning the nature and effects of media or a specific medium; that includes studies of new and emerging technologies and the contemporary media environment as well as historical studies of media, technology, and modes and codes of communication; scholarship regarding technique and the technological society; scholarship on specific types of media and culture (e.g., oral and literate cultures, image, etc.), or of specific aspects of culture such as religion, politics, education, journalism, etc.; critical analyses of art and popular culture; and studies of how physical and symbolic environments function as media."