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Mapping Media Ecology

Introduction to the Field


Dennis D. Cali

Until now, the academic foundations of media ecology have been passed down primarily in the form of edited volumes, often by students of Neil Postman, or are limited to a focus on Marshall McLuhan and/or Postman or some other individual important to the field. Those volumes are invaluable in pointing to key ideas in the field; they provide an important and informed account of the fundamentals of media ecology as set forth at the field’s inception. Yet there is more to the story.

Offering an accessible introduction, and written from the perspective of a «second generation» scholar, this single-authored work provides a unified, systematic framework for the study of media ecology. It identifies the key themes, processes, and figures in media ecology that have coalesced over the last few decades and presents an elegant schema with which to engage future exploration of the role of media in shaping culture and consciousness.

Dennis D. Cali offers a survey of a field as consequential as it is fascinating. Designed to be used primarily in media and communication courses, the book’s goal is to hone insight into the role of media in society and to extend the understanding of the themes, processes, and interactions of media ecology to an ever-broader intellectual community.

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Chapter 3. What Are the Margins of Media Ecology?


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The consideration of various perspectives on media ecology in Chapter 1 and an inventorying of key themes in media ecology in Chapter 2 provide an orientation to the nature, function, and scope of the field of study. At the same time, these dimensions of the field might also create some confusion in their similarity to other intellectual pursuits with similar features and areas of concern. This chapter attempts to position media ecology alongside related scholarly endeavors so that in seeing how media ecology is both similar and dissimilar to these other areas, the reader might arrive at a more refined understanding of the field that is the subject of this book. Indeed, one finds elements of these “adjacent” media pursuits present even within media ecological studies sketched in this book.

It should be noted at the outset, however, that these other pursuits with which media ecology will be compared are themselves not easily defined or delineated. Their ambiguity may be due to the fact their common area of study—media—are so ubiquitous and evolving that capturing any similarities in the intellectual investigations of media inherently resists tidy demarcation. Nevertheless, in locating these adjacent areas of study, one can become ← 49 | 50 → more aware of many facets of media studies that lend themselves to systematic inquiry.

The areas with which media ecology will be compared are the following: the philosophy...

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