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Mapping Media Ecology

Introduction to the Field

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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 8. Technology Studies

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· 8 ·

TECHNOLOGY STUDIES

To group a selection of scholarly studies under the category of “technology studies” is to recognize that in the phalanx of media ecology theorists and themes, technology ranks as particularly salient among those grouped here. In fact, the mere mention of the names of scholars and public intellectuals listed here calls to mind actual technologies, actual technological time periods, and actual technological philosophies. But more than the technologies or media featured in the works of scholars who appear here is their doctrine that holds that human action is caused by technological forces. The charge of “technological determinism” most applies to this group.

Grouping the three scholars presented in this section should not be taken to indicate that other key themes of media ecology exert little influence within the scholarship presented here. As is the case with every theme treated in media ecological studies, it appears in a constellation of other related themes. Scholars presented in this section speak of technology in terms of how it shapes human consciousness. They are especially attentive to changes in technology and how those changes engender changes in culture. For them, the environment set by technology holds particular importance.

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