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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 9. Culture Studies

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← 160 | 161 →

· 9 ·

CULTURE STUDIES

A distinguishing feature of media ecology is its attention to environment and context. Technology and its biases achieve their significance in terms of the environment they create and out of which they arise. The media ecologists featured in this section pay particular attention to the specific human context of culture. They do so in widely diverse ways. James Carey observes the displacement of culture occasioned by the invention of the telegraph. To the transmission view of communication engendered by that technology, he proposes a restoration of a ritual view of communication; where the former removed the factor of space from the communication event, the latter would restore it and with it, some of the vestiges of oral society. Edmund Carpenter places himself as the field worker of culture, undertaking an anthropological study of the ways in which the introduction of some new medium alters the culture in which it is introduced. His collaboration with Marshall McLuhan helped to launch a field dedicated largely to exploring changes in culture occasioned by changes in technology. Camille Paglia shocks readers with what some regard as outrageous claims about the discontinuities in society, shedding light on principles intrinsic especially to Western popular culture. ← 161 | 162 →

James Carey: Restoring Conversation and Ritual in Communication

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