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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 10. Bias Studies

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← 184 | 185 →

· 10 ·

BIAS STUDIES

Consciousness stands at the crux of media ecology, the effects of technologies on that consciousness the heart of the field. Other scholars grouped into other categories place greater emphasis on the technologies and especially on the particular properties that obtain with those technologies: their affordances. The present chapter shifts the emphasis to the mindsets themselves and, secondarily, on their technological inducements.

The term “bias” may suggest that what is intended in this chapter is some attention to partisan political matters or media bias. Or readers might expect some attention to media watchdog functions, such as fact checks. Instead, the bias intended here refers to the roles that media, broadly construed, exercise in perceiving, organizing, and communicating about reality. Harold Innis, for example, points out how certain technologies orient societies toward time and space biases and can lead to the creation and sustenance of empires and monopolies of knowledge. Daniel Boorstin directs our attention to how the news industry constructs artificial depictions of reality that pose as actual news. Jean Baudrillard depicts the entirety of postmodern social life as a kind of dream state or mythic world, sustained through images and signs, that exists detached from reality. This chapter, therefore, takes up the “biases” that the world of media impose on culture and society. ← 185 | 186 →

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