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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 11. Language Studies


← 210 | 211 →

· 11 ·


Most of the “media” considered in this text, and more broadly in the field of media ecology, pertains to the conventional understanding of the term. The word conjures television, radio, books, Smartphones, the Internet, social media, and other technical instruments. Yet at the root of media ecology has always been the human senses, which all these “media” were understood to amplify or amputate in regulating the sensory grasp of reality.

The media ecologists in this chapter focus on linguistic systems and other symbolic forms as mediators of reality. Their principal concern is on the intertwining of language and culture and the effects on consciousness and cognition. Alfred Korzybski probes the interplay between time, the human nervous system, the physical and psychological environment, and language. Susanne Langer identifies signs and discursive and presentational systems that shed light on the nature of symbolic representation and how it functions in its various transformations and in the constructive process of human thought and response. And Benjamin Lee Whorf explores the interrelationship between language, culture, and cognition. This intersection of language, culture, and consciousness establishes these figures as forerunners in the field of media ecology. ← 211 | 212 →

Alfred Korzybski: Mapping Semantic Environments

The explorations into the human-medium experience proceed typically as humanities studies. Approaches are philosophical, literary, and speculative. Alfred Habdank Korzybski (1879–1950) stands as an exception to this overall investigative orientation. He seeks to “map” it...

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