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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 12. Doing Media Ecology


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· 12 ·


The rhizomatic nature of media ecology resists the kind of tidy, linear process of analysis typically carried out when conducting rhetorical analysis or interpretive analysis of any kind. In fact, the kind of investigation most often associated with Marshall McLuhan is the probe, which, by definition, is exploratory. Moreover, as this textbook has shown, the field is bejeweled with many, diverse approaches to the media ecological exploration of persons, processes, phenomena, features, cultures, and technologies. Numerous approaches to “doing” media ecology have been identified in the book.

This first section of the chapter reviews some of the broadest areas of media ecological research featured in the book. It presents approaches or orientations more than methods of media ecology. Later in the chapter, I feature a generic model or map that a student-scholar seeking some footing in conducting media ecology research might use. But whatever approach the student-scholar takes, pattern recognition should characterize even the free-spirit’s exploration. ← 233 | 234 →

Multiple Approaches

One finds the search for patterns played out in various approaches. Historical Research engages in the investigation of the history of technology. A student-scholar undertaking such an approach is especially attentive to changes in technology that precipitate or surround changes in culture and society. Among the notables who undertook this approach featured in the book are James Carey, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Eric Havelock, Lewis Mumford, and Walter Ong. As these scholars have shown,...

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