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Communication Theories in a Multicultural World


Clifford G. Christians and Kaarle Nordenstreng

This volume is an up-to-date account of communication theories from around the world.
Authored by a group of eminent scholars, each chapter is a history and state-of-the-art description of the major issues in international communication theory.
While the book draws on an understanding of communication theory as a product of its socio-political and cultural context, and the challenges posed by that context, it also highlights each author’s lifetime effort to critique the existing trends in communication theory and bring out the very best in each multicultural context.
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16 Media Ecology



Media ecology describes a general approach to communication rather than a specific theory or set of theories. Unlike more empirically derived theories, its explanatory potential lies in its ability to move from a general overarching view of communication to more specific individual behaviors. The approach itself begins with a metaphor—that of an ecosystem—and applies it in various ways to communication. That it applies the metaphor to both the physical infrastructure of communication and to the cultural or intellectual world of communication gives it added breadth. In addition, media ecology accepts broad or even polysemic definitions of “media” and “communication,” including, as we shall see, language, technologies, artificial environments, human interaction, programming, and other kinds of communication content.

Media ecology rests on two defining metaphors: that of ecology and that of media (Postman, 2006/2000, p. 62). First, the ecology metaphor refers to a biological ecosystem. Such a system describes, for example, an interacting group of physical environment, plants, animals, and other factors that create a stable but changing system. First coined in 1930 by Roy Clapham “to denote the physical and biological components of an environment considered in relation to each other as a unit,” the term “ecosystem” defines “a system that includes all living organisms … in an area as well as its physical environment … functioning together as a unit” (Biology Online, 2008). ← 255 | 256 →

The second key metaphor—“medium”—also comes from biology, though it can describe a number of other things...

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