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The tension between civilization and wilderness in canada

In this paper particular attention is given to two issues. It was then that Harold Adams Innis 1894—1952 switched his research foci from the staples theory of Canadian economic history and contemporary issues in Canadian political economy to the significance of media and communication in world history.

  1. Such bindings were produced separately from the book itself and typically attached to the text block using gauze secured by the endpapers. Whereas much contemporary scholarship addresses individual acts of communication, from which conclusions regarding communicatory processes are inferred, Innis theorized connections between media and civilization change.
  2. His justification for adopting this literary approach to media analysis was that language is a technology i.
  3. Power is exercised through the use and control of media.

In his preface to Empire and Communications, the first of his three media books,1 Innis remarked that celebrated writers like Kroeber, Mead, Marx, Mosca, Pareto, Sorokin, Spengler, Toynbee and Veblen had understood, albeit usually implicitly, media and communication as being of central importance to the shaping of modern civilization. Innis then declared that his goal was to develop a more explicit and detailed understanding of the implications of communication for civilization Innis, 1972: Innis certainly was not the first to theorize about communication or media.

In antiquity, Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, among others, had analyzed rhetoric, the art of persuasion. Even in Canada, Innis was not first. Innis, though, was both heuristic and an original. It designates a research approach and theoretical stance whereby media and communication are placed at the very centre of world and local historical analyses. It deals prominently with power relations, a topic routinely and meticulously avoided by mainstream American writers.

It also provides a non-Marxist alternative to, but is surprising consistent with, the writings of the Frankfurt School Babe, 2009. Beginnings are seldom easy. He was president of both the Canadian and American economics associations and of the Royal Society of Canada, for example. During those very same final years, however, he struggled alone, virtually an outcast in developing his media work Havelock, 1982: Even today, more than a half century later, outside of Canada Innis is still largely ignored.

In their recent historical surveys of radical media criticism, Scott and McChesney, for example, leave unmentioned one of the U. In what purports to be a detailed review of the communication literature in historical perspective, Jesse Delia did little better, according Innis just one brief mention Delia, 1987: Ironically, though, even here his work on media owes its contemporary life to dubious4 endorsements by his erstwhile disciple, Marshall McLuhan, and to thirty years of exegeses of a quintessentially American scholar, James W.

I have argued elsewhere, however, that Innis in fact generated, or better anticipated, a distinctly Canadian mode of media scholarship that can even be recognized in the the tension between civilization and wilderness in canada of property by political philosopher Crawford B.

Macpherson, in the ecological studies of David Suzuki, in the literary criticism of Northrop Frye, in the technology critique by George Grant, and in elements of the political philosophy of John Ralston Saul Babe, 2000; Babe, 2009.

These are all scholars of the first order. Space does not permit drawing all these and other connections here. Nor would all those listed necessarily have been conscious of their Innisian lineage. Nonetheless, the essential point is that although Innis somehow struck a responsive chord with a large swathe of Canadian scholarship, he has the tension between civilization and wilderness in canada thus far to resonate in the USA or overseas, even though his resonance in Canada assuredly goes well beyond media studies narrowly considered.

First, although concentrating certainly on orality and various modes of writing, Innis at one time or another considered also roads, railways, canals, money, skyscrapers, beaver pelts, lumber, electricity, and fish to be media of communication. Second, for Innis, governance entails communication, and communication requires media.

The Collection

Power is exercised through the use and control of media. Control can be understood as comprising two dimensions, namely control over space and control through time. Space concerns the geographic extent of control empirewhile time indicates endurance or duration.

Control in both senses entails and requires substantial control over the predominant media of communication, which is to say over the means of mediating human interactions. Control through time entails control over the customs, legends, myths, languages, symbolisms, religions, ideals, beliefs, and so forth, of a people.

Control over space requires the capacity to instantaneously dispatch orders and to be apprised as to whether they are being carried out, to monitor conditions from afar and to respond accordingly. Innis was, then, a political economist who understood that governance necessarily impacts upon cultural systems—including ontologies, language, modes of valuation, and conceptions of time and space.

For Innis, control of culture is a necessity to achieve and maintain political-economic power. For Innis, control not only of the vernacular, but also of scholarship, is key to political-economic power.

Third, media of communication are intrinsically biased toward favouring control over space or control through time. The time-space bias of any particular medium is given, in part, by its physical properties.

  • Third, Innis was a political economist;
  • It designates a research approach and theoretical stance whereby media and communication are placed at the very centre of world and local historical analyses.

Media that emphasize time are those that are durable in character, such as parchment, clay, and stone. The heavy materials are suited to the development of architecture and sculpture. Media that emphasize space are apt to be less durable and light in character, such as papyrus and paper. The latter are suited to wide areas in administration and trade. Although paper was invented in China centuries before its use became common in Europe, for example, the political-economic conditions in ancient China coupled with the absence of a phonetic alphabet meant that paper in China did not have the dramatic space-bias that it later had in Europe.

Fourth, the task of proper governance is, in part, to overcome the bias inherent to media predominant at any particular time: Fifth, Innis anchored his theory in the material conditions of a society or civilization.

For example, in ancient Egypt hieroglyphics carved in stone favoured a priesthood ruling a time-bound society, whereas use of papyrus later benefited a scribal class and encouraged mathematics and science.

Wilderness and Civilized Domesticity: Adventurous Boys and Resourceful Girls

Sixth, in contemporary society, space-biased media the press, radio were seen by Innis as outpacing time-binding media orality, books, architecture ; connections with the past were becoming weak, as was a concern for the future. Innis, however, was neither Hegelian nor Marxist. For him, the cessation of contradiction, that is a termination of the dialectic, was not to be desired.

In his dialectics, rather, Innis drew upon the classics, borrowing from the Greeks the ideal of proportion or balance.

Civilizing the Wilderness

Most importantly, Innis emphasized both the desirability and difficulty of attaining, and maintaining, tension between space and time as societal organizing principles and, by implication, between the classes or groups supporting these divergent principles. He regarded in apocalyptic terms the current imbalance whereby space is overwhelming time. Rather, it is dynamic, ever shifting, wrought by struggle and tension, achieved through countervailing power or opposition.

In his view, whatever orients people toward the past and the future, or conversely induces them to disregard the past and the future, is a medium of communication. One can do little to correct bias within a medium.

It is only the countervailing tendencies of multiple media that can ensure Innisian balance. Third, Innis was a political economist. Considerations of disparities in political, economic, communicatory, and cultural power permeate his writings. His innovative genius was to interrelate and systematize these various dimensions of power and their contestations through medium theory.

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For him, control of media is a prerequisite to political-economic power. Political-economic power is achieved and maintained, in part, through the control of culture, which in turn requires control of media. Fourth, Innis was, if anything, a holistic thinker. Whereas much contemporary scholarship addresses individual acts of communication, from which conclusions regarding communicatory processes are inferred, Innis theorized connections between media and civilization change.

The the tension between civilization and wilderness in canada a literary critic steeped in Joyce, Elliot and Pound, who delighted in his own wit and rhetorical flourishes, religiously devout with mystical explanations at the back of his mind for everything, and one who longed for cosmic consciousness as opposed to contemplating oppressive monopolies of knowledge. Nonetheless, McLuhan claimed instant recognition upon reading Innis for the first time, which he did after learning that Innis had placed his book, The Mechanical Bride, on his course reading list McLuhan, 1982: Without having studied modern art and poetry, [Innis] yet discovered how to arrange his insights in patterns that nearly resemble the art forms of our time.

Innis presents insights in a mosaic structure of seemingly unrelated and disproportioned sentences and aphorisms….

He expects the reader to make discovery after discovery that he himself had missed. This may well be true. The notes, excerpts, and ideas were then combined to comprise his lectures and book chapters Havelock, 1982: In his medium thesis, as we have seen, Innis focused on the dialectic of medium and message. Depending on the physical properties of any given medium, it is predisposed to transmit either time-binding or space-binding messages, thereby supporting elites whose power is based on the particular monopoly of knowledge made conducive by the prevailing medium.

However, Innis neglected but not entirely! McLuhan, too, was a medium theorist who drew attention to the interplay of medium and message. For example, he attributed the predominance of linear logic vs.

It is from gaps or intervals, not connections, that knowledge of proportions, and hence analogies stem. It is worth quoting McLuhan on this important insight: Perhaps the most precious possession of man is his abiding awareness of the analogy of proper proportionality, the key to all metaphysical insight and perhaps the very condition of consciousness itself.

This analogical awareness is constituted of a perpetual play of ratios: A is to B what C is to D, which is to say that the ratio between A and B is proportioned to the ratio between C and D, there being a ratio between these ratios as well. This lively awareness of the most exquisite delicacy depends upon there being no connection whatever between the components.

If A were linked to B, or C to D, mere logic would take the place of analogical perception. From his perspective as literary critic, McLuhan viewed media technologies as manifesting in the material world the same operations as occur in language. For example, McLuhan maintained that at high intensity, media flip into their opposites, a transformation referred to in literary studies as chiasmus. Innis, to the contrary, never argued that a space-binding medium pushed to the limit becomes time-binding!

His justification for adopting this literary approach to media analysis was that language is a technology i. Those masterful images because complete Grew in pure mind, but out of what began? A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street, Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can, Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut Who keeps the till.

Considered separately, Innis and McLuhan are highly heuristic. Juxtaposed and interrelated, they provide new the tension between civilization and wilderness in canada of insight, and constitute a bulwark against both poststructuralist dematerializations and undue economistic determinisms Babe, 2009. Integrating the media theses of Innis the tension between civilization and wilderness in canada McLuhan is a propitious way of integrating social science and literary approaches to communication and media studies—of reintegrating political economy and cultural studies Ibid.

Whereas Innis illustrated the time-space media dialectic through myriad examples culled from world history, Suzuki does this by contrasting the mindsets of indigenous peoples with the modern West.

Like Innis, Suzuki draws connections between differences in culture differences in conceptions of time and of space on the one hand, and predominance of different media of communication and patterns of their control monopolies of knowledge on the other. He repeatedly contrasts two disparate notions of time. The pre-scientific mind also pays close attention to recurrent natural rhythms.

Cyclical time, Suzuki continues, bestows the notion that we are all parts of a seamless web of interconnectivity and interdependence through time and space—that we live in future generations and they in us.

Suzuki writes that although science recognizes natural cycles and rhythms—the solar seasons, fluctuations of predator and prey populations, replication cycles of DNA—these expressions of cyclical time are conceived to exist only within the grander framework of linear time—for example, the relentless increase in entropy and linear chains of cause-and-effect Ibid.

According to Suzuki, we in the west are beset by what Innis called present mindedness. We think little of the past and have few concerns over what may transpire in the distant future.

Political reality is dictated by a horizon measured in months or a few years.