Friday, April 6, 2012

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” – REM, 2006

"[C]ivilization has been dominated at different stages by various media of communication such as clay, papyrus, parchment, and paper produced first from rags and then from wood. Each medium has its significance for the type of monopoly of knowledge which will be built and which will destroy the conditions suited to creative thought and be displaced by a new medium with its peculiar type of monopoly of knowledge."  (Innis, Harold. (1949). The Press: A Neglected Factor in the Economic History of the Twentieth Century. London: Oxford University Press, p. 5).
Do you agree with this statement? Provide examples from the history and current state of
publishing to make your argument.

            While the addition of new mediums of communication does reduce the monopoly the proceeding technology had, it does not destroy the conditions suited to creative thought. Each new communication piece is enabling – it allows more of the masses to access information and to advance knowledge. The advancement of knowledge, both humane and scientific, depends upon the human ability to think about something unexpected – a “new idea” (Crowley & Heyer, p. 57) be it from stoytelling to the telegragh, from the fax to Web 2.0.

The essential here is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Rather media users must be taught to be discerning. Information is one thing, the knowledge and wisdom that comes from it is another. As is the respect needed toward works created. The challenge resides in the education of the masses to effectively respect, interpret, and work with that which the latest medium produces. 

Below is the video that goes with the blog. Please open your itunes and select your favorite NMN song (or two - 4m50sec) while doing so to add "your own touch of creativity to the process".


Ayers, P., C. Matthews, and Yates, B.. (2008). How Wikipedia Works: And How You Can Be a Part of It. San Francisco: No Starch Press.

Brun, Axel (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second life, and Beyond : from production to produsage. Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York.

Carey, J.W. (1969). ‘Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan’, in Phelan, J, Communications Control: Readings in the Motives and Structures of Censorship, Sheed and Ward, New York, pp. 43 – 77. Retrieved from

Coppens, P. (n.d). Corpus Hermeticum. Retrieved from

Cormode, G., & Krishnamurthy, B. (2008). Key differences between Web 1.0 and Web
2.0. First Monday, 13(6), 1.

Crowley, D. J.& Heyer, P. (2006). Communication in history: technology, culture, society. llyn & Bacon/Pearson, Canada

Dittmar, J. E. (2011). Information Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of the Printing Press. Quarterly Journal Of Economics, 126(3), 1133-1172.

Eisenstein, E. L. (1979). The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and cultural transformations in early modern Europe. In , Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications & cultural transformations in early modern Europe.

Heyer, P. 2003, Harold Innis, Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland. 
MacCulloch, D., Laven, M., & Duffy, E. (2006). Recent Trends in the Study of Christianity in Sixteenth-Century Europe. Renaissance Quarterly, 59(3), 697-731.


  1. Liz, I really appreciated the synthesis of many MACT themes in your video.
    As you know I'm still planning to focus on Wikipedia for my final project, so have been reading commentary on the community from a variety of sources. Your comments on the "panopticon" aspect of the Wikipedia community, and how there are always forces that control information, even in an open source environment, are really interesting - I haven't come across anyone framing the community in quite these terms before. However, I have to agree - you never know what pages are on others' watch lists and who is watching the edits. It's an effective means to keep vandalism under control, but also a bit unnerving. The simplest edit can raise the ire or revert tool of another editor. To edit in Wikipedia is to engage in the community - the community and content become inseparable.

    On the subject of the panopticon (a word I had never heard before starting MACT - but now Foucault seems to be following me around! Is there a Foucault revival afoot, or was I just culturally impoverished before?) - I thought this was a great article about how freely we share information about ourselves online, and the implications:

    P.S. - My NMN iTunes contributions - Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant and Modern Man by Arcade Fire.

  2. I love your NMN additions, both fit the theme perfectly. Not sure on the Foucault but I think that there are a lot of fits so it makes sense ;)

  3. Liz - I really appreciated this review as well. And while I have been bemoaning the state of instruction around cursive writing this past week, your presentation was a wake up call.

    It reminded me about how new technology always disrupts what 'is', and that eventually what 'is' becomes old and so on. The time period in which we have relied on the hand (cursive) written word is short indeed and I have no doubt that how we 'know' and 'remember' changes and adapts as we move on.

    It's interesting as well to note that the methods for helping us 'know' and 'remember' have changed as the sheer amount of information to 'know' and 'remember' has increased; not sure if the amount of information has caused the need for new tools, or if the new tools have paved the way for more information. I suspect a little of both.

    But if you think of the printing press, it was a technology that allowed the amount of information that could be accessed by people to blossom in a way that just could not have happened before. It allowed people to put what they 'knew' in print and that created the opportunity for other people to expand their knowledge. Subsequent technologies have deepened the amount of information and its availability. To the point now that the amount of information in print or on the screen in the world today is beyond any one person to 'know' or 'memorize.'

    But the concerns remain valid through the ages. No doubt the ability to write down information meant people didn't have to retain it in their memory, and they might not 'know' it in the same way. But society progressed. If we lose the ability to write and rely only on a screen for information, do we lose the ability to 'know' because we don't physically interact with the information as we do using a pen and paper? Will this produce "forgetfulness in the minds of those who use it" as Socrates suggested.

  4. Great video, Liz. I particularly enjoyed the use of humour sprinkled throughout the analysis.

    The example of Apple's iCloud as an attempt to become a monopoly was a revelation for me. I have used iCloud because I wanted to be able to access my images from multiple computers, but it never occurred to me that it was another way of building a monopoly. Now that I look back, I'm surprised I missed it!

    Google Plus, the Rogers One Number, Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts are the new login standards. I am wary about accessing services such as Netflix or iPhone apps with my Facebook account because not only am I giving them my information, I am giving them my friends' and family's information as well. In the past, I resented giving companies my date of birth as part of the login system. But if I login using Facebook, they can find out so much more! I think I need to improve on my transliteracy skills for keeping my private information private.

  5. Hillary, I've also hesitated about connecting Facebook with other apps or user accounts for services such as Netflix. Facebook's business model requires it to be a giant data collector, and something as innocuous as clicking "like" can have unexpected repercussions. A Facebook user in BC has started a lawsuit against Facebook after appearing in one of the "sponsored story" advertisements. She argues that her "liking" a company does not give Facebook the right to feature her in an endorsement ad.

    I agree with you that awareness of this kind of issue needs to be part of transliteracy. The most popular social media platforms - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ - are run by for-profit organizations. We tend to forget that these services aren't actually "free" - the price of admission to these platforms is the data they are able to collect on us. Which is all well and fine until they start using it in ways we don't like.