MEDIA ECOLOGY. Exploring the metaphor.


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My presentation at the Media Ecology Association Convention 2010. Objective: to explore and expand the ecological metaphor including concepts like media evolution, media extinction, human-media coevolution, etc.

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MEDIA ECOLOGY. Exploring the metaphor.

  1. 1. <ul><li>MEDIA ECOLOGY. Exploring the metaphor. </li></ul>Carlos A. Scolari - Universitat Pompeu Fabra [email_address] www.digitalismo. com - www.hipermediaciones. com - www.modernclicks. net
  2. 2. 1960 1968 N. Postman National Council of Teachers of English Conference 1971 Media Ecology program at NY University <ul><li>“ Medium Theory” Meyrowitz , J. 1985 No sense of place: the impact of electronic media on social behavior </li></ul>Media Ecology 2000 MEA Inaugural Convention 1970 1990 2000 1960s McLuhan introduces the concept in private communications 1980
  3. 3. ‘ Every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future’ (1964: 199). Jorge Luis Borges Kafka and His Precursors
  4. 4. L. Mumford J. Ellull E. Havelock J. Goody H. Innis W. Ong M. McLuhan N. Postman
  5. 5. Metaphor <ul><li>Metaphor and theory </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Metaphors matter’ (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphors are basic for scientific discourse and theoretical modelling </li></ul><ul><li>Boom of the ecological metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural ecology (1955) </li></ul><ul><li>Biosemiotics (1962) </li></ul><ul><li>Biolinguistic (1967) </li></ul><ul><li>Ecological anthropology (1968) </li></ul><ul><li>Media Ecology (1968) </li></ul><ul><li>Political ecology (1972) </li></ul><ul><li>Sociobiology (1975) </li></ul><ul><li>Human behavioral ecology (1975) </li></ul><ul><li>Industrial ecology (1989) </li></ul><ul><li>Spatial ecology (1989) </li></ul><ul><li>Ecolinguistics (1990) </li></ul><ul><li>Communicative ecology (1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Historical ecology (1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Information ecologies (1999) </li></ul>Howard and Eugene Odum (1953) Fundamentals of Ecology
  6. 6. Interpretations of metaphor (I) <ul><li>Media as environments </li></ul><ul><li>‘ ME is the study of media as environments’ (Postman, 1970). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ ME looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value (Postman, 1970). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Media are extensions’ (McLuhan, 1964). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Technology alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance’ (McLuhan, 1964). </li></ul><ul><li>This is the environmental dimension of Media Ecology: </li></ul><ul><li>media create an ‘environment’ that surrounds the individuals </li></ul><ul><li>and models their perception and cognition. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Interpretations of metaphor (II) <ul><li>Intermedia relations </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The steadying influence of the book as a product of sustain intellectual effort was destroyed by new developments in periodicals and newspapers’ (Innis, 1951). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The potential of the telegraph to transform information into a commodity might never have been realized, except for the partnership between the telegraph and the press’ (Postman, 1985). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ No medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media” (McLuhan, 1964). </li></ul><ul><li>This is the intermedia dimension of Media Ecology: </li></ul><ul><li>media are like ‘species’ that live in the same ecosystem </li></ul><ul><li>and establish relationships between them. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Exploring a scientific metaphor means analyzing the semantic universe of the analogy, translating the basic assumptions from one field to another to check the strength of the metaphor and identify new questions and challenges for media studies. I will limit my reflection to a short list of concepts: Evolution Interface Hybridization
  9. 9. Evolution <ul><li>Origins </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) </li></ul><ul><li>Dictionary </li></ul><ul><li>Mutation, natural selection, competence, extinction, bifurcation, micro-evolution, macro-evolution. </li></ul><ul><li>Key-ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Ecology thinks in space while evolution thinks in time . </li></ul>Evolution - Diachronic (Temporal axis) Ecology - Synchronic (Spatial axis)
  10. 10. Evolution <ul><li>Expansion of the metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>Evolution has been immediately applied to Social Sciences (Marx --> 1867 Das Kapital ) </li></ul><ul><li>Evolution of technology : Simon, 1969; Basalla, 1988; Kelly, 1992; Diamond, 1999; Saviotti, 2006; Ziman, 2000; Frenken, 2006; Arthur, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Evolution of communication : speech, body-language, fiction and music (Mellor, 1990); art (Dutton, 2009); narrative (Boyd, 2009); literary genres (Moretti, 2005). </li></ul>
  11. 11. ‘ It is time to look at the arts in the light of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution […] Recent years have seen immensely productive applications of Darwinian ideas in anthropology, economics, social psychology, linguistics, history, politics, legal theory, and criminology, as well as the philosophical study of rationally, theology and value theory […]’ Denis Dutton (2009) The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution
  12. 12. ‘ Evocriticism (evolutionary-criticism) lets us link literature with the whole of life, with other human activities and capacities, and their relation to those of other animals, as they compete, cooperate, and play, as they observe, understand, and empathize with other. It can reconnect literature with the whole range of human experience […]’ Boyd, B. (2009) On the Origin of Stories. Evolution, cognition, and fiction
  13. 13. Extinction <ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Can media become extinct ? </li></ul><ul><li>Are we assisting to the extinction of mass media and broadcasting? </li></ul><ul><li>The history of media is full of technological fossils </li></ul><ul><li>(from papyrus to telegraph). </li></ul><ul><li>But do media really become extinct? Do they, as McLuhan postulated, survive in the content of the ‘new’ media ? </li></ul>Carlon, C. / Scolari, C. (2009) El Fin de los Medios Masivos. El comienzo de un debate
  14. 14. Big Bang New media species
  15. 15. Explosion <ul><li>Punctuated equilibrium (Eldredge and Gould, 1972) </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid events of branching speciation </li></ul><ul><li>Applied by: - Franco Moretti (2005) -> literary genres (1740-1900) - Bob Logan (2007) -> explosion of languages </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Are we assisting to an explosion of ‘new’ media and communication practices? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we re-write the history of media from this </li></ul><ul><li>perspective? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Interfaces <ul><li>Interface: a key-concept? </li></ul><ul><li>Like system in the 1950s, structure in the 1960s, or text in the 1980s, interface may be the key concept </li></ul><ul><li>of the new generation of social scientists. </li></ul><ul><li>Human-machine interface </li></ul><ul><li>Technology-technology interface </li></ul><ul><li>Key-idea </li></ul><ul><li>Every media has an interface (human-technology interface) and, at the same time, every media is an interface (technology-technology interface). </li></ul>
  17. 17. Interfaces <ul><li>Media interfaces </li></ul><ul><li>The interface is the place where the evolution of the media is negotiated -> human-media coevolution </li></ul><ul><li>The interface is also the place where media interact between them -> intermedia coevolution </li></ul><ul><li>Key-ideas </li></ul><ul><li>The interface is the ‘environment’ that media ecologists </li></ul><ul><li>have been analyzing for the last 50 years. </li></ul><ul><li>The study of the interfaces could be considered the micro-level of Media Ecology analysis , the minimal unit of analysis (like the sign for Linguistics or the gene for Genetics) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Coevolution <ul><li>Concept </li></ul><ul><li>Coevolution is also a key concept for Media Ecology. </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Human-media coevolution </li></ul><ul><li>How do consumers (readers, viewers, users) coevolve with their media? </li></ul><ul><li>How do media coevolve with their consumers? </li></ul><ul><li>Intermedia coevolution </li></ul><ul><li>How do two or more media coevolve together (cinema/TV, web/newspapers, etc.)? </li></ul><ul><li>Hybridizations / Remediations </li></ul>
  19. 19. Intermedia coevolution
  20. 20. Hybridizations / Remediations Scolari, C. (2008) Hipermediaciones. Elementos para una Teoría de la Comunicación Digital Interactiva
  21. 21. Conclusions <ul><li>In a few words… </li></ul><ul><li>To expand the ecological metaphor… </li></ul><ul><li>… mans to increase the dictionary and explore new research lines: </li></ul><ul><li>Media evolution </li></ul><ul><li>Interface </li></ul><ul><li>Human-media coevolution </li></ul><ul><li>Intermedia coevolution / Hybridizations </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook: carlos.scolari </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: cscolari </li></ul><ul><li>Blog I: www.digitalismo. com </li></ul><ul><li>Blog II: www.hipermediaciones. com </li></ul><ul><li>Website: www.modernclicks. net </li></ul>Thanks! Gracias! Carlos A. Scolari Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona