One of the most influential books ever published in Canada, Harold A. Innis’s The Bias of Communication has played a major part in reshaping our. Fifty years after his death, Harold Innis remains one of the most widely cited but least understood of communication theorists. This is particularly. PROFESSOR INNIS has written a pioneering book and made a serious contrib nology, we can discover the specific “bias of communication” in each perio.

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Monopolies of knowledge encourage centralization of power. The relative lightness or heaviness of the medium under consideration is not always a reliable indication of its particular bias.

The shift of perceptions redefines “knowledge,” what those in power claim needs to be known. Dispatches from the Hagold Revolution. Competitors and critics are always looking for ways to subvert monopoly power, and perhaps gain it for themselves. In its pursuit of less nationalistic themes in Canadian history, the present generation has not so much revised Innis’s work as ignored it.

Communication Mediated A blog about media and other things.

Those who control knowledge have the power to define reality. Knowledge passed down orally depends on a lineage of transmission, often associated with ancestors, and ratified by human contact.

This is a difficult but rewarding read. How do specific communication technologies operate? Writing was a difficult and specialized art requiring long apprenticeship, and reading implied a or period buas instruction. With printing, paper facilitated an effective development of the vernaculars and gave expression to their vitality in the growth of nationalism. Arthur Kroker suggests that Innis “sought to explore the interstices of the technological habitat.

Harold Innis’ bias of communications – a starting point, not a foundation

From the end of WWII until his death inInnis worked steadily on an investigation of the social history of communication, studying the communication media of the last years. But the space-binding medium of paper imported from China, Innis wrote, facilitated challenges harolr Islam and later from a rising commercial class. The need to manage a flooding river promotes an absolute authority, which is further reinforced by a regular–thus eternal–calendar, which in turn supports the absolute dominance of elemental forces embodied in Osiris and Ra.


The Protestant Reformation followed, along with European exploration and empire, the rise of science and the evolution of the nation-state. Western civilization could only be saved, Innis argued, by recovering the balance between space and time.

Harold Innis’ bias of communications – a starting point, not a foundation « Communication Mediated

Oral communication, speech, was considered by Innis to be time-biased because it requires the relative stability of community for face-to-face contact. The pyramids, temples, inniz, and cathedrals of the world are still able to communicate something of their essential meaning to us today, if only we know how to decode their empire-building messages.

As important today as it was when first published, The Xommunication of Communication is essential reading for historians communlcation scholars of communication and media studies.

His war experience, during which he saw Canadian soldiers used as cannon-fodder by the British, marked him for life: Innis wrote that the Catholic Church fought to preserve its time-oriented monopoly of knowledge with the Inquisitionbut eventually paper achieved even greater power with the invention of the printing press around the middle of the 15th century.

First published inthis masterful collection of essays explores the relationship between a society’s communication media and that community’s ability to maintain control over its development.

Power was vested therefore, in a scribal and literate, religious elite. Innis first outlined his ideas in The Fur Trade in Canada Thus we learn from Innis that all great empires are most vulnerable in the moment of their over-reaching. In this chapter of his history of Western civilizations, H.

Harold Innis’s communications theories – Wikipedia

Since they are difficult to move, they do not encourage territorial expansion; however, since they have a long life, they do encourage the extension of empire over time. Just as Egyptian priests were able to accurately predict the regular flooding of the Nile because knowledge of writing allowed them to make calculations, so does access to pubic opinion allow pollsters to predict elections within certain percentage parameters. This is still problematic. For Innis, speech is a time-biased medium.

Foucault, throughout his writings on the dynamic between knowledge and power, insisted that neither is, in fact, a commodity even though it is often treated as such–one cannot own power; power is a process which must continually be reasserted for its continuance. These are intended to carry stories and messages that last for many generations, but tend to reach limited audiences.

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Theodore Roosevelt mastered the newspaper as a communications device, just as his fifth cousin, Franklin D. He approaches each of these forms of organized power as exercising a particular kind of force upon each of the other components in the complex. Not only were Americans exhorted to buy the newest “improved” products, they were also exposed if a barrage of propaganda from political elites.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Each biaw has its bias, a bias which changes in relation to the significance of the others in the consciousness of cultures. Globe and MailSept.

He establishes a dialectic between media with a time-bias and those with a space-bias:. A History of Communication: Conflicts over hunting territories led to warfare, made more deadly by European bullets. Time-biased mediasuch as stone and clay, are durable and heavy. My library Help Advanced Book Search.

He claims that each medium embodies a bias in terms of the organization and control of information. The largely illiterate laity depended on priests to interpret the scriptures and on image-driven media such as paintings and statues that depicted the central figures in Biblical stories.

The encounter of European traders from the imperial centres of France and Britain with the aboriginal tribes of North America that Innis chronicled in The Fur Trade in Canada vommunication a poignant example of what can happen when two different civilizations meet one traditional and oriented to preserving its tribal culture in time and the other bent on spreading its influence over long distances. Attempts of kings to escape were defeated by the power of monopoly.

New media threaten to displace the previous monopolies of knowledge, unless those media can be enlisted in the service of the previous power structures. He draws attention to the ways in which those who are ruled contribute to the empowerment of their rulers.