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Modern communication has greatly changed with the introduction of communication innovations and computer technology. The modern media plays an important role in providing information, ideas, and facts to the people. It enhances cultural heritage, family values, ethnic and minority rights, and self-actualization and promotes regional or national identities.
With regard to the impacts of modern media on social organization, Innis argued that modern communication technology such as the printing technology causes a bias in people’s perceptions and social organization. Innis inspired McLuhan who emphasized the role of modern media especially the television in propagating collective ideologies in many social and cultural contexts creating a global village. The theories of both authors provide insights into the likely impact of modern media on culture and consciousness.
McLuhan’s views on the independent influence of the media are most popular and influential. McLuhan version on how the media works was different from Innis’ perspective. Accordingly, McLuhan argued that people use the same medium to process the same content or information and share the same interpretation and meaning through the principle of collective responsibility, which he termed, ‘the media is the message’ (Reading No. 9 157).
He further argued that development in technology causes a communication revolution that result to audience fragmentation because they increase the society’s tendency to return to tribal social relations. He identified communication technologies such as writing skills, radio, and television as elements of communication revolution.
He identified the interplay between media and audience as essential in shaping an individual’s direct experience with the medium (Reading No. 9 159). He argued that media such as television that are both audio and visual influence the people’s cognition and perceptual habits, which influence social relations. He argued that media such as television is important in promoting democracy, capitalism and nationalism.
Innis argued that mass media communication presents major organizational and societal perceptual biases. He noted that technological development involving mass communication causes a shift in the cultural perception. Innis argued, “The advent of print technology caused a shift from time-binding culture to space-binding culture” (Reading No. 8 136).
In space-binding orientation, the printed material from the same print medium was distributed to similar space-specific readers. This means that diverse readers absorbed the same message content and information (Reading No. 8. 134). In contrast, in the traditional modes of communication such as oral communication, the in-group members of a community absorbed the same content but in a time-specific orientation.
Innis’ approach addressed the effect of modern media in expanding communication more rapidly and efficiently on a space-specific manner. For Innis, communication media are important in “transforming time-binding social interactions to present-time social interactions” (Reading No. 8 142). In other words, access and availability of communication technologies contributes to cultural and social changes.
Comparison between Innis and McLuhan’s Perspectives
The most significant difference between Innis and McLuhan perspectives is the role played by media in enhancing the people’s sensory experience. McLuhan identifies an individual’s extent of media usage as one of the impacts of communication media. In contrast, Innis highlighted media accessibility and availability as responsible for cultural transformation due to collective absorption of content that results to a unified thinking.
Additionally, Innis viewed the media as a monopoly of knowledge promoting dependency and authoritarianism by large media corporations and preferred the traditional modes of communication (Reading No. 8 147). He preferred the printing press to the radio as means of encouraging regionalism and decentralization.
In contrast, McLuhan argues that the media is the message. In other words, he media promotes the development of democracy and nationalism. Indeed, I believe that the media helps propagate good governance and democracy.
However, I would disagree with his argument that the global village is a good thing. Globalization affects national cultures and integration. On the other hand, the most notable strength of Innis’ approach is the belief that media strengthens the economic and political elite while weakening the individual through monopoly of knowledge.
However, his argument that the radio and other electronic media promote centralization is, to me, a weakness in his theory. On the other hand, both scholars have similarities regarding the role of modern media. Accordingly, both of them acknowledge the ability of mass media to unify the audience. This arises from the collective responsibility as people receive similar information. Additionally, both scholars acknowledge that developing monopoly of knowledge by media corporations.
Innis perceives the radio as a time-bias form of communication that encourages bureaucracy and centralization. In this respect, Innis holds a bad attitude towards electronic media. Likewise, Innis could criticize the new social media such as Facebook for propagating centralization and monopoly of knowledge.
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I would prefer McLuhan because of his belief that mass media transforms the world into a global village, promotes democracy and capitalism. In this regard, his perspective on social networks could be “cool media” (Reading No. 8 148) that allow participation and audience engagement
Communication is acclaimed as a way of sharing information and facts between people. McLuhan and Innis perspectives on media focus on the interplay between individuals and the media available. Modern media brought revolutionary changes to the field of communication and communication processes.
The scholars provide contrasting conceptual and theoretical frameworks regarding the impacts of media on present day society. Their theories are revolutionary as they explain the social and cultural changes on the society occasioned by modern media.
Reading No. 8. Module Three: Unit 8. Harold Adams Innis. 138-150.
Reading No. 9. Module Three: Unit 9. Herbert Marshall McLuhan. 153-162.