Overview of reading: The Humanism of Media Ecology was an interesting keynote speech given at a media ecology convention and began by discussing the biological metaphor considered when first thinking about the subject of media ecology. The speaker makes a comparison to a Petri dish saying, “a medium is a technology within which a culture grows; that is to say, it gives form to a culture’s politics, social organization, and habitual ways of thinking” (Postman, pg. 10). Then, the term ecology is used to express “the interactions among elements of our natural environment, with a special emphasis on how such interactions lead to a balanced and healthful environment (Postman, pg. 11). Essentially what the speaker is saying about media ecology is that it is not just about media, but about the interaction between media and people and how that interaction affects the makeup and development of the culture. Media ecologists that think as moralists also spend time considering how and if media ecology makes us better or worse as people and as a society, but others think that worrying about the humanistic and anti-humanistic effects can deter us from actually understanding media (which is probably my problem). The speaker talked about media from a humanistic perspective and that ultimately people have individually different views about what is good and bad for them. The reading goes on to talk about numerous media that came to be at various times in the past and how they were mainly not well accepted at the beginning; therefore, time must be taken into consideration because media can be viewed very differently from its inception to some point later in time, but time does not necessarily remove all disadvantages of media. Despite the time factor and that people have different views on what is good or bad for them, people should be able to say whether a particular medium “contributes to or undermines humane concepts” (Postman, pg. 13).
Photo Caption: Another example of technology that was not accepted at first.
Key ideas within the reading and with key points and references: When reading the article, I thought about the point the speaker made about the 20th century having more advances in technology than in all of the previous centuries combined and how more people were slaughtered within that century “by wars and mayhem” than in previous centuries (Postman, pg. 13). I thought about this mainly regarding the wars component and how it relates to media and leadership, which we also briefly touched upon in class last week. Wars in the early 20th century especially could have potentially ended much better (with less casualties and less time invested fighting overall) had those leading the forces been able to communicate more effectively with each other. When messages would take days, weeks, or even months to go from point A to point B given the media available, media was affecting the outcome or effectiveness of the communication. The speaker also mentioned that during the 20th century, Nazism, Fascism, and Communism “reduced the significance of the human spirit so that people fled from them whenever they could” (Postman, pg. 13). Overall, I think this point that the speaker mentioned about technological advances demonstrated that not all of these periods of advancement of technology were advancement for humanity. The speaker suggests that those interested in media ecology spend more time considering the part media play in “corrupting or purifying our morality” (as Rosseau put it) (Postman, pg. 13).
“New media have made us into a nation of information junkies; that is to say, our 170-year-efforts have turned information into a form of garbage” (Postman, pg. 14). “We are deluded into thinking that the serious societal problems of our time would be solved if only we had more information” (Postman, pg. 15). When reading this, I thought about the organization in which I work and how we seem to need advice, evaluations, suggestions, research, and whatever other information one can think of in order to make even the smallest of changes within the organization, or even to make a proposal for change. This made me think about how much media and information we have access to and how this high variety of information can potentially hinder us because we are overwhelmed with information and it is like we are expecting to use all of the media we have, exhausting all possibilities, before making any decisions. I complain about this, but I guess I am also guilty of this in some ways as well, which makes me consider convergence. When working with my Resident Advisors with programming (events) efforts in the halls, I ask how they will advertise in order to get people to come to events, I ask that they use a variety of advertising techniques, such as some type of paper method (small door flyers or large posters), word of mouth, and some kind of electronic invite (e-mail or Facebook) utilizing various media to get the message to students that there is an event in the hall and they should come seems to be effective. All in all, more information is not always the answer (and it can makes things more complicated than need be), but sometimes it can be effective especially when considering people’s different learning styles as mentioned in class last week. Different people might notice, recall, or appreciate different methods of information.
Photo Caption: When discussing convergence in class last week, I thought of this awesome picture a friend of mine shared with me of this project she made with several crayons and a hair dryer!
I was interested in the topics the speaker briefly mentioned at the end of the passage about media ecology being a branch of the humanities. It was pointed out that media may have contributed to the growth of artistic expression and also questioned as to whether media enhances or diminishes the quality of human interactions (Postman). These thoughts made me think of the popularity of youtube.com (and similar venues) and how things can “go viral,” especially things that are funny. When thinking about artistic expression and human interactions within new media, I thought of Jenna Marbles who is a vlogger and someone that I (and many others) “follow” and find quite funny usually. Her artistic expression would not be possible without some of the new media we have available to us and it entices a great deal of interaction (although not in a traditional sense, like talking person to person) from people all over the country (and world too I am assuming). I think things like this also represent a convergence of media because there are images, sound, written word, etc and people have the ability to interact in various ways as well, such as leaving text or videos messages back.
Here is the Jenna Marbles Channel – YouTube in case you are no familiar with her. Warning: Some vulgarity.:
Most difficult or challenging concepts from reading: I was not sure what to make of what the speaker said about “the extent to which new media encourage or discourage an interest in historical experience” (Postman, pg. 16). I was also intrigued by the mention of scientific and technological advances when it was said that “science and technology proceed without a moral basis, they do not make the mind receptive to moral decency” (Postman, pg. 15). I can see where this is valid, although I am no expert in either area; however, I can see places where science and technology advancements were meant to help humanity.
Discussion questions for class: Has information overload been more beneficial or detrimental to us? I can see both ends of this question.
I’d like to discuss the final question proposed by the speaker: To what extent do new media enhance or diminish our moral sense, our capacity for goodness? I think about cyberbullying with this topic because it seems like people are more likely to act in an immoral sense when not in person with someone they are affecting. Then again, I am sure there are many that do good without other watching as well.
Can we really “take a definitive view about whether or not a medium contributes to or undermines humane concepts” (Postman, pg. 13)? It does not seem like this issue is completely black or white.
Relating reading to my organizational realities: I am not sure if this is what is being requested, but I was thinking about the generational differences on various media we have within my organization. Even though there is not a huge age gap between myself and my students, I find that we often do not see eye to eye on different media that is available to us or I often have no idea that they are talking about. I considered the time factor and how various media have always been accessible to them, even though like I mentioned, the age difference it not large, but I feel it made a big difference in what I grew up with versus what they grew up with. So many things are simply second nature to them. Even saying I did not fully have my own cell phone until I was in college (and that while in college we actually used our room phones quite a bit to call home or to call friends in other buildings) baffles them. They simply text message someone if they have something to say, whereas I would much prefer expressing myself in other manners whenever possible.
Also found this article/pictures that reminded me of the beginning of the reading when it discussed technology that was not accepted right away:
Virtual reality and its oversize helmets. The Segway scooter. AT&T’s Picturephone from 1964? These tech innovations and more were supposed to change your life. Whoops!
By Jared Newman