Media ecology

Media ecology

Media ecology is a contested term within media studies having different meanings within European and North American contexts. The North American definition refers to an interdisciplinary field of media theory and media design involving the study of media environments.[clarification needed] According to the Media Ecology Association, media ecology can be defined as "the study of media environments, the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs."[1] The European version of media ecology is a materialist investigation of media systems as complex dynamic systems.



In 1977, Marshall McLuhan said that media ecology:

...means arranging various media to help each other so they won't cancel each other out, to buttress one medium with another. You might say, for example, that radio is a bigger help to literacy than television, but television might be a very wonderful aid to teaching languages. And so you can do some things on some media that you cannot do on others. And, therefore, if you watch the whole field, you can prevent this waste that comes by one canceling the other out.[2]

Inspired by McLuhan, Neil Postman founded the Program in Media Ecology at New York University in 1971. He described it as:

Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people.[1]

Corey Anton, Editor of Explorations in Media Ecology at Grand Valley State University, defines media ecology as:

A broad based scholarly tradition and social practice. It is both historical and contemporary, as it slides between and incorporates the ancient, the modern, and the post-modern. . . .More precisely, media ecology understands the on-going history of humanity and the dynamics of culture and personhood to be intricately intertwined with communication and communication technologies. [3]

Along with McLuhan (McLuhan 1962), Postman (Postman 1985), and Anton, media ecology draws from many authors, including the work of Harold Innis, Walter Ong, Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Eric Havelock, Susanne Langer, Erving Goffman, Edward T. Hall, George Herbert Mead, Margaret Mead, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Benjamin Lee Whorf, and Gregory Bateson.


The European version of media ecology rejects the North American notion that ecology means environment. Ecology in this context is used 'because it is one of the most expressive language currently has to indicate the massive and dynamic interrelation of processes and objects, beings and things, patterns and matter.' (Fuller 2005:2) Following theorists such as Felix Guattari, Gregory Bateson, and Manuel DeLanda the European version of media ecology as practiced by authors such as Matthew Fuller and Jussi Parikka presents a post-structuralist political perspective on media as complex dynamical systems.

The North American theory of media ecology is best phrased by Marshall McLuhan, "The medium is the message". McLuhan saw the message and the medium to mean the same thing. With society being formed around the dominant medium of the day, the specific medium of communication makes a remarkable difference. McLuhan believed there are three inventions that transformed the world: the phonetic alphabet, the printing press, and the telegraph. Due to these technologies the world was taken from one era into the next.[4]

In order to understand the effects of symbolic environment, McLuhan split history into four periods: the tribal age, the literate age, the print age, and the electronic age. Throughout the structure of their distinctive methods of communication (e.g., oral, written, printed, electronic), different media arouse patterns in the brain that are distinctive to each and every particular form of communication.[4]

The North American variant of media ecology is viewed by numerous theorists as meaningless or “McLuhanacy”. These theorists[citation needed] claim that McLuhan used a subjective approach to make a objective claims. The theorists[who?] against McLuhan's idea, also believe that he lacked the scientific evidence to support his claims.[citation needed][4]

According to Neil Postman, Media ecology is concerned with understanding how technologies and techniques of communication control the form, quantity, speed, distribution, and direction of information; and how, in turn, such information configurations or biases affect people’s perceptions, values, and attitudes . . . such information forms as the alphabet, the printed word, and television images are not mere instruments which make things easier for us. They are environments-like language itself, symbolic environments with in which we discover, fashion, and express humanity in particular ways. (Anton 303) [5] Postman focusses on media technology, process, and structure rather than content. Postman considered making moral judgments was the primary task of media ecology. "I don’t see any point in studying media unless ones so within a moral or ethical context." (Griffin 319) Postman’s media ecology approach asks three questions: What are the moral implications of this bargain? Are the consequences more humanistic or antihumanistic? Do we, as a society, gain more than we lose, or do we lose more than we gain?[4]

See also




  1. ^ a b "What is Media Ecology?". Media Ecology Association. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  2. ^ Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, by Marshall McLuhan, edited by Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines, Foreword by Tom Wolfe. MIT Press, 2004, p. 271
  3. ^ a b (Anton, C.(2006). History, orientations, and future directions of media ecology. In Y. Pasadeos & D. Dimitrakopoulou (Eds.), Mass media research: International approaches (pp.299). Athens: Athens Institute for Education and Research.
  4. ^ a b c d Griffin, Emory A. "Media Ecology." A First Look at Communication Theory. New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Print.
  5. ^ (Anton, C.(2006). History, orientations, and future directions of media ecology. In Y. Pasadeos & D. Dimitrakopoulou (Eds.), Mass media research: International approaches (pp.299). Athens: Athens Institute for Education and Research.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ecology (disciplines) — Ecology is a broad biological science and can thus be divided into many sub disciplines using various criteria. For example, one such categorization, based on overall complexity (from the least complex to the most), is:* Behavioral ecology, which …   Wikipedia

  • Media studies — is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the mass media . Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from …   Wikipedia

  • Media ecosystem — The media ecosystem is a term used to describe the relationship between weblogs and traditional journalism. This relationship can be seen as an ecosystem. See also blogosphere media ecology External links The Ecology of Media: In Context, #23,… …   Wikipedia

  • Media — For help playing audio and video files in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Media help. For references to Wikipedia in the media, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia in the media. For questions regarding Wikipedia, please visit the Wikimedia Foundation press room or …   Wikipedia

  • Ecology — For other uses, see Ecology (disambiguation). Ecology …   Wikipedia

  • Media of Panama — Panama has been an important media hub, because of its strategic location between North and South America. The largest newspapers in Panama in terms of circulation are American Panama, CriticaLa Prensa, and El Siglo all of which are published in… …   Wikipedia

  • Communicative ecology — is a conceptual model used in the field of media and communications research to analyse and represent the relationships between the social interactions, discourse, and communication media and technology of individuals, collectives and networks in …   Wikipedia

  • Information ecology — In the context of an evolving information society, the term information ecology marks a connection between ecological ideas with the dynamics and properties of the increasingly dense, complex and important digital informational environment and… …   Wikipedia

  • Electronic media — are media that utilize electronics or electromechanical energy for the end user (audience) to access the content. This is in contrast to static media (mainly print media), which are most often created electronically, but don t require electronics …   Wikipedia

  • Theoretical ecology — Mathematical models developed in theoretical ecology predict complex food webs are less stable than simple webs.[1]:75–77[2]:64 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”