Ch 0 Intro

This section introduces some of the main themes and historical issues in the history of mass media.  It’s meant to provide a “toolkit” and frame of reference for issues that come up throughout the book.

History Links on this site

Discussion questions

  1. Utopianism:  How were new technologies celebrated? What are some examples of what Leo Marx called the “rhetoric of the technological sublime?”   Can we distinguish utopianism from the idea of projecting a positive vision for a technology?
  2. Luddite / Distopian views of media: What were some of the fears of new media technologies? How did they influence the way technologies were developed and regulated?
  3. McLuhan’s Tetrad:  Give individual examples of the way different media enhance, retrieve, obsolesce and reverse.
  4. Oral cultures:  Play the “telephone” game —  Send a whispered message from person-to-person in a group of people. Send a second message through another group but reward that group for accuracy.  What does this tell you about the potential success of oral cultures?
  5. Media Revolution? Or not?  Journalist Michael Wolff questions the idea of digital media being revolutionary and says the old media won the battle. Is he right?
  6. Council of Historians?  Does the White House need a council of historians, as Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson argue in this Sept. 2016 article in the Atlantic?

Documentary videos

  1. The medium is the message — Australian television interview with Marshall McLuhan in 1977.
  2. Author Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan debate, Canadian Broadcasting Corp.,  1968.

People and events

Historians:  Herodutus, Thucydides, Von Ranke, Acton, Butterfield, Stantayana, McLuhan, Zinn 

Concepts: Determinism, social construction, whig history, doomed to repeat history, objective history, social theories of media, utopian versus luddite approaches to technology, technological fallacies, Innis’ durable versus flexible media, McLuhan’s tetrad, hot and cool media

historical theory and media technology Links

  1. Walter Ong
  2. Traditional Oral Cultures
  3. Doug Brent, “Oral Knowledge, Typographic Knowledge, Electronic Knowledge: Speculations on the History of Ownership
  4. Harold Innis,  Empire and Communication, great Wikipedia article on cultural influences of durable and flexible media / time and space “bias”
  5. Celebrating 100 years of Marshall McLuhan 
  6. Jim Andrews, McLuhan reconsidered   

Times are changing – Bob Dylan

Information Age by Lil B

Scene from Woody Allen’s movie Annie Hall about Marshall McLuhan