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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  10 interesting here, among other things, is that verbal (temporal) media and pictorial (spatial) media are understood to express the mind-world relationship in terms of directionality, and that directionality can be perceived as benign or dangerous. In the case of verbal representation, with speech as the model and writing its (potentially subversive – Derrida, 1976) surrogate, mind travels outwards towards and into the world: the dynamic sequence of temporal signs reflects the succession of thought as it orders the flux of phenomena. Narrative, a temporal thought-form, shapes external reality. Pictorial representation, in contrast, through its illusionistic rendering of external space as a convincing replica of the world, threatens to travel inwards and enslave the mind (idolatry, fetishism), blurring the distinction between thought, sign and reality, petrifying mental processes and fixing them as a picture show. Needless to say, this kind of space-time distinction, and its connection to the specificity thesis, has consciously and unconsciously underwritten many more recent claims about other pictorial and textual media. Popular and scholarly comparisons between cinema, television and the literary text are perhaps exemplary cases in this respect (see for example Arnheim’s (1957) and Panofsky’s (1992/1934) illuminating but problematic works on the cinema). Compounded on occasion by a dubious cross-fertilization with the distinction between high and low culture (see, for example, Booth, 1994) it also underpins some contemporary anxieties and assumptions about culture in a predominantly ‘visual’ era (see Mitchell (2002) for an excellent discussion). In also enters debates about future of the computer as either a site for hypertextual experimentation or for virtual reality, the former valorized as an extension of the textual potential of the codex, the latter stigmatized as the technological perfection of those (dangerous) ‘immersive’ capacities of perceptual hallucination which originate in the pictorial model (Bolter, 1996). How do Innis’ writings engage with this representational distinction between spatial and temporal media? Innis’ was certainly aware of this distinction, although his relationship to it

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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interesting here, among other things, is that verbal (temporal) media and pictorial (spatial)
media are understood to express the mind-world relationship in terms of directionality, and
that directionality can be perceived as benign or dangerous. In the case of verbal
representation, with speech as the model and writing its (potentially subversive – Derrida,
1976) surrogate, mind travels outwards towards and into the world: the dynamic sequence of
temporal signs reflects the succession of thought as it orders the flux of phenomena.
Narrative, a temporal thought-form, shapes external reality. Pictorial representation, in
contrast, through its illusionistic rendering of external space as a convincing replica of the
world, threatens to travel inwards and enslave the mind (idolatry, fetishism), blurring the
distinction between thought, sign and reality, petrifying mental processes and fixing them as a
picture show.
Needless to say, this kind of space-time distinction, and its connection to the specificity
thesis, has consciously and unconsciously underwritten many more recent claims about other
pictorial and textual media. Popular and scholarly comparisons between cinema, television
and the literary text are perhaps exemplary cases in this respect (see for example Arnheim’s
(1957) and Panofsky’s (1992/1934) illuminating but problematic works on the cinema).
Compounded on occasion by a dubious cross-fertilization with the distinction between high
and low culture (see, for example, Booth, 1994) it also underpins some contemporary
anxieties and assumptions about culture in a predominantly ‘visual’ era (see Mitchell (2002)
for an excellent discussion). In also enters debates about future of the computer as either a site
for hypertextual experimentation or for virtual reality, the former valorized as an extension of
the textual potential of the codex, the latter stigmatized as the technological perfection of
those (dangerous) ‘immersive’ capacities of perceptual hallucination which originate in the
pictorial model (Bolter, 1996).
How do Innis’ writings engage with this representational distinction between spatial and
temporal media? Innis’ was certainly aware of this distinction, although his relationship to it


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