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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  13 relation to thought, and a consequent denigration of space and writing. 9 Here we see the main shift from Lessing to Innis: from an opposition between the verbal and the pictorial arts (with the former conflating speech and writing), to one between the spoken and the graphic (with the latter connecting writing and pictorial inscription). As painting is to Lessing, so writing is to Innis. And this valorization of speech ultimately serves to establish time as the sovereign of both individual and social being. Describing the oral tradition in Greece, Innis maintains that: Language was the physiological basis of oral traditions, and religion was the sociological mechanism through which traditions were established, directed and enforcing the co-operation of individuals in the interest of the community, maintaining group life, and creating a lasting organization of society independent of a living leader….In oral intercourse the eye, ear, and brain, the senses and the faculties acted together in busy co-operation and rivalry each eliciting, stimulating, and supplementing the other. (105) 10 This passage, along with the previous quotation about the temporality of verbal poetry, starkly reveals the nature of Innis’ well-known romance with the ‘oral tradition’ – spoken intercourse at the center of religious practice. 11 For in this tradition inner and outer, thought and its expression, utterances and their author, memory and history, individual and community, the brain and all the senses, are in harmony not simply politically but also in their being. Their inter-relation is designated not by a manufactured border but by an ontological continuum. This foundation threatens to turn any external marking into a form of objectification, an abstraction on a discrete physical artifact of a characteristic previously available collectively because held in the minds and living speech of individuals. Thus while some communication technologies may be time-binding in terms of distribution bias (writing

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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13
relation to thought, and a consequent denigration of space and writing.
9
Here we see the main
shift from Lessing to Innis: from an opposition between the verbal and the pictorial arts (with
the former conflating speech and writing), to one between the spoken and the graphic (with
the latter connecting writing and pictorial inscription). As painting is to Lessing, so writing is
to Innis. And this valorization of speech ultimately serves to establish time as the sovereign of
both individual and social being. Describing the oral tradition in Greece, Innis maintains that:
Language was the physiological basis of oral traditions, and religion
was the sociological mechanism through which traditions were
established, directed and enforcing the co-operation of individuals in
the interest of the community, maintaining group life, and creating a
lasting organization of society independent of a living leader….In oral
intercourse the eye, ear, and brain, the senses and the faculties acted
together in busy co-operation and rivalry each eliciting, stimulating,
and supplementing the other. (105)
10
This passage, along with the previous quotation about the temporality of verbal poetry,
starkly reveals the nature of Innis’ well-known romance with the ‘oral tradition’ – spoken
intercourse at the center of religious practice.
11
For in this tradition inner and outer, thought
and its expression, utterances and their author, memory and history, individual and
community, the brain and all the senses, are in harmony not simply politically but also in their
being. Their inter-relation is designated not by a manufactured border but by an ontological
continuum. This foundation threatens to turn any external marking into a form of
objectification, an abstraction on a discrete physical artifact of a characteristic previously
available collectively because held in the minds and living speech of individuals. Thus while
some communication technologies may be time-binding in terms of distribution bias (writing


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