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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  14 on stone, for instance), all communication media bar speech appear in these terms as objectifying spatial materializations of what had previously only occurred in time. Innis’ work does, at a subterranean level, share this suspicion of the fixity and externality of space that finds diverse expression in Plato’s opposition to writing, in Lessing’s denigration of images, in Marxist conceptions of ‘alienation’ and ‘reification’, 12 and in a host of assumptions regarding the deleterious effects of the contemporary domination of ‘the image’. What happens if we try to side-step this fundamental bias against space, writing and vision, and instead affirm, with the more ‘materialist’ Innis, that just as societies and cultures are not in essence either temporal or spatial, but dynamic spatial-temporal constructions, so are media themselves? What then we can learn of the particular historical coincidence in our culture of new forms of social spatialization and temporalization, new experiences and conceptions of selfhood and otherness in spatial and temporal terms, and new cultural forms connected to the rise of different media technologies? Answering such a question involves connecting evidence about distribution patterns and monopolies of knowledge on a macro scale with analyses of representational modes operating on a micro scale. Clearly, it is a vast undertaking, far beyond this present paper. So let me, in the limited space that I have left, suggest just a few directions for thought. Database, Information, Flow For the sake of brevity I propose to organize this section around terminological shifts. These occur within and between pairs of key words: narrative-database, knowledge- information, place-flow. The first pair is concerned with representational forms, the area least extensively addressed by Innis, and will take us furthest away from his thought. The second pair exemplifies what Innis called the ‘character of knowledge’, suggesting a change in how knowledge itself is currently conceptualized. The third deals with the formation of monopolies of knowledge as social groups grounded in common spatio-temporal experience.

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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14
on stone, for instance), all communication media bar speech appear in these terms as
objectifying spatial materializations of what had previously only occurred in time. Innis’ work
does, at a subterranean level, share this suspicion of the fixity and externality of space that
finds diverse expression in Plato’s opposition to writing, in Lessing’s denigration of images,
in Marxist conceptions of ‘alienation’ and ‘reification’,
12
and in a host of assumptions
regarding the deleterious effects of the contemporary domination of ‘the image’.
What happens if we try to side-step this fundamental bias against space, writing and
vision, and instead affirm, with the more ‘materialist’ Innis, that just as societies and cultures
are not in essence either temporal or spatial, but dynamic spatial-temporal constructions, so
are media themselves? What then we can learn of the particular historical coincidence in our
culture of new forms of social spatialization and temporalization, new experiences and
conceptions of selfhood and otherness in spatial and temporal terms, and new cultural forms
connected to the rise of different media technologies? Answering such a question involves
connecting evidence about distribution patterns and monopolies of knowledge on a macro
scale with analyses of representational modes operating on a micro scale. Clearly, it is a vast
undertaking, far beyond this present paper. So let me, in the limited space that I have left,
suggest just a few directions for thought.
Database, Information, Flow
For the sake of brevity I propose to organize this section around terminological shifts.
These occur within and between pairs of key words: narrative-database, knowledge-
information, place-flow. The first pair is concerned with representational forms, the area least
extensively addressed by Innis, and will take us furthest away from his thought. The second
pair exemplifies what Innis called the ‘character of knowledge’, suggesting a change in how
knowledge itself is currently conceptualized. The third deals with the formation of
monopolies of knowledge as social groups grounded in common spatio-temporal experience.


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