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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  22 (not only is work play, but play is also work), focused on speed and quantifiability rather than on duration and shared history, concerned less with knowledge of someone’s character or history and more on the knowledge of their resources and position in the social field. Now, both Castells and Wittell are far too astute to claim that alternatives to the space of flows have ceased to exist. They seek to chart an emergent and ascendant phenomenon, that exists alongside the space of places and its geographically and historically rooted communities, even as it transforms them (Mosco, 2000). 13 Moreover, Castells is at pains to point out that the space of flows is chiefly the cultural milieu of global political, economic and technical elites: as he archly puts it, ‘elites are cosmopolitan, people are local’. The majority of people still inhabit the space of places (see also Morley, 2001), only in some cases this habitation can come to seem like a prison compared to a cultural ideal of placeless, atemporal mobility at will that is unattainable for the majority. Instability and Enclosure What is pertinent in this (all too cursory) sketch from Innis’ point of view is the way in which the representational mode of communication media (discontinuous and individualized database), the character of the knowledge it generates (decontextualised and atemporal ‘information’), and the dominant spatial-temporal dynamic of society (an elite space of flows supporting a network sociality) interact with one another. There is one important piece missing in this puzzle, however, and that is the dialectical assertion of counter-balances to the biases of communication media. The overwhelming tendency of digital media is the transmutability and decontextualisation of symbolic forms: this allows them, and those they support, to appear to break free of temporal and spatial constraints. There are two fundamental problems with this tendency however. The first has to do with ‘coding bias’: the ability of receivers to decode cultural products and the distribution of this competence across social groups. For if a fundamental

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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22
(not only is work play, but play is also work), focused on speed and quantifiability rather than
on duration and shared history, concerned less with knowledge of someone’s character or
history and more on the knowledge of their resources and position in the social field.
Now, both Castells and Wittell are far too astute to claim that alternatives to the space
of flows have ceased to exist. They seek to chart an emergent and ascendant phenomenon,
that exists alongside the space of places and its geographically and historically rooted
communities, even as it transforms them (Mosco, 2000).
13
Moreover, Castells is at pains to
point out that the space of flows is chiefly the cultural milieu of global political, economic
and technical elites: as he archly puts it, ‘elites are cosmopolitan, people are local’. The
majority of people still inhabit the space of places (see also Morley, 2001), only in some cases
this habitation can come to seem like a prison compared to a cultural ideal of placeless,
atemporal mobility at will that is unattainable for the majority.
Instability and Enclosure
What is pertinent in this (all too cursory) sketch from Innis’ point of view is the way in
which the representational mode of communication media (discontinuous and individualized
database), the character of the knowledge it generates (decontextualised and atemporal
‘information’), and the dominant spatial-temporal dynamic of society (an elite space of flows
supporting a network sociality) interact with one another. There is one important piece
missing in this puzzle, however, and that is the dialectical assertion of counter-balances to the
biases of communication media. The overwhelming tendency of digital media is the
transmutability and decontextualisation of symbolic forms: this allows them, and those they
support, to appear to break free of temporal and spatial constraints. There are two
fundamental problems with this tendency however.
The first has to do with ‘coding bias’: the ability of receivers to decode cultural products
and the distribution of this competence across social groups. For if a fundamental


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