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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  26 written in implicit dialogue with her ground-breaking analysis, and ultimately against her endorsement of one of Innis’ basic premises: the ontological privileging of time over space, and of the oral tradition and sound over writing and ‘the visual’. 3 Stamps also notes this congruence of concerns (1995: 4-6). 4 Admittedly this can seem a little narrowly focused, especially given the significance of works like Empire and Communication. In my defence I would say, first, that Innis’ writing on communication is sufficiently unified to allow one to recover his main themes from only a few texts without doing them too much violence; and second that such a focus facilitates an exploration of the texture of Innis’ thought through relatively close textual analysis, something his writing style demands and rewards. 5 Giddens’ primary interest is, of course, the importance of disembedding mechanisms (particularly symbolic tokens and expert systems) for the emergence of specifically modern societies. 6 See ‘A Plea for Time’ in The Bias of Communication. Innis’ description of communication based on the ear in the form of electronic broadcasting appears to be even more spatially biased, as it erases national boundaries. 7 The literature on Lessing is extensive. Aside from Mitchell’s influential reassessment (1986), Schweizer (1972) gives a good account of the historical and philosophical context of Lessing’s distinction between the arts, while Wellbery (1984) provides an interesting reading of Lessing through semiotic theory. 8 Innis gives his source as ‘Sir John Edwin Sandys, A Short History of Classical Scholarship from the Sixth Century BC to the Present Day (Cambridge 1915), p. 294.’ 9 The titles of Innis’ essays allude to this preference. Time needs to be plead for (‘A Plea for Time’) – it is valuable and endangered: space, on the other hand, is a ‘problem’.

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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26
written in implicit dialogue with her ground-breaking analysis, and ultimately against her
endorsement of one of Innis’ basic premises: the ontological privileging of time over space,
and of the oral tradition and sound over writing and ‘the visual’.
3
Stamps also notes this congruence of concerns (1995: 4-6).
4
Admittedly this can seem a little narrowly focused, especially given the significance of
works like Empire and Communication. In my defence I would say, first, that Innis’ writing
on communication is sufficiently unified to allow one to recover his main themes from only a
few texts without doing them too much violence; and second that such a focus facilitates an
exploration of the texture of Innis’ thought through relatively close textual analysis,
something his writing style demands and rewards.
5
Giddens’ primary interest is, of course, the importance of disembedding mechanisms
(particularly symbolic tokens and expert systems) for the emergence of specifically modern
societies.
6
See ‘A Plea for Time’ in The Bias of Communication. Innis’ description of communication
based on the ear in the form of electronic broadcasting appears to be even more spatially
biased, as it erases national boundaries.
7
The literature on Lessing is extensive. Aside from Mitchell’s influential reassessment
(1986), Schweizer (1972) gives a good account of the historical and philosophical context of
Lessing’s distinction between the arts, while Wellbery (1984) provides an interesting reading
of Lessing through semiotic theory.
8
Innis gives his source as ‘Sir John Edwin Sandys, A Short History of Classical Scholarship
from the Sixth Century BC to the Present Day (Cambridge 1915), p. 294.’
9
The titles of Innis’ essays allude to this preference. Time needs to be plead for (‘A Plea for
Time’) – it is valuable and endangered: space, on the other hand, is a ‘problem’.


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