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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  6 their different manifestation among social groups whose inequality they help to reproduce. Moreover, ‘coding bias’ also refers to the perceived relative social value of the codified object and the code which supports it: as legitimate, desirable and enduring and or as common, possibly repugnant and necessarily ephemeral. Obeying a historical logic that links scarcity and complexity to power (one of the bases of monopolization per se), the harder it is to acquire a code, the more legitimate and desirable it becomes – along with the cultural products whose deciphering it governs. ‘Coding bias’ then, in this reading, assumes one of its main modern Western guises in the institutionalized specification, autonomy and exclusivity of ‘art’ and ‘culture’ themselves. In addition to ‘coding bias’ – broad as it is (or as I have made it) – Innis’ phrase ‘the character of knowledge’ also refers to the characteristics of a communicated message. An ideological initiative such as the Egyptian monarchy’s attempted imperial religion requires transmission: here spatial communication technologies are employed to disseminate a potentially time-binding belief system that will provide the empire with temporal continuity. We can call this type of bias the ‘ideological bias’ of media (a term that Innis of course never uses), and as the example shows such an ideological bias (temporal in the case of Egyptian imperial religion) can contradict the ‘distribution bias’ supported by the physical properties of the dominant media technology (the spatial-bias of papyrus in the Egyptian empire). In fact, Sut Jhally (1993), in an effort to make Innis shake hands with Marx, effectively elides the need for societies temporally to reproduce themselves with the notion of ideology. For Jhally time-bias appears necessarily as a question of ideology - the survival of social relations over time based on legitimation and consensus - while spatial bias is principally about administration and the coordinated use of force. But this is unnecessarily reductive, an attempt to align Innis’ thought with the main terms of the Gramscian model: coercion and hegemony. Startlingly and rather surprisingly, it does not take into account that ideological bias can be space-binding: the rise of imperialism as a modern ideology, working in tandem

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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their different manifestation among social groups whose inequality they help to reproduce.
Moreover, ‘coding bias’ also refers to the perceived relative social value of the codified object
and the code which supports it: as legitimate, desirable and enduring and or as common,
possibly repugnant and necessarily ephemeral. Obeying a historical logic that links scarcity
and complexity to power (one of the bases of monopolization per se), the harder it is to
acquire a code, the more legitimate and desirable it becomes – along with the cultural
products whose deciphering it governs. ‘Coding bias’ then, in this reading, assumes one of its
main modern Western guises in the institutionalized specification, autonomy and exclusivity
of ‘art’ and ‘culture’ themselves.
In addition to ‘coding bias’ – broad as it is (or as I have made it) – Innis’ phrase ‘the
character of knowledge’ also refers to the characteristics of a communicated message. An
ideological initiative such as the Egyptian monarchy’s attempted imperial religion requires
transmission: here spatial communication technologies are employed to disseminate a
potentially time-binding belief system that will provide the empire with temporal continuity.
We can call this type of bias the ‘ideological bias’ of media (a term that Innis of course never
uses), and as the example shows such an ideological bias (temporal in the case of Egyptian
imperial religion) can contradict the ‘distribution bias’ supported by the physical properties of
the dominant media technology (the spatial-bias of papyrus in the Egyptian empire). In fact,
Sut Jhally (1993), in an effort to make Innis shake hands with Marx, effectively elides the
need for societies temporally to reproduce themselves with the notion of ideology. For Jhally
time-bias appears necessarily as a question of ideology - the survival of social relations over
time based on legitimation and consensus - while spatial bias is principally about
administration and the coordinated use of force. But this is unnecessarily reductive, an
attempt to align Innis’ thought with the main terms of the Gramscian model: coercion and
hegemony. Startlingly and rather surprisingly, it does not take into account that ideological
bias can be space-binding: the rise of imperialism as a modern ideology, working in tandem


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