- On page 356 Castells writes of the "social hierarchy between literate culture
and audiovisual expression" and of the present-day "potential integration of various
modes of communication into an interactive network."
In 1990 Majid Tehranian wrote in Technologies of power: information machines and
democratic prospects that:
"The Toronto school (Innis, 1950, 1951; McLuhan 1962, 1964) has argued that the
introduction of each new technology of communication in history has brought about
new sets of cognitive styles and belief systems characteristic of that technology's
epoch of history. To use Innis's formulation, the media 'bias' human
communication. To use McLuhan's metaphor, the media 'massage' the message. The
Age of Orality favors the immediacy and participatory power of tribalism. The Age
of Print distantiates communication and imposes a linear rationality on the mind.
The Age of Electronic Media partially brings back the tribalism of the Age of
Orality." (Tehranian 1990, 35)
In the United States when public library budgets have been cut some affected
libraries have continued to lend books free of charge but instituted charges for
video loans. Thus a high school student from a poor family can readily get access
to the written version of Shakespeare's Hamlet but may not be able to get access to
the 1948 film version of Hamlet directed by and featuring the acting of Sir Laurence
Olivier. How does this reflect Castell's hierarchy and Tehranian's statement? In
your view is this lending policy appropriate? Why or why not?
As a side note: How did Shakespeare intend Hamlet to be experienced? When human
beings first experienced Shakespeare's play how many of the senses would have been
- Tehranian also wrote that:
"Media realities are by their very nature distorted realities. Telecommunication
provides the opportunity for the senders of messages to reconstruct reality to suit
their own persuasive purposes. Genuine democracy, however, is fully interactive.
it begins at the community level. But decentralized, direct democracy is
threatened everywhere by the increasingly centralized bureaucracies—including
the mass media bureaucracies. Mass communication is a contradiction in terms. It
imposes a cognitive tyranny by the senders of uniform messages to be hypothesized,
undifferentiated, and inert mass audiences. The ultimate form of this hidden
tyranny is an Orwellian nightmare—a totalitarian system of mind control."
(Tehranian 1990, 13)
How does this compare to Castells's views in this chapter?
- Castells wrote on page 366 that "In many countries, from Andalusia to southern
India, local community video technology allowed for the blossoming of rudimentary
local broadcasting which mixed diffusion of video films with local events and
announcements, often on the fringes of telecommunication regulations." How
would this relate to Tehranian's observations regarding telecommunication
- On page 388 Castells writes: "The advantage of the Net is that it allows the
forging of weak ties with strangers, in an egalitarian pattern of interaction where
social characteristics are less influential in framing, or even blocking,
communication." Egalitarian is a recurring theme. The Web has been seen to empower
minorities who are not at the top of the social strata. However, there is another
side to this. The Web has also been used to legitimize potentially fatal
psychological problems such as anorexia as desired lifestyles and terrorism as a
"righteous" response to the moral ills of the world. What role, if any, do you see
for information providers that would promote the free flow of information, protect
civil liberties, yet acknowledge the dangers of some communication activities to
individuals and to society as a whole? (Note: There is no easy answer to this.)
- On page 393 Castell's references a study done by Claude Fischer, concluding that
the telephone (a "new" technology in Fischer's study) was used to reinforce people's
"deep-rooted social habits." Regarding the new technology of computer-mediated
communication, Castells opines that:
"...in spite of their potential usefulness for social movements, the influence of
electronic networks at large in the cultural realm may well be to reinforce the
cosmopolitanism of the new professional and managerial classes...."
In your experience, would either Fischer's or Castell's conclusions apply to
social network sites like YouTube?
- We are reading the 2010 edition of Castell's work. Yet it appears that the
author did not update some sections of his book. Looking at the features of
multimedia described by Castells on pages 401 through 403, how would you update his
observations given the advent of Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter?
Innis, H. 1950. Empire and communications. Toronto: University of
Innis, H. 1951. The bias of communication. Toronto: University of
McLuhan, M. 1964. Understanding media: the extensions of man. Boston:
Tehranian, Majid. 1990. Technologies of power: information machines and
democratic prospects. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Company.