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Lecture I:
Communication in
Johan Lindell, Ph. D. Student
Media and Communication Studies
Karlstad University
[email protected]
Lecture outline
1. Course outline for the first 3 weeks
2. What is communication?
3. Introduction to ’Medium Theory’
4. Communication in History
1. Course outline for the first
three weeks:
 Thematic focus: How to understand social
change due to changes in media landscapes
 A ’crash course’ in ’Medium Theory’
 Take-home exam: Three overarching questions
related to topics covered in class and course
literature (15% of overall grade)
2. What is communication?
Shannon & Weaver, 1949
Gerbner, 1956
Let’s settle for:
”A social exchange of meaning
whose outcome is the measure
or mark of a social relationship”
(Mosco, 2009)
Among many other things,
communciation can be:
 Oral: Face-to-face dialogue, a speech
 Appearance: e.g. haircut, clothes, jewelery, cars
etc etc. (means of presenting the self – thus
establishing a relationship with ones audience;
see Goffman, 1956)
 Massmedia: e.g. Newspapers, television, radio
(means of reaching a unanimous massaudience)
See e.g. Fiske, 1990; Flew, 2007;
Goffman, 1956
Before proceeding we can
establish that:
 Communication appear on all levels in society,
in infinite shapes
 Communication is vital to social life:
Communication IS social life?
 It is therefore important to study the implications
and nature of communication in a given society
3. ’Medium Theory’
 Given this background we can safely conclude that: changes
in the ’media landscape’ (the conditions in which we
communicate) has implications for society at large
 Medium theory is the name describing research on the
particular characteristics of a medium and its impact on
society (Meyrowitz, 1985)
 Canadian school of thought. 1950 – 1985 Prime period
 Focus on large-scale social change: not production, content or
audience as the majority of media and communication
scholars do
 Controversial: techno-determinist, non-empirical, poetic in style
Examples of ’Medium Theory’
 ’The bias of communication’: different media
have different ’biases’; space-biased or timebiased. (Innis, 1951)
 ’The medium is the message’ (McLuhan, 1964)
 ’The global village’ (McLuhan, 1964)
 ’No sense of place’ (Meyrowitz, 1985)
4. Communication and History
Where does the history of
communications begin?
 Johann Gutenberg – A.C.1400, Germany
 Inventor of the mechanical printing press
 Mass-distribution
 Democrataization of literacy
 Translation of the bible
 The nation-state
 As we learned in the beginning of this class:
communication is vital to social life:
 ”If people where all naked and mute, we would
not have a social heirarchy, only a biological
one based on shape, size, muscle, and impulse”
(Meyrowitz, 1985)
 …so where there is social life, there is
 The history of mankind
’The Art and Symbols of Ice Age Man’
(Marshack in Crowley and Heyer (2007)
 According to many, history
began with writing, around 5000
B.C in Mesopotamia, Egypt and
parts of Asia
 25 000 B.C, Ice Age,
Neanderthal. Symbolic, ritual
”These images and symbols were
apparently used as we use
images and symblos today – to
mark rituals and ceremonies, to
indicate differences in age, sex
and rank /…/” (Marshack, 2007)
 Communication in general played the same role
25 000 years ago, as they do now?
 What has changed – How do we use media
differently today? Do we?
Communication in History
References and Reading Tips
Anderson, Benedict. (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections of the Origins of
Nationalism. Verso
Crowley, David & Heyer, Paul. (2007). Communication in History: Technology, Culture,
Society. Pearson Education Inc.
Flew, Terry. (2007). Understanding Global Media. Palgrave McMillan.
Fiske, John. (1990). Introduction to Communication Studies. Routledge
Goffman, Erving. (1956). The Presentation of Self in Everyday life. Anchor Books,
Innis, Harold. (1951). The Bias of Communication. University of Toronto Press
McLuhan, Marhsall. (1964). Understanding the Media: The Extensions of Man. Gingko
Meyrowitz, Joshua. (1985). No Sense of Place. Oxford University Press
Mosco, Vincent. (2009). The Political Economy of Communication. SAGE Publications