Is there a limit?
The Bias of Communication is known as a "classic" in the study of communication technology, but it is also described as "difficult," "nonlineal," "puzzling," and "a struggle" -- probably chiefly because the book does not build to a sustained or coherent argument. Choose one of the three essays assigned for today and read them in the manner suggested by the introduction -- as an "idea file." Identify some important concept, theory, or insight in the essay you chose and describe its importance. Please describe the idea critically as appropriate -- list drawbacks as well as praise. It may be helpful to reference earlier class readings as a point of comparison to show what is different about Innis' ideas or his disciplinary approach (economic history).
One of the things that became abundantly clear while nearing the end of Innis’ first chapter “Minerva’s Owl” is his disciplinary orientation to the topic of communication. What initially may come across as a somewhat haphazard historical narrative linking events and changes with the evolution of communication technology is viewed through a very specific lens, which is quite different from what we have been exposed to in our previous readings. Innis’ background in economics allows him to view knowledge as a commodity which can be possessed and withheld from the masses. This commodification seems to aide in his attempt to explain how such an abstract concept like knowledge could be contingent on the available communication technologies. If we accept Innis’ conception of knowledge as a commodity, it becomes essential to understand how technology increases or decreases the amount of this commodity which is available. While this may seem to be a somewhat cynical view of knowledge it does provide us with an interesting frame work. Instead of thinking about the vast potential of what information is available in the universe, we are instead asked to think about not only how the spectrum of available knowledge may have been limited in the past, but, how we may currently be limited because of the limitations of the mediums we are able to utilize.