Archive for the ‘Harold Innis’ Category

By Marcus Ray

Today in class we spoke of a theory created by Harold Innis. This theory stated that capitalism and its systems create a dysfunctional society. Advertising is one of the main reasons the society becomes dysfunctional. The relentless competition between products that no one should care about becomes a part of our regular day.

As everyone knows, capitalism is about the money before the people. It is unforgiving to the idea of what men and women are, and glorifies what they ought to be. The competition creates so many different products that each one has to be sexualized, glorified, or unique in some way or another that doesn’t necessarily make a difference to the actual function of the product itself. It is the importance of being different than everyone else through representing different products that matters now. What matters even more is that each product that I own becomes a part of who I am. What matters even more is that I am what they want me to be, and that is because they sold me on their warm branded jacked, or their sleek MP3 player, or even their cell phone that can obtain almost any piece of knowledge I could ever acquire. NO. WRONG.

These features that you love, or “need”, are there simply because at first, the opposition doesn’t have it. It’s another selling point that will make the consumers interested.

“The birth of modern industrial economies was not a pretty picture–considering the human and environmental exploitation that accompanied it” (www.amedianysf.com). Exploitation in advertisements creates an almost utopian idea in the consumers head. “If I buy this, then this will happen because the advertisement says it will.” It isn’t this simple in everyday situations, but for products that people think they really need, it is easier for decisions to be swayed.

The competition that capitalism causes creates new products at fast paces. The amount of new products creates the need to advertise in ways that will most effectively capture the audience.

“In this high tech socio-economic setting, the dividing line between information, advertising and art is fading fast. We now have cop documentaries with superb production values and cop shows with jiggly camerawork, Geraldo Rivera-style, audience interactive, talk shows with local dramas more fascinating than soaps and newspapers and newscasts as colorful as ads. Advertising, in turn, is borrowing from political imagery or avant-garde art, as in the recent Benetton, Absolut Vodka or Coca-Cola campaigns” (www.amedianysf.com). These large scale companies create epic paintings of their procucts to make a glorified image of an everyday object. Commercials become short cinematics creating the notion of products as assets. Theres only so much one can do with a bottle of coke. Or is there? “Advertising cannot help but inch towards more honesty and art, simply to compete with news and culture for our attention” (www.amedianysf.com).

“Why would I want to go to the National Art Gallery if I could just walk through the Rideau Centre? I might even find a couple things I want while I’m in there.” I can only hope that no one has ever thought anything remotely close this. It is one of the major threats capitalism has to offer, and every day it seems to be getting nearer.

As advertising has become such a large part of our culture, it has become a large influence as well.



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By Jhansher Khan

What interests me primarily at this point and something that I can see the effects of on a daily basis is hyperconsumption. As we went over this is Dr.Strangelove’s CMN 2160 class, I grew more interested and wanted to explore this to a further extent. He raised many questions I was particularly interested in, the fact that corporations may be able to regulate everything we do or say. Will we lose free speech and our ability to voice our own opinions? Also, to be human is also to question attributes in our environment and assign ideas of what is right and what is wrong. We all speak our opinions, but what if our voices were marginalized and we had to resort to listening to one power with no other alternatives to turn to? Dr.Strangelove brought up this point during his lecture on January 18, 2010. It then had me thinking, what if corporations moved far beyond the production of goods and shifted into an age of control and Tyranny? This is just a speculation, that may or may not occur in decades from now.

We live in an advertising age full of corporations, tempting us to consume, never leaving us with that taste of satisfaction. We must consume, we are never satisfied with what we currently have, we want what is better than the “leading brands.” We work even harder so we have enough money to consume more. Not satisfied with a fully functional 20 inch TV screen, why not get something bigger? Its obvious we don’t absolutely need it, but it would be nice to have something that serves its function much better than the previous versions of essentially the same piece of technology produced on a larger scale. So the idea of replacement is at hand here, whereas improvements are always being made. Therefore, the idea of “change” is at hand.

Lets address one of Harold Innis’s ideas regarding “essentialism,” whereas the world is unchanging and stagnant. This viewpoint introduces the idea that society woul remain “fixed” and “permanent.” In the world we live in today, change is inevitable though. In a book entitled, “The Toronto School of Communication Theory:Interpretations, Extensions, Applications,” it states, “Essentialist and fundamentalist movements organized and stood up to the dominance of the leaders, financers and prophets of global culture, economy and polity, sustained in their resistance by the universe of little media.”(81). To further verify what is being stated here, the idea is that while society did evolve and change, certain groups of society sustained the idea of “essentialism”, whereas they were resistant to change that was occuring. However, dominant powers in society advocate for change constantly. Innis was strongly opposed to the idea of “essentialism” which was widely advocated for in the 1950’s, whereas ideas of society remained stagnant and those in society itself weren’t widely aware of change that was occuring. It is a very “old” way of thinking, where ideas of advancing technological change isn’t advocated for. Innis was one of the few people during his time to actually question the idea of the conventions of  an”essentialist” society and tried to advocate for the idea that society changes due to new innovations.

The question arises out of this, whether or not change is positive or negative. It depends on multiple perspectives when addressing this idea, since it could potentially be both positive and negative. For example, the negative aspect could be too much of control could result over society by corporations if this trend of consumerism continues. An example of a positive aspect would be the idea of technological change which allows us to perform tasks faster than ever before. Therefore, there are two sides to this issue of “change” and Innis was one of the first to question change.

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By Marcus Ray

When was the last time you read the newspaper or watched a television? Compare that now to the last time read an original manuscript. It’s probably been a long time if ever. Time-binding media has seen better days, and in the 21st century, it doesn’t even seem like there’s time to look back.

Harold Innis, a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, was one of the first to argue that the Western world is in danger as it quickly loses grasp of the difference between time and space. Space-binding media is what has brought us to this position by quickly eliminating characteristics that communities need to thrive upon.

With thousands of mass produced books, magazines, newspapers, radio shows, and television programs to watch, we lose our sense of permanence. Tradition is at stake along with our entire sense of time. Innis states that the Western world is suffering from an “obsession with present-mindedness.”

There is a loss of cultural and communal balance as more new advertisements and ideas are quickly introduced to the world everyday. Advertising in the Western world simply doesn’t take traditional aspects of society serious. Space-binding brings into homes the ideas that would never be brought up a few decades ago. Television has been the leader of showing no remorse for women, religion, the elderly, homosexuals, and thats just to name a few.

Knowledge itself is a victim as everything is brief wherever you go. Magazines and newspapers are attempting to create brief articles including large pictures, so that people can read them on the go (People Magazine, Metro, and 24 Hours to name a few examples). Radio will never play long shows because they want to get the attention of the listener, who is usually headed somewhere in a car. Billboards show short, bold messages to try and capture our attention while we walk past. Everything I see on a regular day is lacking in something extremely important that few people realize on a daily basis. They lack knowledge, and the ability to give my brain something to work on. In today’s society thinking almost has to be forced upon us.

So because of space-binding media, we’re hanging on to what ‘was’ important by a thread. With culture, knowledge, and communities at risk in the quickening spawn of advertising and media, North America needs to stop for a minute and realize that we’ve gotten ourselves into.

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