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Media Determinism Essay

1779 words - 8 pages

What is Media Determinism?

The concept of Media determinism is so closely associated with technological determinism, it may be helpful to first consider a definition of technology.
At its most basic level, technology was defined by Monsma (1986), who used the Greek word technologia, to mean, "the systematic treatment of an art." Monsma also made reference to Rhetoric in which Aristotle used technique to refer to "a systematic treatment of grammar or speech" (p. 11). In the forward to The Technological SocietyRobert Merton defined technique as, "any complex of standardized means for attaining a predetermined result" (p. vi). Jacques Ellul (1964) defined technique as "the totality of ...view middle of the document...

The phrase "technological determinism" may have been first coined by Thurstein Veblen in his The Engineers and the Price System (Ellul, 1964, p. xviii). The issues raised by technological determinism question the role of technology in shaping our future. To what extent do the tools we make and use determine our behavior?According to Hunnex, one of the tenets of hard determinism is that "the world is a mechanism" . Ergo if one believes in technological determinism, one could say that "mechanization is a mechanism", i.e., the creations of our hands determine our future. By creating technology, we create our future, which cannot be avoided. Those who fear the impact of technology are often the most ardent believers in technological determinism and are outspoken about our need to promote our humanity while at the same time subjecting technological progress to rigorous critique. Critics of technological determinism counter that the technology is not the sole determinant of change. Rather, it is the technology working within a complex social structure.
Media determinism, a subset of technological determinism, is a philosophical and sociological position which posits the power of the media to impact society. As a theory of change, it is seen as a cause and effect relationship. New media technologies bring about change in society. Much like the "magic bullet" theories of mass communication, media determinism provides a somewhat simplistic explanation for very complicated scenarios. Cause and effect relationships are reduced to their most basic premise, and explained as such. Techno-centrist theories make everything explainable in light of the media's relation to technological developments. Two leading media determinists are the Canadian scholars Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.Some questions that this philosophical position might seek to answer are as follows. If indeed culture is shaped by technological developments, and more specifically by media technology, how might the World Wide Web impact society as we know it?What philosophical underpinnings are inherent in this new form of computer-mediated communication? And how might an individual's world-view impact one's decision to participate, and determine the level at which one participates, in this revolution? 

Marshall McLuhan, media theorist, was born in Canada in 1911 and died in 1980. Here are some of his beliefs and theories on the effect of the media on humans ...

The medium is the message
Most feel that a technology/medium isn't inherently good/bad and it's the way they're used that determines their value - McLuhan disagreed. He felt a medium's real content is the medium itself. He was particularly fascinated by the medium of television, calling it a "cool" medium, noting its soporific effect on viewers. He took great satisfaction years later when medical studies showed that...

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