Reading wk 2 (19-2-19): would you have a look at the short extract from Harold Innis's Communications and

Think about space/time relations and the control of Empires, and technological determinist (forms of technology drive forms of social change) accounts of the power of communications.

Innis: (1950) Empire and Communication

 ...we become concerned with the problem of empire and, in particular, with factors responsible for the successful operation of 'centrifugal and centripetal forces.' In the organization of large areas, communication occupies a vital place, and it is significant that Bryce's periods correspond roughly, first to that dominated by  clay and papyrus, second to that dominated by parchment, and third to that dominated by paper. The effective government of large areas depends to a very important extent on the efficiency of communication.


  The concepts of time and space reflect the significance of important extent on the efficiency of communication.  The concepts of time and space reflect the  significance of media to civilization. Media that emphasize time are those that are durable in character, such as parchment, clay, and stone. The heavy  materials are suited to the development of architecture and sculpture. Media that emphasize space are apt to·be less durable and light in character, such as papyrus and paper. The latter are suited to wide areas in administration and trade. The conquest of Egypt by Rome gave access to supplies of papyrus,  which became the basis of a large administrative empire. Materials that emphasize time favour decentralization and hierarchical types of institutions,  while those that emphasize space favour centralization and systems of government less hierarchical in character. Large-scale political organizations such as empires must be considered from the standpoint of two dimensions, those of space and time. Empires persist by overcoming the bias of media  which overemphasizes either dimension. They have tended to flourish under conditions in which civilization reflects the influence of more than one medium,  and in which the bias of one medium towards decentralization is offset by the bias of another medium towards centralization.


  Man's activities and powers were roughly extended in proportion to the increased use and perfection of written records. The old magic  was transformed into a new and more potent record of the written word. Priests and scribes interpreted a slowly changing tradition and provided a justification for established authority. An extended social structure strengthened the position of an individual leader with military power, who gave orders to agents who received and executed them. The sword and pen worked together. Power was increased by concentration in a few hands; specialization of function was enforced, and scribes with leisure to keep and study records  contributed to the advancement of knowledge and thought. The written record signed, sealed, and swiftly transmitted was essential to military power and the extension of government. Small communities were written into large states, and states were consolidated into empire.  The monarchies of Egypt and Persia, the Roman empire, and the city-states  were essentially products of writing.


  Extension of activities in more densely populated regions created the need for written records, which, in turn, supported further extension of activities.  Instability of political structures and conflict followed concentration and extension of power. A common ideal image of words spoken beyond the range of personal experience was imposed on dispersed communities and accepted by them. It has been claimed that an extended social structure  was not only held together by increasing numbers of written records, but also equipped with an increased capacity to change ways of living. Following the invention of writing, the special form of heightened language characteristic of the oral tradition and a collective society gave way to private writing.  Records and messages displaced the collective memory. Poetry was written and detached from the collective festivals.


  Writing made the mythical and historical past, the familiar and the alien creation available for appraisal. The idea of things became differentiated from things. This dualism demanded thought and reconciliation. Life was contrasted with the eternal universe, and attempts were made to reconcile the individual with the universal spirit.


 and the following extract: from Castells' article -  Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society  

Extract from Manuel Castells's 'Exploratory Theory of Network Society'

Human societies are made from the conflictive interaction between humans organized in and around a given social structure. This social structure is formed by the interplay between relationships of production/consumption; relationships of experience; and relationships of power. Meaning is constantly produced and reproduced through symbolic interaction between actors framed by this social structure, and, at the same time acting to change it or to reproduce it. By meaning, I understand the symbolic identification by an actor of the purpose of her/his/their action. The consolidation of shared meaning through crystallization of practices in spatio–temporal configurations creates cultures, that is systems of values and beliefs informing codes of behaviour. There is no systemic dominance in this matrix of relationships. There are all layers of social structure and social causation, folded into each other, distinguishable only in analytical terms. Thus, meaning is not produced in the cultural realm: it is the cultural realm that is produced by the consolidation of meaning.



Meaning results from symbolic interaction between brains which are socially and eco-logically constrained, and, at the same time, biologically and culturally able of innovation. Meaning is produced, reproduced, and fought over in all layers of social structure, in production as in consumption, in experience as in power. What makes sense to anyone is deŽ ned by the endless reconstruction by humans of the sources and purpose of their action, always con-strained but never pre-scripted. So, production can be oriented towards glorifying God (and punishing the infidels), as well as religious belief can be twisted to the service of capital accumulation. What actually happens, when, and where (usually by random combination of social events in a pre-existing, historically determined, social structure), makes specific societies such as now the ‘network society’.



Production is the action of humankind on matter (nature), to appropriate it and transform it for its benefit by obtaining a product, consuming(unevenly) part of it, and accumulating the surplus for investment, according to socially decided goals. Consumption is the appropriation of the product by humans for their individual benefit. Analytically, it is a component of the production process, seen from the reverse side.



Experience is the action of humans on themselves, determined by the interplay between their biological and cultural identities, and in relationship to their social and natural environment. It is constructed around the endless search for the fulfilment of human needs and desires.



Power is the action of humans on other humans to impose their will on others, by the use, potential or actual, of symbolic or physical violence. Institutions of society are built to enforce power relationships existing in each historical period, including the controls, limits, and social contracts, achieved in the power struggles. ....



What is new in our age is a new set of information technologies. I contend they represent a greater change in the history of technology than the technologies associated with the Industrial Revolution, or with the previous Information Revolution (printing).Furthermore, we are only at the beginning of this technological revolution as the Internet becomes a universal tool of interactive communication, as we shift from computer-centred technologies to network-diffused technologies, as we make progress in nanotechnology (and thus in the diffusion capacity of information devices), and, even more importantly, as we unleash the biology revolution, making possible for the first time, the design and manipulation of living organisms, including human parts. What is also characteristic of this technological paradigm is the use of knowledge-based, information technologies to enhance and accelerate the production of knowledge and information, in a self-expanding, virtuous circle. Because information processing is at the source of life, and of social action, every domain of our eco-social system is thereby transformed.