This essay discusses similarities of the communication models of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. Language is almost as transparent to us as the air around us. It defines us as humans, allows for the connections among people that are almost as essential to our well-being as oxygen itself, surrounds us from birth until death.
Language is almost as transparent to us as the air around us. It defines us as humans, allows for the connections among people that are almost as essential to our well-being as oxygen itself, surrounds us from birth until death.
And yet, this does not mean that most of us have thought very deeply about the nature of human communication – any more than we think about the molecular structure of the air we breathe.
However there are important differences between air – which is a natural, physical phenomenon outside of human control, except to the extent that we create pollution – and the world of language and communication, which is the creation of humans and under our control. Communication is not neutral, speech acts are not devoid of political content, language is not used only to inform but also to manipulate, to entertain, to lie.
Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis both created models of human communication that helped to make that communication less transparent, less merely part of the background of our lives. By asking us to look at the structures of communication – especially the mass media – these two scholars helped us become more aware of the dynamics that obtain when people communicate with each other. This paper examines the theoretical contributions of these two communications scholars and the ways in which their models compare and differ.
Both scholars argued that the mass media have a significant influence on our lives. Innis argued that not only what people read and see but also what they remember is determined by the mass media, resulting in a culture in which people tend to have not their own, individual memories but the collective memories determined by press coverage.
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