Saturday, April 17, 2010

Consciousness from the media ecology perspective


The Future of Consciousness.
By Lance Strate
In ETC.: A Review of General Semantics.
Volume: 66. Issue: 1. Publication Year: 2009. Page Number: 63+
(Available from Questia)

Prof. Lance Strate's brief summary of consciousness from the media ecology perspective is highly enlightening. Surely, a wise way to speculate on the future is to look back on the past and think about the present, for we're all blind to the future.

To quote his passage is quite tempting. But copying a 1485 word passage may not be quite decent (I want to read Lawrence Lessig's Remix!) So what follows is my clumsy summary and paraphrases of the passage. The original thought is contaminated by me. If you're interested, please refer to the original paper.

* We began to interiorize speech after we developed spoken language.

* Through the internalization of speech, we began to interiorize the speaker, the other human beings we interact with.

* Written language was first just a means of recording spoken language. Later, written words were also interiorized, to create a new form of consciousness, a literate consciousness. Words were regarded more as fixed static objects than as a passing event in speech.

* Writing separated the knower from the known. Our thoughts, which were only fleeting and could not be captured in mind or in speech before the invention of writing, were now written down. They were separated from us, and we were on a new level of self-consciousness, where it was possible to (re)view ourselves as the other.

* Literacy is isolating, Whereas we listen all together, we read or write alone. With the invention of printing, a new form of consciousness emerged, where we began to see ourselves as the individual. Our sense of collective consciousness began to recede. (Welcome to the Modern!)

* We developed the generalized other: when we write for publication we imagine a fictitious being, the reader; when we read a printed book we often imagine the role of a imaginary being, the writer.

* With novels, popularized because of printing, we interiorized writing and our individual minds more. Narrative shifted from telling stories about agents doing action to the interior examination of the individual consciousness. (It was probably no accident that Freud followed the spread of the novel.)

* However, there came a new turn of media development. Radio and film revived our sense of collective consciousness (or created a new one). (Literacy remained as the norm of higher education, though.)

* The future of consciousness may lie in how we interiorize contemporary communication technologies. The current heterogeneous mix of oral, literate, and visual modes of communication may 'undo' the fixed and/or separated sense of consciousness. There may be more selves for each of us and a more fragmented and complex inner life.

The original article is based on a presentation given at the Envisioning the Emerging Future Colloquium sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics, following the fifty-third Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, April 23, 2005.


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