Abstract. Fifty years after his death, Harold Innis remains one of the most widely cited but least understood of communication theorists. This is particularly true in. PROFESSOR INNIS has written a pioneering book and made a serious contrib nology, we can discover the specific “bias of communication” in each perio. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Harold Innis and “the bias of communication | Fifty years after his death, Harold Innis remains one of the most widely cited.

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In this chapter of his history of Western civilizations, H. The Bias of Communication is considered one of the most influential books ever published in this country, this text played a major part in reshaping our understanding of history, communication, and media theory.

Harold Innis’ bias of communications – a starting point, not a foundation

Latin written on parchment, the medium of the Christian Church, was attacked through the secular medium of vernaculars written on paper. The ideal situation of course was to have a good balance of both types of media, but this only rarely happened in practice.

The crisis facing the West was worsened, Innis argued, because communications monopolies that ran the media were largely immune from outside challenge. In the United States, the dominance of the newspaper led to large-scale development of monopolies of communication in terms of space and implied a neglect of problems of time.

In our own time, we have witnessed such shifting monopolies biws the delivery of news to the masses from newspapers to radio to television to the internet. What forms of power do they encourage? Instability resulting from a lack of balance between time- and space-biased media, and agitation from the margins of the empire can equally drive social change.

Related elements are juxtaposed, leaving gaps which require the reader to make connections.

Place and placelessness E. Some of his knnis were taken up and extended by Marshall McLuhan. Email Address never made public.

We know about the history of empires largely from the time-biased documents that have survived.

Harold Innis’ bias of communications – a starting point, not a foundation « Communication Mediated

Those who control knowledge have the power to define reality. Each medium has its bias, a bias which changes in relation to the significance of the others in the consciousness of cultures.


They include modern media such or radio, television, and mass circulation newspapers that convey information to many people over long distances, but have short exposure times. The written record, signed, sealed and swiftly transmitted was essential to military power and the extension of government. According to its characteristics [a medium of communication] may be better suited to transportation, or to the dissemination of knowledge over time than over space, particularly if the medium is heavy and durable and not suited to transportation, or to the dissemination of knowledge over space than over time, particularly if the medium is light and easily transported.

Innis often returns to the evolving drama of language as an important means of communication. He establishes a dialectic between media with a time-bias and those with a space-bias: In Empire and CommunicationsInnis wrote that the ebb and flow of Egypt’s ancient empire partly reflected weaknesses communiication limitations imposed by “the inflexibility of religious institutions supported by a monopoly over a complex system of writing”:.

Retrieved from ” https: For them memory is of crucial importance; they revere the wisdom of elders and favour concrete over abstract forms of thought.

Phil Nichols rated it really liked it Dec 25, Since they are difficult to move, they do not encourage territorial expansion; however, since they have a long life, cmmunication do encourage the extension of empire over time. Tom Dean rated it really liked it Sep 26, The latter are suited to wide areas in administration and trade. In order to understand any medium, we must attend not only to its physical characteristics, but also to the way in which it is employed and institutionalized. The cult of “production value” in design, recording, television, and Hollywood movies makes it difficult for lower budget artifacts to compete for attention.

Innis hhe on his distinctions between time-biased and space-biased media in Empire and Communications:. For Innis, speech is a time-biased medium. This is a difficult but rewarding read. As a result, Canada found itself in a dependent, and vulnerable relationship to the major manufacturing nations, first Britain, then the U.

Harold Innis’s communications theories – Wikipedia

Be the first to ask a question about The Bias of Communication. Agree or disagree with Innes’s ideas, this will challenge what you think you know about how the ‘truth’ of not just history, but of a society’s perception of itself in the here and now.

Erinc rated it it was amazing May 11, Those media that supported theocratic empires had relative durability as a major characteristic so that they could support the concepts of eternal life and endless dynasties.


If you find the book slowing down, jump to the final chapter, “A Critical Review” for an ultimate synthesis of Innis’s ideas — which were completely groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting at the time of publication. As the cycle begins anew — it would appear that the next empire lies in the blockchain and its ability to create a new monopoly in time based on characteristics like immutability and its ability to timestamp.

While time-biased media favour stability, community, tradition and religion, space-biased media facilitate rapid change, materialism, secularism and empire.

Those cultures made powerful through their former monopolies of knowledge based on film, print, or television become vulnerable to the attacks of cultures which make use of new communications technologies.

Thus we learn hsrold Innis that all great empires are most vulnerable in the moment of their over-reaching. It would thus be a mistake to consider Innis a technological determinist: Nov 19, Robert Cross rated it really liked it. Innis focuses on the effects which the specific form of the media has and how it effects time, space, knowledge, and or I was turned on to “The Bias of Communication” after seeing it referenced multiple times by high-caliber innovators on my Twitter feed.


Changed my perception of the world, especially in regards to opening my eyes wide to how differently history can be ‘read’. Jan 03, Steven Felicelli rated it liked it. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Ability to Afford High Costs: Writing on clay and on stone has been preserved more effectively than that on papyrus. Technology and the Canadian Mind: Time-biased mediasuch as stone and clay, are durable and heavy. The practice of his communication… Persona Studies Vol 2 No 2: Innis sees a dialectical relationship between society and technology: The new media allow those on the periphery to develop and consolidate power, and ultimately to challenge the authority of the centre.

First published incommunicatio masterful collection of essays explores the relationship between a society’s communication media and that community’s ability to biws control harols its development.