Use Innis’s Concepts of “Time-Biased” and “Space-Biased” Media and His Ideas on Oral and Written Media to Analyse the Internet

2090 Words Nov 18th, 2009 9 Pages
The 20th century has witnessed dramatic developments in the history of media communications as well as human society. During the first half of the last century, electronic media such as the telegraph, radio and television to name a few were invented and became prevalent. Afterwards, the internet came into being and developed at an unprecedented rate to the point where it is now widely accepted that human history has entered into an information age. As claimed by a number of scholars, the appearance of new types of media can bring about dramatic influences on living conditions. Among them, Harold Innis, pioneer in this area of communication studies, is influential, firstly by employing two dimensions to media, namely time and space, and …show more content…
To clarify, the Internet adopts a distributed information storage model which means information is saved in different computers in a distributed manner, so if some information is lost from one computer, it still can be accessed in another (Kleinberg, 2006). Furthermore, along with the development of computer technology, a series of new data storage devices further make up for its duration, for example current popular data-sharing softwares such as BT (ibid.). With enlarging storage abilities, information stored on the Internet can last for long periods of time (ibid.). According to Innis, in history, few empires with a notable exception of the Greek Empire can maintain a balanced relationship between space and time. Often there is the likelihood that one will be given priority over the other (Innis, 1950). Nonetheless, as analyzed above, the Internet has achieved a relatively stable balance between space and time.

Following this, corresponding to the two biases of communication, there are both oral and written media. Oral communication can be seen as time-binding because in oral societies, knowledge can only be passed through generations by word of mouth which generally take place within groups or communities (Innis, 1990). Also, because memory is limited, it is necessary to be particularly selective about knowledge, as a result of which, knowledge not related to maintaining tradition is difficult to be handed down (ibid.).