The Bias of Communication

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University of Toronto Press, 2008 - Business & Economics - 226 pages
3 Reviews

One of the most influential books ever published in Canada, Harold A. Innis's The Bias of Communication has played a major part in reshaping our understanding of history, communication, and media theory. First published in 1951, this masterful collection of essays explores the relationship between a society's communication media and that community's ability to maintain control over its development. Innis considers political and economic forces in the context of social change and the role of communication in the creation of both ancient and modern empires.

In an essay for this new edition, Innis biographer Alexander John Watson examines the reasons why Innis, at the height of his success as an economic historian, embarked on new research areas of communications and empire, as well as the ways in which Marshall McLuhan's interpretations of Innis changed and de-politicized Innis's work.

As important today as it was when first published, The Bias of Communication is essential reading for historians and scholars of communication and media studies.

  

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User Review  - George Walker - Goodreads

Innis was the teacher of Marshall McLuhan and you will begin to understand how McLuhan's ideas evelved by reading Innis. The notes for this book are available at the Fisher Rare book library here in ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15

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About the author (2008)

A lifelong student of political economy, Harold Innis became an internationally prominent social scientist and chief architect of the staples interpretation of Canadian history. An undergraduate student at McMaster University at the opening of World War I, Innis volunteered for military service. While in France, he was seriously wounded. What Innis experienced during the war contradicted popular beliefs at home that the Canadian identity was a pale reflection of British imperialism and deepened his nationalist outlook. After doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, Innis joined the faculty of the University of Toronto. Rejecting the thesis of American historian Frederick Jackson Turner as a key to Canada's history, during the 1920s and 1930s he articulated the framework for a new Laurentian---St. Lawrence River-based---interpretation. At any given period, Innis argued, the pattern of Canadian economic development was based on the physical characteristics of a particular staple and the methods by which it was extracted and carried to distant markets. Innis first outlined his ideas in The Fur Trade in Canada (1930). Beginning with an extended discussion of the unique characteristics of the beaver, he then elaborates upon the importance of indigenous people's harvesting and processing techniques, the fur traders' business methods, and the critical river transportation routes that fostered a distinctive pattern of development in Canada over three centuries. In the last chapter, Innis suggests ways that other staples, such as timber, wheat and minerals, modified the patterns originally established during the fur trade. Innis devoted the remainder of his life to fleshing out these ideas, and toward the end he began to explore the biases embedded in staples-driven communications systems. Some of his ideas were taken up and extended by Marshall McLuhan. The Laurentian paradigm dominated Canadian history and social science from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Its influence is still reflected in the work of Canadian scholars most skeptical about America's cold war leadership. In its pursuit of less nationalistic themes in Canadian history, the present generation has not so much revised Innis's work as ignored it.

Alexander John Watson is a senior fellow at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

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