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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Media & The American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan

BOOK REVIEW
Media and the American Mind:
From Morse To McLuhan
By Daniel J. Czitrom
p. 1982
University of North Carolina Press

    This is a book I've had lying around for half a year- I know that because when I went to look it up on Amazon, Amazon kindly informed me that I ordered it in July, 2010.  One of the problems with reading books as supposed to listening to music or collecting stamps is that reading books takes time and mental energy- they really can stack up if you aren't careful.

  Media an the American Mind is an interesting attempt at explaining the way new media were received by the public and by intellectuals- the first part discusses the reception of the telegraph, motion picture s and radio.  The second part talks about the ways intellectuals interpreted these advances in communications technology.  In the second part,  Czitrom discusses the theories of Charles Horton Coole, Joohn Dewey, Robert E. Park, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.  Of those thinkers, I was only familiar with Dewey and McLuhan, so it was interesting to read about the lesser known communications theories of Cooley, Park & Innis.  Innis in particular comes off as the real inspiration for McLuhan's vogue theories of the 1960s.

  What comes across clearly in Media & The American Mind is the paralyzing fear that most intellectuals felt about the prospect of mass media.  Perhaps a more interesting book would have been on the methods by which businesses convinced the public that Mass Culture was something to be valued.  Oh wait- that book was written, and it's called Land of Desire by William Leach.

  Ultimately, Media and the American Mind felt dated- very "Media Studies" very 80s- I'd much rather talk about audiences than media.  McLuhan: I just want to punch him the face, what a doof.

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