ARobberts has a nice post up discussing media ecology and blogging. Here’s a taste:
Perhaps because I am part of a younger generation that grew up with the internet (I first logged on when I was 10 or 11), I find this question to be uninteresting. It is of course valuable to consider the greater trajectory of academic discourse in terms of its quality and depth of insight (not to mention its overall applicability), but to compare a blogging medium with the written medium of academic publishing is like asking whether an alpine meadow is better than a grassland savannah. They are different environments, each with different ecological effects on the human sensorium. For the media ecologists conscious experience is in part always rearranged by our engagements with different media which, depending on the format, emphasize different sensory modalities, a different coordination of brain activity and a variety of different infrastructural modes of organization
Read the rest here. Media ecology, I think, is sometimes something difficult to grasp from the standpoint of the traditional humanities and especially philosophy. The traditional humanities tend to focus on the content of a cultural artifact. They ask “what does it mean?”, “what does it signify?”, “does it contain hidden ideological content?”, “is it true?”, “does it correspond to reality?”, “is it logically consistent?”, etc.
Media ecology is rather different. It is not that media ecology ignores these sorts of questions, but that it notices the existence and role of something else in addition to content: the medium. Traditional humanities has a tendency to look through the medium to the content, treating the medium as if were unimportant or a mere vehicle for content. Traditional humanities looks at “Budweiser” written in neon lights and says “the sign is about “Budweiser”, ignoring entirely the role of the neon lights in this message. As a result, it arrives at a philosophical anthropology and sociology where it is content alone that explains why people think as they do, why they relate as they do, etc., etc., etc..
For media ecology, by contrast, the fact that “Budweiser” is written in neon lights is not unimportant. The medium is not merely a vehicle, but also deeply influences content. Moreover, the media ecologist argues that media affect content in ways that are independent of content or representation. For the media ecologist, what is of interest is the manner in which different mediums affect the way we think, the nature of our affectivity, and the nature of our social relationships. The most famous example here, of course, is writing. There are features intrinsic to the topology of writing that substantially modify the nature of our though, affectivity, and social relations. To see this, it is necessary to do a differential or comparative analysis of writing, contrasting it with speech. Certain forms of thought, affectivity, and social relation only become possible with writing. Without writing we would have no higher order mathematics or philosophy. Likewise, in the transition from oral cultures to written cultures, the very nature of law changes. Where law previously had to be negotiated anew in speech on each occasion, the invention of law allows it to abide in a way not possible prior to writing. Finally, the nature of social relations change with writing insofar as these social relations are no longer bound to face to face encounters in speech, but can now surmount absence, time, and distance through text that allows contact between those who never have any face to face encounters and who never have secondary face to face encounters through hearsay.
For the media ecologist the point is twofold: On the one hand, these features of thought, affectivity, and social relations cannot be accounted for through content alone, but also involve properties of the media itself. The aim, in part, is to determine the manner in which the medium affects the content and social relations. On the other hand, each medium contains its own blind spots, prejudices, and biases foreclosing other domains of reality to it due to the properties of the medium itself. Media ecological critique helps us to see these blind spots and the assumptions that they propagate throughout thought.