Media Ecologies

This week’s lecture and the related readings introduced and explored the concept of “media ecologies” which I have attempted to deconstruct and comprehend, which if I’m honest, found challenging at times. When I begin to think I have grasped the concept, I come across new definitions which seem to change the meaning of the concept again for me.  Perhaps this is because, even according to theorists and academics, this theory is broadly defined and thus has different meanings, particularly within North American and European contexts as touched upon in this week’s lecture.

I would say media commentator and educationalist Neil Postman‘s definition enhanced my understanding of “media ecologies” the most. Postman was one of the first people to coin the term “media ecology” and simply put, describes it as the study of media as environments, but of course none the less it is much more than that. Postman notes that it:

Looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. (Postman, 1970) [i]

In one of this week’s assigned reading, “Introduction: Media Ecologies”, Matthew Fuller draws upon the idea that all objects, from the pen that I write with to even complex objects such as media systems, “make the world and take part in it, and at the same time, synthesize, block, or make possible other worlds.”  (Fuller, Matthew 2005) [ii] Here, Fuller is describing a kind of “environmentalism”, a term that Postman refers to in relation to “media ecology”.

I wanted to investigate the concept of “media ecologies” further so I used the medium of Youtube to research other definitions of this term.  I came across a video post titled “Introducing Media Ecology”[iii] by Corey Anton, a Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University (see video below), who drew upon the landmark technologies that are studied extensively in “media ecologies”, which are further detailed in another one of this week’s readings – “The First Digital Medium” by Paul Levinsen. Both Anton and Levinsen drew upon the Phonetic alphabet as a large scale social change which became, “the most explosive unintended consequence of an information technology in (recorded history).”(Levinsen, 1997) [iv]  This large-scale change is perhaps a topic I am interested in investigating further as part of my final research project for this course.


Corey Anton, Professor of Communcation Studies at Grand Valley State University, discusses lanmark technologies in relation to “media ecologies” –  2.43 – 4.07 mins 

[i] ‘What is Media Ecology? (Neil Postman)’, Media Ecology Association 2009, <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/&gt;

[ii] Fuller, Matthew (2005) ‘Introduction: Media Ecologies’ in Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture Cambridge, MA; MIT Press: 1-12

[iii] Anton, Corey (2009) ‘Introducing Media Ecology’, Youtube, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IfxAdZgTyo&gt; 2.43 – 4.07

[iv] Levinson, Paul (1997) ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge:11-20


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