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. Fifty years after his death, Harold Innis remains one of the most widely cited but least understood of communication theorists. This is particularly. PROFESSOR INNIS has written a pioneering book and made a serious contrib nology, we can discover the specific “bias of communication” in each perio.

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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. If priests can gain a monopoly on papyrus and writing, then they will gain power relative to the king who depends on stone monuments. Think of the media blackout during the Gulf War, or to use Foucault’s example how confession is used to convey the moral teachings of the Roman Church.

The Protestant Reformation followed, along with European exploration and empire, the rise of science and the evolution of the nation-state. McLuhan appreciated the way Innis used the technological events of history to ot the accuracy of both that history and jnnis lessons we have learned from it.

Innis tests the oral form as it reacts in many different written cultures, just as he tests the effects of time-structured institutions in their varieties of contact with space-oriented societies” x. As a result, Inhis found itself in a dependent, and vulnerable relationship to the major manufacturing nations, first Britain, then the U. A lifelong student of political economy, Harold Innis became an internationally prominent social scientist bbias chief architect of the staples interpretation of Canadian history.

Innis’s The Bias of Communication has played a major part in reshaping our understanding of history, communication, and media theory. These interrelationships included the partnership between the knowledge and ideas necessary to create and maintain the empire, and the power or force required to expand and defend it.


Media that emphasize space are apt to commuincation less durable and light in character such as papyrus and paper.

As a young professor at the University of Toronto, Innis was concerned that Canadians were being deluged with American material, so he set about to remedy that deficit. A monopoly control of communication defeated attempts to construct empires. Monopolies of knowledge derive their power from several sources: Business done in back rooms or in the corridors of power are often never reported in the media.

Those messages which have lasted have tended to bias our view of the history of empires:.

Harold Innis’s communications theories

Create a free website or blog at WordPress. The remainder of the chapter attempts to demonstrate how these biases influenced the rise and fall of empires from the Egyptians, Sumerians and Babylonians, to the 20th Century North American and European empires.

Knowledge passed down orally depends on a lineage of transmission, often associated with ancestors, and ratified by human contact. Not only were Jnnis exhorted to buy the newest “improved” products, they were also exposed to a barrage of propaganda from political elites.

For them memory is of crucial importance; they revere the wisdom of elders and favour concrete over abstract forms of thought. The Byzantine empire emerged from a fusion of a bias incidental to papyrus in relation to political organization and of parchment in relation to ecclesiastical organization.

Their monopoly of knowledge depended on their control over the production of the time-binding medium of parchment useful for preserving hand-copied garold written in Latin. Oral communication, speech, was considered by Innis to be time-biased because it requires the relative stability of community for face-to-face contact.


Harold Adams Innis: The Bias of Communications & Monopolies of Power

According to Harold Innis, monopolies of knowledge eventually face challenges to their power, especially with the arrival of new media.

This is still problematic. When fascism comes to America, it will come in the form of democracy.

University of Toronto Press, p. Innis would, for example, be fascinated by the Nisga’a treaty negotiations in British Columbia, where a time-biased, marginalized and predominantly oral culture is attempting to communicate with a space-biased culture transfixed by the rule of written law.

In Empire and CommunicationsInnis wrote that the ebb and flow of Egypt’s ancient empire partly reflected weaknesses or limitations imposed by “the inflexibility of religious institutions supported by a monopoly over a complex system of writing”:.

Innis makes it quite clear that the character of this writing is what made it amenable to the creation of a monopoly over knowledge Empirep28 Writing was a difficult and specialized art requiring long apprenticeship, and reading implied a long period of instruction…. From the end of WWII until his death inInnis worked steadily on an investigation of the social history of communication, studying the communication media of the last years.

Time-biased mediasuch as stone and clay, are durable and heavy. The Laurentian paradigm dominated Canadian history and social science from the s to the early s. Related elements are juxtaposed, leaving gaps which require the reader to make connections. Complexity favoured increasing control under a monopoly of priests and the confinement of knowledge to special classes.

Mastery of Complexity creates a hierarchy of professionals and amateurs.