Media Ecology: A Complex and Systemic Metadiscipline
2. What Is Media Ecology?
Media ecology 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. The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people. An environment is, after all, a complex message system which imposes on human beings certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It structures what we can see and say and, therefore, do. It assigns roles to us and insists on our playing them. It specifies what we are permitted to do and what we are not. Sometimes, as in the case of a courtroom, or classroom, or business office, the specifications are explicit and formal. In the case of media environments (e.g., books, radio, film, television, etc.), the specifications are more often implicit and informal, half concealed by our assumption that what we are dealing with is not an environment but merely a machine. Media ecology tries to make these specifications explicit. It tries to find out what roles media force us to play, how media structure what we are seeing, why media make us feel and act as we do. Media ecology is the study of media as environments.(see )
Traditionally, an ecological system or ecosystem refers to a biological system consisting of a natural physical environment and the living organisms inhabiting that physical environment as well as the interactions of all the constituents of the system. A media ecosystem is defined in analogy with a traditional biological ecosystem as a system consisting of human beings and the media and technology through which they interact and communicate with each other. It also includes the languages with which they express and code their communication (…) Language and technologies mediate and create environments like media. Media and languages are both techniques and tools just like any other form of technology. Media and technologies are languages of expression, which like a language communicate information with their own unique semantics and syntax. Given these overlaps, we claim that the ecological study of media cannot be restricted to narrowly defined media of communication but must also include technology and language and the interactions of these three domains, with together form a media ecosystem.(Logan, 2010  (pp. 33–34))
Media ecology is a metadiscipline that deals with the study of a complex set of relationships or interrelationships between symbols, media and culture. The word ecology implies the study of environments and their interrelationships: content, structure, and social impact. A media environment is one that derives from the interrelationships between man and the different communication technologies such as: books, radio, television and internet. Media ecology is the study of techniques, modes of information and communication codes as the main part of an interrelated environment performing various effects in a given context.
Media ecology is the study of media environments, the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs. Media ecology “is” the Toronto School, and the New York School. It “is” technological determinism, hard and soft, and technological evolution. It “is” media logic, medium theory, mediology. It “is” McLuhan studies, orality-literacy studies, American cultural studies. It “is” grammar and rhetoric, semiotics and systems theory, the history and the philosophy of technology. It “is” the postindustrial and the postmodern, and the preliterate and prehistoric.
According to the Media Ecology Association, the term “media ecology” can be defined as “the study of media environments, the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs”. Media ecology theory centers on the principles that technology not only profoundly influences society; it also controls virtually all walks of life. It is a study of how media and communication processes affect human perception and understanding. The term was first formally introduced by Neil Postman in 1968, while the concept of the theory was proposed by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. To strengthen this theory, McLuhan and Quentin Fiore claim that it is the media of the epoch that defines the essence of the society by presenting four epochs, inclusive of Tribal Era, Literate Era, Print Era and Electronic Era, which corresponds to the dominant mode of communication of the time respectively. McLuhan argues that media act as extensions of the human senses in each era, and communication technology is the primary cause of social change. To understand how media effect large structural changes in human outlook, McLuhan classified media as either hot or cool. Hot media refers to a high-definition communication that demands little involvement from audience whereas cool media describes media that demands active involvement from audience. McLuhan with his son Eric McLuhan expanded the theory in 1988 by developing a way to look further into the effects of technology on society. They offer the tetrad as an organized concept that allows people to know the laws of media, the past, present and future effects of media. Media ecology is a contested term within media studies for it has different meanings in European and North American contexts. The North American definition refers to an interdisciplinary field of media theory and media design involving the study of media environments The European version of media ecology is a materialist investigation of media systems as complex dynamic systems.
A broad based scholarly tradition and social practice. It is both historical and contemporary, as it slides between and incorporates the ancient, the modern, and the post-modern. ... More precisely, media ecology understands the on-going history of humanity and the dynamics of culture and personhood to be intricately intertwined with communication and communication technologies.
Postman himself recognized that Marshall McLuhan had used it earlier this decade, specifically in the era of his greatest intellectual brilliance (The Gutenberg Galaxy is published in 1962, and Understanding Media in 1964) (...) during his lecture, Postman defined the Media Ecology as the study of media as environments.
No single individual is more central to media ecology than McLuhan, not because he was the first to employ this perspective, but rather because he popularized it, and produced the first great synthesis of media ecological thought. For some, McLuhanism or McLuhan Studies is sufficient in and of itself, and all the answers can be found in his writings. To others, it was the questions he asked that had the true significance, as he opened up a relatively new field of study, probed uncharted territories, generated excitement, and served as a source of inspiration. For the vast majority, it was this book, first published in 1964, which turned them on to the study of media environments.
3. The Interpretation of Historical Time
The increase of speed from the mechanical to instant electrically reverses explosion in implosion. In the present Electric Age the imploding or contracting energies of our world collide with the old patterns of organization, expansionists and traditionals (...) In fact, creating our concern for the population is not increasing quantities, but the fact is that everyone has to live in closer proximity created by our electric and reciprocal involvement in the lives of others.(McLuhan, 1996  (p. 55))
4. Media Ecology and Complex and Systemic Thinking
“Until very recently there is a voice that understood that set of ideas; to express everything through a word, I was forced to invent it. From there: cybernetics, resulting from kubernetes, Greek word, or helm, the root of which people of the West have formed government and its derivatives.”(Wiener, 1981  (p. 17))
In 1948, Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) publishes Cybernetics or control and communication in animals and machines. This work, in which observation of physiological processes and neurophysiological monitoring (heart muscle contraction, benefits the nervous system as an integrated whole) and formalization of a general theory of technological control systems gets intersect, is the starting point for pilotage or science cybernetics.
We give the name of the content information which is the subject of trade with the outside world, as we adjust to it and make that fits us. The process of receiving and using information is to adjust to the contingencies of our environment and living effectively within it. The needs and complexity of modern life posed to this phenomenon demands more intense exchange of information at any other time; the press, museums, scientific laboratories, universities, libraries and textbooks have to meet them or fail in its purpose. Live effectively it means having the right information. Thus, communication and regulation constitute the inner life of man, and their social life.
states that the properties of the systems can’t significantly be described in terms of its separate elements. The understanding of systems occurs only when they are studied globally, involving all the interdependencies of its parts. The three basic premises are: the systems exist within systems, the systems are open and the function of a system depends on its structure.
The Luhmann’s theory has, instead, powerful analytical tools for understanding the functioning of society, subsystems and organizations. Mechanisms for reducing the complexity, the codes of the various subsystems, the binary selection schemes and regulation of relations within each subsystem and exchanges between them, are rigorously scrutinized. So the conceptual apparatus is emerging as a very suitable to the characteristics of modern society vision, and the processes that occur at different levels.
McLuhan (2003) argued that language is a form of perception, indeed, that languages are organs of perception. And to Luhmann (1982, 1989, 1995, 2000), both, perception and language, contribute to the maintenance and running of the limits of self-organizing social systems.(Strate, 2010  (p. 35))
Conflicts of Interest
- Wiener, N. Cibernética y Sociedad; Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología: México City, Mexico, 1981. [Google Scholar]
- Von Bertalanffy, L. Teoría General de los Sistema: Fundamentos, desarrollo, aplicaciones; Editorial Fondo de Cultura Económica: Ciudad de México, Mexico, 1976. [Google Scholar]
- Logan, R. Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan; Peter Lang: New York, NY, USA, 2010. [Google Scholar]
- Luhmann, N. Ecological Communication; Bednarz, J., Ed.; Polity Press: Cambridge, UK, 1988. [Google Scholar]
- Strate, L. Korzybski, Luhmann, and McLuhan. In Proceedings of the Media Ecology Association, Eleventh Annual Convention, University of Maine, Orono, MN, USA, 10–13 June 2010; Volume 11, pp. 31–42.
- McLuhan, M.; McLuhan, E. Laws of Media: The New Science; University of Toronto Press: Toronto, ON, Canada, 1988. [Google Scholar]
- Postman, N. What is Media Ecology? Available online: http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/index.html#What is Media Ecology? (accessed on 22 July 2016).
- Islas, O. La Televisión en Internet Desde el Imaginario de la Ubicuidad. Available online: http://www.razonypalabra.org.mx/anteriores/n60/varia/oislas.htm (accessed on 25 July 2016).
- Scolari, C. Ecología de los Medios. Mapa de un Nicho Teórico. Available online: http://www.cac.cat/pfw_files/cma/recerca/quaderns_cac/Q34_Scolari_ES.pdf (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Wikipedia. Media Ecology. Available online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Anton, C. History, orientations, and future directions of media ecology. In Mass Media Research: International Approaches; Pasadeos, Y., Dimitrakopoulou, D., Eds.; Athens Institute for Education and Research: Athens, Greece, 2006; p. 299. [Google Scholar]
- McLuhan, M. Comprender los Medios de Comunicación: Las Extensiones del ser Humano; Paidós: Barcelona, Spain, 1996. [Google Scholar]
- McLuhan, M. Understanding Media: The Extension of Man; McGraw-Hill: New York, NY, USA, 1964. [Google Scholar]
- Bell, D. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting; Basic Books: New York, NY, USA, 1973. [Google Scholar]
- Toffler, A. La Tercera Ola; Edivisión: México City, Mexico, 1981. [Google Scholar]
- Bacon, F. Novum Organum; Losada: Madrid, Spain, 2004. [Google Scholar]
- Descartes, R. El Discurso del Método; Alianza Editorial: Madrid, Spain, 2011. [Google Scholar]
- Hobbes, T. Leviatán; Losada: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009. [Google Scholar]
- Newton, I. The Principia; University of California: Berkeley, CA, USA, 1999. [Google Scholar]
- Mattelart, A. Una Historia de la Sociedad de la Información; Editorial Paidós: Barcelona, Spain, 2002. [Google Scholar]
- Wikipedia. Claude Shannon. Available online: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Elwood_Shannon (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Benito, A. Fundamentos de la Teoría General de la Información; Pirámide: Madrid, Spain, 1982. [Google Scholar]
- Morris, C. Fundamentos de la Teoría de los Signos; Paidós: Barcelona, Spain, 1985. [Google Scholar]
- Korzybski, A. Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics; Institute of General Semantics: New York, NY, USA, 1994. [Google Scholar]
- Wikipedia. Ludwig Von Bertalanffy. Available online: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_von_Bertalanffy (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Luhmann, N. Complejidad y Modernidad; Ed. Trotta: Madrid, Spain, 1998. [Google Scholar]
- Wikipedia. Niklas Luhmann. Available online: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niklas_Luhmann (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Arriaga, E. La Teoría de Niklas Luhmann. En Infoamérica. Available online: http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_pdf/luhmann_01.pdf (accessed on 29 August 2016).
- Parson, T. The Social System; The Free Press: New York, NY, USA, 1951. [Google Scholar]
- McLuhan, M. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man; Toronto Press: Toronto, ON, Canada, 1962. [Google Scholar]
- Strate, L. A Media Ecology Review. In Communication Research Trends; Hampton Press: New York, NY, USA, 2004; Volume 3. [Google Scholar]
- Federman, M.; De Kerckhove, D. McLuhan for Managers; Viking Books: Toronto, ON, Canada, 2003. [Google Scholar]
- Gaston, G. ¿Qué es una Metadisciplina? Available online: http://dianoia.filosoficas.unam.mx/files/2713/6987/4813/DIA86_Gaston_Granger.pdf (accessed on 22 July 2016).
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Islas, O.; Bernal, J.D. Media Ecology: A Complex and Systemic Metadiscipline. Philosophies 2016, 1, 190-198. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030190
Islas O, Bernal JD. Media Ecology: A Complex and Systemic Metadiscipline. Philosophies. 2016; 1(3):190-198. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030190Chicago/Turabian Style
Islas, Octavio, and Juan David Bernal. 2016. "Media Ecology: A Complex and Systemic Metadiscipline" Philosophies 1, no. 3: 190-198. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030190