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PSY 355 Psychology & Media in the Digital Age

This page was last modified on February 20, 2021

The Development of Media from a Media Ecology Perspective

Thought Experiment: A World Without Almost Any Media
  • What would life be like?
  • How would you make a living? How would you know what to do day by day and season by season?
  • How many people do you think would be around in such a circumstance?
  • What happens to social groups, bands of people, etc. when some sort of illness or disease quickly spreads throughout the group?
History of Human Media

Some General Principles of the Media Ecological Perspective

1. The media environment -- that is, the tools available to communicate and maintain information -- have a profound effect upon the societies in which human beings live including how they think and how they carry out their daily lives.

2. Media build upon the human sensory-perceptual system and allow people to do things they otherwise could not be able to do.

3. Human beings in later media environments often live in ways that are very different than human beings in earlier media environments.

World of Primary Orality and Oral Culture

This is the world before human beings invented writing.

In this world human beings depend(ed) upon verbal (oral) communication and memory as the ways of interacting with one another and retaining information.

  • The cognitive bias of this world lay with the voice and sound.
  • It emphasized careful listening and skillful speaking.

According to Walter Ong in his 1982 book Orality and Literacy, there are important characteristics associated with living in oral cultures.

Fr. Walter Ong, SJ1. People express themselves in additive fashion

2. More additive than analytic

3. Tends  to be "copious" and redundant

4. Value conservative responses to the world.

5. Thinking: close reference to the actual lifeworld

6. Specific situations rather than abstract speculations.

7. Values homeostasis

8. Emphasizes empathy and participation

9. Looks to argumentation (what Ong calls being "agonistic")

[Senagalese Griot]Types of "media" in Oral Culture

  • Orations
  • Tribal Councils
  • Songs, e.g., Iliad & Odyssey of Homer
  • Storytelling, e.g, in Celtic Irish culture the file (poet) or in West African culture, the "griot"

Development of Writing & Literate Culture

Unicode & Exemplar Scripts

Have you ever heard of "Unicode" or the Unicode Consortium?

Writing Systems


  • Pictorgrams: represents an object
  • Ideograms: represent an idea


  • Logograms: represents a word or a morpheme (syllable)
    • Sumerian cunieform
    • Egyptian hieroglyphics
    • Chinese Hanzi characters


  • Alphabets (ca. 1050 BCE by Phoenicians): represent sounds.

Associated Writing Technologies

  • Monuments & Wall Inscriptions
  • Clay tablets
  • Papyrus
  • Wax tablets
  • Parchment
  • Paper
  • Manuscripts
    • Scroll
    • Codex

Chirography's Effects and the Development of Literary Culture

  • Chirography ('chiro' = 'by hand" & 'graph' = 'writing')
  • Writing was limited to a small percentage of the population
  • Writing allows
    • (a) recording important data that could be consulted or read again and again in the future
    • (b) exchanging important information with others at great distances and being able to monitor events far away
    • (c) establishing uniform sets of laws and procedures that might apply to large territories of land
    • (d) keeping track of financial transactions and legal ownership of property
    • (e) entering into long-term contracts with undisputed evidence of what was agreed to by the parties, etc. 
  • Thinking itself becomes both more highly internalized
  • Since the expression of thought is externalized when put down in writing, it can be examined by others for longer periods of time.
  • Historical development of broadly-embraced religions
    • Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all religions "of the Book."
    • The Vedas of Hinduism were written in Sanskrit in ca. 1500-500 BC.
    • Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Daoism, Confucism, etc. relied upon a wide range of written texts. 
  • The written word cannot or has difficulty conveying the prosody of speech

This page was first posted on 2/6/14