Korzybski was wounded as a Polish soldier in the Russian army during the First World War, and went on to publish Manhood of Humanity in 1921, Science and Sanity in 1933, and found the Institute of General Semantics in Chicago in 1938. Harold Innis was wounded as a Canadian solider in the British army during the First World War, earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1920, and went on to teach at the University of Toronto, where he became Canada's leading economist. The parallels are interesting, but as far as I can tell, they never met or communicated with one another. Innis published several books on the subject of Canada's political economy during the twenties, thirties, and forties, and did not turn his attention to the study of communication until after the Second World War. It was not until 1950, the year that Korzybski died, that Innis published Empire and Communications, followed the next year by The Bias of Communication, and then by Changing Concepts of Time, published in 1952, the year that Innis died. And it was in The Bias of Communication in particular that Innis discussed the biases of time, and space. Whereas Korzybski was concerned with the question of what distinguishes humanity from other forms of life, Innis was concerned with the question of what distinguishes one type of human society from another. And whereas Korzybski brought an engineer's concern with work and energy to the study of time, Innis brought an economist's concern with raw materials and staples; if time is energy to Korzybski, the media by which we communicate over time is akin to coal and oil to Innis.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Time-Binds and Biases
So, I know I'm not blogging as much as I should be, but right now I'm working on my keynote address for the 67th Annual Conference of the New York State Communication Association. You can read all about the event by heading over to their website, New York State Communication Association, but here's the deal.
The conference is on October 23-25, and it's in the Catskills, about an hour north of New York City. NYSCA always has a great little conference, small and intimate, with meal plan included and meals taken together so there is lots of time to get to know each other and otherwise schmooze. Neil Postman loved NYSCA, and was a great supporter of the organization, and James W. Carey was also part of the crew.
In fact, this year's conference theme was chosen, by conference organizer and NYSCA Vice-President Donna Flayhan, to honor Carey's memory: Examining Ritual, Technology, and Community in This New Century.
John Durham Peters from the University of Iowa, author of the excellent book on communication, Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication, is one of the keynote speakers, and I am very much looking forward to hearing what he has to say, especially since his topic is "God and Google: On Seeking in the Digital Era." He'll be giving the Saturday night keynote.
As for the Friday night keynote, well, c'est moi. I know, I know, they must be pretty hard up to have to resort to me, well, what can I say? My title is, "On the Binding Biases of Time." And as the title suggests, Alfred Korzybski and general semantics, and Harold Innis and media ecology will be a part of it. James Carey too.
I'll also be chairing a couple of sessions, one on general semantics, one on media ecology. And I'll be participating on a session devoted to poetry!
Hey, NYSCA is relatively affordable, and always a great time, so come join us if you can.
And, ok, as a bit of a teaser, here is an excerpt from my address (still in draft form and subject to change):
So, if that hasn't scared you off, and you have the time and means, I hope to see you there! If not, well, I'll let you know how it went. In time.