Disciplines

Communication

Abstract

In the field of media ecology, defined as the study of media as environments, media and medium, and ecology and environment are key terms, while information, although commonly employed, is generally used without reference to a specific definition. This article examines the mostly implicit assumptions about and understandings of the term information in the context of the field of media ecology. Information can be seen as a synonym or subset of content or message, can be divided into different orders or levels of content/communication and relationship/medium, and on both levels is dependent on and altered by changes in technology, code, and form. Although sometimes discussed as if it were a substance, information is best understood as a function of communication, which in turn is a function of mediation. As a function of mediated communication, information is closely associated with news and control. Information is also considered the defining characteristic of our contemporary period, but is best understood as a product of electricity, electric technology, and the electronic media. As we have moved from orality to literacy to electricity, so too has the emphasis shifted from wisdom to knowledge to information. Despite popular celebration, this evolution is not an unmitigated good, and what is needed is a balanced media environment.

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