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great divide theories


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*Theories in the comparative analysis of modes of communication which assume or refer to a binary divide or dichotomy between different kinds of society or human experience: primitive vs civilized, simple vs advanced, pre-logical vs logical, pre-rational vs rational, pre-analytic vs analytic, mythopoeic vs logico-empirical, traditional vs modern, concrete vs scientific, oral vs visual, or pre-literate vs literate. Such pairings are often also regarded as virtually interchangeable with each other: so that modernity equals advanced equals civilization equals literacy equals rationality and so on (seealignment). They can also be Eurocentric. The French anthropologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl (1857–1939) created a storm of protest early in the 20th century by labelling as ‘pre-logical’ the thinking of people in hunter-gatherer societies. Such theories tend to suggest radical, deep, and basic differences between modes of thinking in non-literate and literate societies. They are often associated with attempts to develop grand theories of social organization and development. Like any form of simplification they can be interpretively illuminating. However, the sharp division of historical continuity into periods ‘before’ and ‘after’ a technological innovation such as writing assumes the determinist notion of the primacy of ‘revolutions’ in communication technology, and differences tend to be exaggerated. The interpretive alternatives to great divide theories are sometimes called continuity theories: these stress a continuum rather than a radical discontinuity between oral and literate modes, and an ongoing dynamic interaction between various media.

http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/litoral/ Biases of the ear and eye

Subjects: Media Studies.


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