Information Technologies and Social Orders

Front Cover
Carl J. Couch, David R. Maines, Shing-Ling Chen
Transaction Publishers, 2017 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 272 pages

The history of human society, as Carl Couch recounts it in his speculative final book, is a history of successive, sometimes overlapping information technologies used to process the varied symbolic representations that inform particular social contexts. Couch departs from earlier "media" theorists who ignored these contexts in order to concentrate on the technologies themselves. Here, instead, he adopts a consistent theory of interpersonal and intergroup relations to depict the essential interface between the technologies and the social contexts. He emphasizes the dynamic and formative capacities of such technologies, and places them within the major institutional relations of societies of any size. Social orders are viewed in these pages as inherently and reflexively shaped by the information technologies that participants in the institutions use to carry out their work. The manuscript was nearly complete in draft at the time of Couch's death. He has left a bold, synthetic statement, reclaiming the common ground of sociology and communication studies and articulating the indispensability of each for the other. With admirable scope, across historical epochs and cultures, he shows in detail the transformative power of information technologies. While the author hopes that a humane vision comes with each technological advance, he nonetheless describes the numerous instances of mass brutality and oppression that have resulted from the oligarchic control of those technologies. Couch's theory and substantive analysis speak directly to the interests of historians, sociologists, and communication scholars. In its review, Contemporary Sociology said: "The volume is full of smart insights and valuable information, a fitting final effort for a scholar of great distinction." Carl J. Couch was professor of sociology at the University of Iowa and was president of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction which he helped to establish, and is known as the creator of the New Iowa School of Symbolic Interaction. He died in 1994. The Carl Couch Center for Social and Internet Research was established in his memory. David R. Maines is chairperson at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Oakland University, and editor of the Communication and Social Order series. Shing- Ling Chen is assistant professor of mass communication at the University of Northern Iowa.

 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
1
Communication Process
2
Social Relationships
7
Information Technologies
12
Mode of Analysis
14
Conclusions
15
ORALITY
17
As Contrived Speech
18
NEWSPAPERS AND STATE STRUCTURES
135
Early Newspapers
136
North American Newspapers
138
LegislatureCentered States
144
The Diffusion of Representative Democracy
147
Mass Distribution
150
News in Totalitarian States
152
Newspapers in the Electronic Age
153

Ancient Oralities
23
Formatting
25
Specialists
27
Interfacing with Written Languages
28
Conclusions
29
DECORATIONS AND DEPICTIONS
31
Photography
34
Sculpture
34
Personal Adornments
35
How Static Visuals Structure Experiences
39
Conclusions
40
EXTENDING TEMPORAL STRUCTURES
43
Simple Calendars
46
Refinements
48
Timekeeping Specialists
51
Quantifying Durations
54
Clocks
55
Conclusions
58
NUMERIC AND SPATIAL CONCEPTS
61
Computation of Quantities
65
Place Value
66
States and Numbers
67
Spatial Concepts
69
Spatial Computations
73
Conclusions
75
BUREAUCRATIC STRUCTURES
79
The Formatting of Information
83
External Relationships
84
Internal Relationships
85
In the Service of Evil
87
Bureaucracies and Social Science
90
Conclusions
92
WRITTEN LANGUAGES
95
Early Writing
96
Pictographic Writings
97
Phonetic Writing
101
Qualities of Written Information
105
Myths and Histories
109
Conclusions
113
PRINTING BOOKS
115
China
116
Europe
117
The Press and Church
121
Impact on Other Religions
125
The Press and State
126
Intellectual Ferment
128
Ludenic Reading
132
Conclusions
133
Conclusions
154
TELECOMMUNICATIONS OVERCOMING SPACE
157
The Telegraph
160
The Telephone
162
Telematics
163
Enhancing Social Structures
164
Forming Social Structures
166
Forms of Sociation
168
Conclusions
169
RECORDED SOUNDS AND SIGHTS
171
Religion and State Control
173
Entertainment
177
Documentaries
178
Formatting Experiences and Action
181
Conclusions
184
BROADCASTING SOUND AND SIGHTS
187
Qualitative Features
190
Entertainment
191
Instantaneous News
193
Electronic Charisma
195
Legislatures and Broadcasting
199
The Internationalization of Broadcasting
200
Conclusions
202
INFORMATIONPROCESSING MACHINES
205
The State Market and Computers
208
The Nature of the Beast
209
Formatting Experience and Action
211
Computerized Social Structures
212
Computerized Scholarship
215
Production
217
Recreation
219
Conclusions
220
KNOWLEDGE CENTERS
223
Knowledge Centers Temples and States
226
The Greek Achievement
228
The University as a Social Form
229
Autonomy
232
Hegemony of Knowledge Centers
234
Conclusions
235
OH WHAT WEBS THOSE PHANTOMS SPIN
237
Qualities of Information
239
Interfacings of Information and Social Relationships
241
Hegemony of Relationships
243
Prophecy
247
Conclusions
249
REFERENCES
251
INDEX
265
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