Monday, April 6, 2009

A Model Media Ecologist

Under the tutelage of professors Neil Postman, Terry Moran and Christine Nystrom, it was the practice in the 1970's of New York University's Program in Media Ecology to hold annual graduate student conferences where each doctoral class picked one member to deliver a "State of the Class" address.

At the fall 1976 Conference, my own Class of 1977 decided to do something different. I had access to a Sony reel to reel black and white Betamax recorder and a camera, and so instead of one class member giving a 30 minute address, each of us in the Class of '77 prepared up to five minutes on video tape of our own personal metaphor for What is Media Ecology? A Model Media Ecologist was my contribution. (I still have the complete video of the Class of '77 if anyone is interested.)

I sang it to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's A Modern Major General. I also used a lot of props to add visual humor to the comic lyrics. For instance, when I sang the line "I also know the difference 'tween me and a theologist" I put on a clerical collar. It is worthwhile to click on the link to view the original recording:

I'm proud to say that Casey M.K. Lum has included A Model Media Ecologist at the beginning of his history of Media Ecology, Perspectives on Culture, Technology and Communication: The Media Ecology Tradition published by Hampton Press. No, I don't get any royalties, although I think I should.*

For those of you who haven't already downloaded A Model Media Ecologist from iTunes, here are the lyrics (modified slightly to bring them into the 21st Century):

A Model Media Ecologist

I am the very model of a Media Ecologist
I also sense the difference 'tween me and a theologist
I've read a bit of Mumford and a little of McLuhan
I also have a fair idea what Watslavik is doing.

Of Levi-Strauss and Jacques Ellul I seem to have a smattering.
The work of Ames and Cantril I am very often flattering.
I'm versed in Systems Theory and in models mathematical
Which I'll dispute with you until the start of my sabbatical.

I know how Shannon-Weaver strove to overcome their channel noise.
I'm well aware that Hayakawa hung out with the Senate boys.
Although it would be better to have been an anthropologist
I am the very model of a Media Ecologist!
I can recite the history of radio and telephone.
As well as why it is Korzybski's ghost is never left alone.
I've studied silent language and the biases of media,
Of Structuralistic notions I'ma real encyclopedia.

I've learned proxemics, kinesics, linguistics styles polemical.
I know why Greeks were oral and why monks were academical.
Then I'll recite five verses from a Bible made by Guternberg,
And guess the probability you know the work of Heisenberg.

Why TV is immediate, massaging your right hemisphere,
While functioning discursively is bound someday to disappear.
Although it would be better to have been an icthyologist,
I am the very model of a Media Ecologist!

When I can tell the difference 'tween "dub" and "dupe" and "master tape";
When I can tell a hot film splicer from a waffle plate;
When showing films or video no longer gets the best of me;
When I can show awareness of the workings of 'lectricity;

When laser beams and holograms no longer seem so magical;
When my attempt to splice a tape does not turn out so tragical;
In short when I've a smattering of modern day technology,
Then I'll feel better saying I know Media Ecology!

For my modern hardware training, though I'm plucky and advertury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of last century!
Although it would be better to have been a gynecologist,
I am the very model of a Media Ecologist!

*BTW. As a published poet (see above), in 2005 I claimed the title of Media Ecology Association Poet Laureate. However, after reading Lance Strate's body of work, as published at his own MySpace blog "Lance Strate's Blogversed" (available here) I hereby abdicate in his favor!