At the 58th annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, held in Milwaukee on November 29, 1968, Neil Postman gave an address entitled "Growing Up Relevant" as the main part of a program session entitled Media Ecology: The English of the Future. This talk was later published as a book chapter in the anthology, High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education, edited by Alvin C. Eurich, where it appeared under the title of The Reformed English Curriculum.
In conjunction with the 1974 Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics, Postman delivered an address entitled, Media Ecology: General Semantics in the Third Millennium, emphasizing the link between the two. A similar connection was made in the 1969 book he co-authored with Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, which introduced “the Sapir-Whorf-Korzybski-Ames-Einstein-Heisenberg-Wittgenstein-McLuhan-Et Al. Hypothesis … that language is not merely a vehicle of expression, it is also the driver; and that what we perceive, and therefore can learn, is a function of our languaging processes.”
Postman's 1968 address marks the formal introduction of the term media ecology, which Postman used as the name for a field of inquiry that he defined as the study of media as environments. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of that talk, it seemed only fitting to revisit "The Reformed English Curriculum," and the equally seminal, "Media Ecology: General Semantics in the Third Millennium," as our first NYSGS event of 2018. What can we learn about the history of media ecology as a field, its relation to general semantics, to the study of language and the subject of English? What can we learn about Neil Postman in particular, and his views on education, communication, and culture? To what extent have things changed over the past half century, and to what extent do they remain the same?
We had the rare opportunity of presenting a program consisting entirely of out-of-towners who have converged on New York City to attend the annual Media Ecology Association board meeting. The participants on this program were:
Stephanie Bennett, Professor of Communication and Media Ecology and Fellow for Student Engagement at Palm Beach Atlantic University in South Florida, and author of the Within the Walls trilogy, which employs fiction to explore the future of digital media, relationship sustainability, and community.
Fernando Gutiérrez, head of the Division of Humanities and Education at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (State of Mexico Campus), and author and co-editor of several titles about media.
Paolo Granata, holder of the Marshall McLuhan and Print Culture professorship at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, after spending 15 years at the University of Bologna, Italy, and author of Arte in Rete; Arte, Estetica e Nuovi Media; Mediabilia; and Ecologia dei Media.
and moderating the discussion, Edward Tywoniak, Professor of Communication, Director of the W. M. Keck Media Lab and Program Director for the Digital Studies major at Saint Mary’s College of California, Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics, and President of the Media Ecology Association.
It was a program that was both intriguing and unique!