2008: Volume 1, Issue 1 (Inaugural Issue), pp. 9-23

Innis and the Emergence of Canadian Communication/Media Studies

Robert E. Babe



The discussion in this paper examines the influence of Harold Innis’ medium theory on contemporary media and communication scholarship in Canada and abroad. The methodological construction of Innis’ medium theory comprises several dimensions including: media bias; the exercising of power through the use and control of media; the bias of communication media toward favouring control over space and control through time; the role of governance in overcoming the bias inherent in media; a materialist understanding of civilizations; space-media outpacing time-media; and dialectics. In this paper particular attention is given to two issues. The first is the connections between Innis’ political economy approach and the work of Marshall McLuhan on the one hand, and the ecological studies of David Suzuki on the other. Both McLuhan and Suzuki, it is argued, may be seen as filling in important gaps in Innis’ work. The second focuses on the reasons why Innis’ medium theory has struck a chord with the Canadian psyche. This stands in stark contrast to the apparent neglect of Innis’ work within American media and communication scholarship.



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