On January 26th, 2018, we held the first panel discussion on this topic, and promised to follow it up with a second program held on November 28th, 2018, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Neil Postman's formal introduction of the term media ecology. The occasion was 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 his 1968 address, Postman introduced media ecology as a field of inquiry that he defined as the study of media as environments. A year later, in Teaching as a Subversive Activity, co-authored by Charles Weingartner, he 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.” And 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, in which he described media ecology as "general semantics writ large."
This 50th anniversary offered us the opportunity to take up questions such as, what has media ecology and general semantics contributed to the field of education, to teaching and schooling, and what might be contributed in the future? What has media ecology and general semantics contributed to the study of language and the subject of English, and what might be contributed in the future? 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?
The participants on this program were:
Thom Gencarelli, Professor and Chair of the Communication Department at Manhattan College
Terence P. Moran, Professor of Media Ecology, New York University
Michael Plugh, Professor of Communication at Manhattan College
Madeline Postman, Teacher in the New York City school system for over 20 years, currently teaching at the Corona Arts and Sciences Academy in Queens
and the program was moderated by NYSGS President Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University.
It was an instructive and enriching discussion!