Canada in the Global Village

Canada in the Global Village

Heather Menzies
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 196
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt815j9
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  • Book Info
    Canada in the Global Village
    Book Description:

    This text provides an inter-disciplinary critique of the new global economy and information society, tracing its roots in the infrastructures of Canada's development from the canoes and ships of the fur trade, through the railways and telegraph of industrialization, to mass-print media, radio, television and film distribution. It draws on the works of four key thinkers-Ursula Franklin, George Grant, Harold Innis, and Marshall McLuhan-to frame contributions from Pat Armstrong, Ellen Balka, Robert Babe, Pam Colorado, James Carey, and many others.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7408-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 6-10)

    When you think of Canada and history, what images and facts come to mind? Maybe John A. Macdonald or Wilfrid Laurier as historical figures, or events like the War of 1812. Try Canada and geography now. You might be flooded with images: mountains, Prairies and, of course, the mighty river systems and the Great Lakes. Economics, and you might think of branch-plant industrialization.

    Now try Canada and technology. Perhaps the Canadian Pacific Railway comes to mind, or the Anik satellite. Maybe the skidoo or some other invention: the Avro Arrow.

    This text — and the 12 videos that accompany it — will...

  4. MODULE I: BACKGROUND
    • [MODULE I Introduction]
      (pp. 11-12)

      This module gives you important background for understanding the emerging global village of instant digital connectivity, and the place people and countries like Canada in it. The background includes some building-block concepts for thinking about technology, especially communication and transportation technology, not just as inventions or isolated systems, but as the infrastructure of a political economy that also critically influences culture and identity.

      The module starts with a retelling of the story of the fur trade. It’s familiar story, about history and geography, economics and political science. But the story has seldom been told through the lens of the technologies...

    • CHAPTER 1 “TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS AND CANADIAN DEVELOPMENT”: THE CASE OF THE FUR TRADE
      (pp. 13-28)

      There is some merit in dating the development of Canada as a modern political economy from the days of the fur trade. It’s not so much that furs were one item in a long list of staple resource exports which for a long time were considered to be almost the central pillar Canadian economic development. It’s because the lines of transportation used to convey those furs to European markets were the lines along which future large-scale development followed. The railway system followed the water routes of the fur traders. So did telegraphy and even radio and television. In fact the...

    • CHAPTER 2 “UNPACKING THE BLACK BOX OF TECHNOLOGY”
      (pp. 29-42)

      This is the first of two units explaining how technology is at once a social construct reflecting certain choices and values, and at the same time a social force shaping subsequent choices through the values built into it. This unit looks at the nuts and bolts of technology as material, cultural and political-economic constructions. The third unit looks at the values and world view behind that social construct. Together these units will attempt to bring home the main point of the course: the importance of taking technology into account in history, geography, economics, political economy, cultural studies and so on....

    • CHAPTER THREE “THE MIND, THE MACHINE AND THE LIVING EARTH”
      (pp. 43-58)

      The first unit introduced you to the idea that technology is more than the pen in your hand and the telephone at your elbow. It’s also a set of systems and infrastructures that can fundamentally shape a society and determine who gets to use pens and telephones, for what purpose. The second unit picked apart technology as both a social construct and as a shaping force in its own right. It listed the various components of technology and technological practice: from materials in systems to social relations and bureaucratic rules and, finally, to the assumptions in the discourse that support...

  5. MODULE II: TECHNOLOGY AND POLITICAL ECONOMY
    • [MODULE II Introduction]
      (pp. 59-60)

      This module encourages you to take what you’ve learned about technology as both a social construct and an agent of social development, and apply it to the development of Canada as a modern political economy. It highlights the links between large-scale technological systems and large-scale political economic systems, such as global commodity and labour markets. It also looks at some of the core technologies involved. In the industrial period, these ranged from hydro-electric systems and railways to the beginnings of mass-market advertising. In the current transition to a post-industrial society, the axial technologies are computers and global networks of digital...

    • CHAPTER 4 TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS AND EMPIRE BUILDING
      (pp. 61-74)

      This chapter picks up on some of the themes discussed in Unit 1, such as the rigidities built into large-scale technological systems because of the high fixed costs involved. It also extends the theme of how transportation, communication and other technological systems can not only bind a large area, and a large number of people, together. They can also extend unequal relations between centre and margin within that area, through their organizational structures. Thus, terms of trade aren’t negotiated as such; they are prescribed through freight-rate structures, etc.

      In tracing the industrialization of Canada, we’ll note the choice paths available;...

    • CHAPTER 5 INSIDE THE NETWORKS OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
      (pp. 75-92)

      This chapter moves the discussion of Canada’s political economy forward to the present. It shifts the focus from the technological systems of the industrial period to the computer-communication systems of the post-industrial era. It also turns the frame of reference around somewhat. Instead of viewing these systems from the outside, and in terms of the institutions that built them, it looks at them from the inside. In particular, it pays attention to the people who work for and within the computerized structures of the new economy. It provides some historical backdrop to this perspective too. It traces the changing social...

  6. TRANSITION
    • CHAPTER 6 TECHNOLOGY, CULTURE AND DISCOURSE
      (pp. 93-110)

      This unit marks a turning point, where the discussion switches from the nuts and bolts of political economy to the softer bonds of culture and identity. The unit also encourages you to switch perspective a bit more along the lines of the preceding unit. For much of the first modules, we’ve looked at technology at some remove, historically and materially. This unit invites you to consider that you’re living in a society that is increasingly defined by technological systems and technical ways of thinking, and how this shapes your view of the world and identity.

      The unit begins with a...

  7. MODULE III: COMMUNICATION, CULTURE AND IDENTITY
    • [MODULE III Introduction]
      (pp. 111-112)

      This module moves you closer to the global village of the title. It prepares the ground for critically assessing the emerging “village” of instant global communications by examining how its constituent media systems, everything from print to cable television, themselves came into being. And it cultivates the idea that the media environment in which we live fundamentally shapes our sense of who we are and what we dream of becoming.

      This module also shifts the discussion from the structures of political economy, to the structures that shape culture and identity. It makes the connections between how we communicate and how...

    • CHAPTER 7 THE INDUSTRIALIZATION OF KNOWING
      (pp. 113-126)

      This chapter looks at the difference between the knowledge contained in personal conversation and the knowledge imparted through the official channels of media communication. It dissects what happens when knowledge is separated from the direct telling of human experience and is channelled instead through written and printed texts. Scale emerges as an important factor here. As Unit 4 made clear, scale, particularly the scale-up of transportation, was key to the spread of an industrial model of economic development. Similarly with communication, knowledge and culture. Scale-up of communication has been a key factor in the industrialization of knowing; that is, its...

    • CHAPTER 8 THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, AND THE MASSAGE
      (pp. 127-142)

      This unit takes a brief look at three other media that figure in the emerging global village of merged multi-media communication. These are radio, television (plus cable) and film. As with Unit 7, the goal here is to apply some of the ways of thinking about technology in a material sense to the mass media of contemporary culture. The idea too is to think of the social and cultural shaping power these media systems have.

      Each case also emphasizes particular themes explored throughout this course. In the history of radio, for instance, we will examine the contingencies or choice paths...

    • CHAPTER 9 MAKING AND BREAKING MONOPOLIES OF KNOWLEDGE
      (pp. 143-158)

      The point of this chapter is to give you a sense of what happens when one pattern of media structure and practice becomes dominant to the point of rigidity and monopoly. Instead of always opening up knowledge and perception through new information, knowledge itself can become rigid, with dangerous consequences.

      This is possibly the most challenging unit in the course, because it’s the most purely conceptual. However, it is also simply one more extension of the basic ideas discussed earlier, including large-scale systems called structural monopolies. This unit looks at how knowledge monopolies can develop around print media, then extends...

  8. MODULE IV: SUMMING UP
    • [MODULE IV Introduction]
      (pp. 159-160)

      The journey of this text, and the course it might be part of, is nearly over. We began with the shipping lines of the Hudson’s Bay Company. We’re ending here with the satellite links of the global information society. In between we've picked up some valuable lessons in how technologies are constructed out of values and world views as well as large-scale or small-scale material structures and social organizations. There have also been lessons in how particularly large-scale capital-intensive technologies can, in turn, strongly determine the lines of a whole country’s development, and keep extending those lines from one generation...

    • CHAPTER 10 IMAGINING CANADA IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
      (pp. 161-176)

      This unit takes you inside the global village — that is, the global digital networks that are pulling more and more aspects of people’s lives into its cybernetic space. It also brings home some fundamental questions about democracy and social justice, and the bias of communication. When the social spaces in which people move to make a living, to seek out friends, to get an education and a line of credit are spaces created through the converged multi-media networks, there’s more at stake than whose voice is heard and whose stories are excluded. Questions of access turn into urgent questions of...

    • CHAPTER 11 FEMINIST AND ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES
      (pp. 177-192)

      This is the end of the journey. It’s appropriate therefore to return to the realm of values and ideas, because the possibilities for Canada and for society in the era of the global village depend on more than the structures of political economy and of cultural representation associated with it. They rest on a dialectic of interaction between structures, people and ideas. In this unit we’ll return to the theme posed by many of the thinkers, and artists, discussed earlier in the course: namely the importance, and difficulty, of thinking about technology in a frame larger than itself — larger than...

    • CHAPTER 12 REVIEW AND FINAL COMMENTS
      (pp. 193-195)

      This chapter is meant as a guide to reviewing this material in preparation for a final exam or assignment. It might be helpful to re-read the introductory chapter and reassess the purpose of the text and complementary videos: it is to cultivate a critical understanding of Canada as it has been formed, and is currently being shaped, through key technologies — particularly the infrastructures of communication. The text has introduced you to a number of concepts to inform that critical understanding. It has also provided many examples of technological developments, the social forces affecting them and the social effects these have...