Toward a More Substantive Media Ecology: Postman’s Metaphor Versus Posthuman Futures

Niall P. Stephens


The metaphor of “ecology,” common in vernacular and academic discourse about communication media, can inhibit substantively ecological thinking about communication.  While some have attributed the currency of this metaphor to Marshall McLuhan, I argue that this criticism is better directed at Neil Postman, who helped popularize McLuhan under the banner of “media ecology.”  I outline the need for substantively ecological thinking, sketch its ontological and ethical contours, and illustrate the ubiquity of a more metaphorical use of “ecology” as applied to communication media.  I then discuss Postman and some of his intellectual heirs, linking their dualistic thinking to a metaphorical conception, which I argue inhibits full appreciation of interrelations among humans, our cultures and technologies, and the more-than-human world.



Neil Postman, Posthumanism, Media Ecology, Environmental Communication, Network Theory, Deep Ecology

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