The Institute on Man and Science; Understanding Media
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and the human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker on this program is Gordon Martin of The National Film Board of Canada. His topic will be understanding media. Here now is Mr. MARTIN. I was very pleased to be here this morning I wish I'd be here earlier in the week. So many things which doctors Express this morning were things which have been on my mind which I'm very excited about. I've
put down some of his contacts. In fact I've probably misquoted him several cases. I hope you will excuse me if I have distorted any of his views it would seem to me that what he was telling us in some instances is that there is no longer any clear cut because effect relationship as we have believed in for many years into a relationship. It also seemed to me that he was telling us that there are useful models that we have of the universe the way it operates. The discussion which came up at the end of his presentation. The relationship between explanations of chance and systematic description seem to me a very good example there of how we simply use a rather arbitrary but useful models and we can be. Well it sure it. I imagine that a hundred years from now or 50 years out or
ten years out that many of the models that we now have find useful to explain behavior to explain the universe will no longer prove to be useful. I think it's also very exciting that we live in a pluralistic age where more than one model of the same phenomenon may be useful under different circumstances. This tends I think to steer us away from absolutism from the fighting of final packaged products as being the answers and stares us into something that I want to discuss my conception of education and its relationship with media. The whole idea of the acceleration of invention is also very exciting. I suppose this is really the knowledge explosion. Now since this comes under the general umbrella of challenge for change I'll say something. I have one of two things that I sit in a discussion last night at
which not everyone here was present. Why in challenge for change and society do we select certain people like the poor or the Indians or the Negroes. It seems to me that there is a basic assumption built into this which I would at least like to question. Deception might well be that there is a better way of life existing amongst the rest of us. That is the rest of us who don't fall into those categories about which something ought to be done. I'd enjoy a better way of life. I don't think many people that would argue that these things are a way of life. Materialism However it is much more comfortable but nonetheless I would put forward this suggestion immediately that our way of life materially comfortable and I'm saying ours because it seems to me to have a ground here that we're all pretty well middle class are better. Our way of
life is built on certain bases and these other bases which produce the other way of life that we're so darned concerned about it. Our way of life is built on assumptions it's necessary to have bosses have workers it's necessary to have a hierarchy in order to have for Iceland you have to have rich in order to have slums I assume that you have not slums you have suburbs so far so that in fact it seems to me very likely that our way of life is endemically connected with the other way of life. And it's not possible to change the other ways of life to make it to ours without in fact changing at all. The total social structure which then is going to change our ways of life I suppose that's why it's so frightening to many of us. Sadly we realize it to have a different society
with real change and that it's it really means that we're going to change. It's not simply a matter of converting some heathens into enjoying and giving them the tools to enjoy things as we enjoy them. That's what bothered me about Saul Alinsky approach last night. It seemed to me that he was simply accepting and perpetuating the existing social order and using it for other people to acquire power. But he was simply accepting an order which assumes that some people have more power than other people and thus the battle book to new indefinitely. If this is our approach I'm going to suggest an alternative without suggesting to you that I have any kind of answer. But my alternative will be very general. Perhaps I can support it with a few specifics at any rate.
Now I would agree with all that ski perhaps in the short term. There are certain political actions within the existing system that are necessary to relieve oppression if you like. I would also agree that charity is a necessary short term but if we base a system of society on charity hand-outs then society never changes like putting Band-Aids on cancer doesn't work too well covers it up. Maybe for the moment but you know you continue to have the same kind of problems existing. I guess I place some of my faith in an alternative which I would call education Smalley by education I don't mean what we call the educational enterprise that exists today although it is changing and it shows signs at least of maybe becoming truly educational in the small
East sense. Now under the heading of media education I would like to suggest that there's one priority thing to be done which is not the acquisition of facts which still remains in North America perhaps whole world as a fundamental reason for people going to school. That's why I distinguish between the education and the large educational enterprises as it exists now. I'm not suggesting that way get dewy eyed and abandon facts data but it's pretty obvious with the rapid turnover in facts and data. The rapid expansion that the way of coping with them is not simply to memorize and that in fact this may not in any sense be education at all because a computer can memorize facts quite adequately and I think a computer is
being educated. I've put forward the idea that the basic way of approaching education might be to study and understand environment we live in and experts say faces that the environment we live in although we fail to recognise this is a media environment. Above all not totally or exclusively but above all its communications. We're still studying how people live in this countries how they live in rain forest areas. All this is very interesting how they respond to their physical on fire. I think we could be a little more relevant to our own social condition by looking very closely at the media that surround us. I want to find out how they work. I don't mean technically how they work I don't
mean finding out about long shots little shots of SAP's but explore their psychic aspects if I can use the term expose explore their person their social consequences. This is what I would call the understanding of media that we can call it reading the environment if you like. We could call it consciousness which is really a kind of human quality to me. Being aware and awareness if you like it with it should lead us to being able to evade it to some extent manipulation. It should lead us to being able to propose and suggest alternatives to what it is we're all trapped by. Let's face it we're all trapped in that system. If we want to find out about that like by a technological society by shock alone which probably not too many people would disagree with totally. How many decisions can we make.
How many decisions can present the United States. Well that's very interesting to let you make certain decisions but perhaps within a very narrow fact because of the whole structure of a society which of which he is part now to have to look at the problem. I'm going to use a film called Heartbeat is not an action film or it film it needs only a very brief introduction. I have already given a brief introduction to it earlier. I will add to that that I think you'll see the concept of the technological society is to programme the consumers consumer society and you are being programme I am being programmed by the people just as sick computers are being programmed this is not a scare film fact it cept produced by the Advertising Association to sell the concept of advertising I think we should
look that film right away. At this point Mr. Morton presented a film entitled Heart Beat prepared by the Association of television broadcasters. The film stressed the unique advantages of television over other forms of advertising media while the printed ad tends to catalogue the qualities of the product. The televised advertisement by combining the various qualities of image motion space time and music can make the viewer feel the product emotionally the dramatic possibilities of close up shots and color broadcasting can indeed make the product more real than real. Thus the film is sorted because of a higher degree of viewer involvement in a shorter amount of time. The television advertisement is the most compelling form of product promotion ever. Immediately following the film Mr. Martin resumed his talk.
I think we have to be careful not to be smug about our response to that. Maybe maybe you know what here is but I remember the first time I saw it it tends to be that way it's about those people you know those people who are doing these things to us act. This of course has been. There are lots of books for years that we read about the way we feel programmed by companies who are trying to sell us things. But let's face it the the whole attitude is expressed here is a part of a system which even if we don't condone it we are building blocks that it's a total system. I hesitate to say that I can think of a better one but nonetheless we must be aware I think of the limitations of it as an example of that. Many of us would greet the Consumer Reports and feel that we are being perhaps very wise making our selection of products
very well. Farm to make your selection of products by going to Consumer Reports. This is great. I read it if I need it to but nonetheless a Consumer Reports makes a basic assumption that makes all the basic assumptions of the kind of society that we live in that we ought to be buying new cars that we ought to be buying one of these products with built in obsolescence that we ought to be interested in buying electric van parts and maybe we should too. But I'm just finding out that we're starting from all of us starting from basic premise of a system of which we are part and fundamentally if we ever want to achieve fundamental change in my view it has to come through a very much more heightened awareness of the system which is really a system of communication system of media. More real than real. It's not a nice phrase. Of
course since this film was made in 1964 there have been changes. If you look through a number of magazines now you have see that even magazines are less specific about giving catalogs of information on products they're striving to create effects even the signboards billboards around strive for effect rather than specific product information. They're trying to reach through to your emotions trying to program your responses. All right what's the response of Education to this kind of environment you live in. First of all let's start with some of the responses which seem to be less perceptive. The great North American Dream of course is solve all problems by over LAX money by X market its goods. So we found that the response to Sputnik in education was a National Defense Education Act which fired billions of dollars into doing all kinds of things most of which are centered
centered on the purchase of new materials new equipment new gadgets at this is our response just as in Farmer years our response to the settling of problems for us who's the quickest one to drop the gun. That doesn't seem to get very far though. Just a little excerpt to perhaps show this kind of response. This is from a report of a subcommittee of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on automation technology and education. This is just one paragraph on her part but it is not out of context. In summary it may be said the technology makes it possible to convey information far more flexible and potentially at least effective way to be managed by an overburdened teacher standing in front the classroom. That's the same thing we saw here. It's better to use television and print. You can dress analogies in that sense.
However there is one big proviso. Equipment must be properly programmed in as much as its performance depends entirely on what is put into the machine. Pressing need for adequate educational software to be constructively employed by the new machines was repeatedly stressed. Moreover equipment is still highly experimental most witnesses cautioned about the need for considerably more research to use existing techniques as well as for the development complet. It's programmed now I would suggest that I disagree entirely with the approach taken here. The approach is that we meaning the high priests of education the high priests of information control program for other people. I don't mean to suggest we have anarchy or educate any responsibility. I think that we can establish environments which are not programming people but are releasing them to find their own new levels. There are several ways that this is being done in schools now
and then I will come back to a classic example of the misunderstanding of media. The introduction of media studies in schools has been long overdue. This is happening all through the United States now and it is happening also all through Canada. It's happening in varying degrees of quality. The concept here is that why should we just study drama prose and poetry in our high schools and colleges. These are very interesting but they're certainly not the basic contemporary media. So let's study some of the basic Taffy media since they are if we might accept this thesis that they are a very important part of contemporary environment if we can understand them and deal with them. We would be much freer people. Often this is called film education or screen education and hopefully in the very best of these programs they go beyond the
analysis of film. They go beyond trying to say that television is better than magazines but it goes into a whole examination of popular culture and not an examination of popular culture. In a lecture approach because this too is very important approach of this take is just as far as the topics that are under study. One of the most promising approaches has being called as we label that fortune everything has to have a label. It's been labeled the discovery approach. This is a an approach where the acquisition of information is not considered primary parts as an end in itself but is the exploration of information and data. The finding of two bits of information which when put together are exciting or interesting
or at least tentative conclusions. The setting up of classrooms not in a manner such as this which is useful for a kind of lecture presentation. But does not contribute to interaction over a long period of time setting up of classrooms where there can be interaction just by a simple rearrangement of desks and chairs. This of course is very difficult for teachers who have been kind of minor gods for a long time to accept to move out of their sort of position to become a spall could say one of a community of scholars where they too are learning something and they too are offering specific leadership but also the kids in their classes. I don't think it's happening very slowly. There are few very many deviations from that era at many times when we have the discovery approach applied by people as popular as
runner which can really be called the Easter egg hunt where you kids out there discover what I have for you to discover and then you come up with it thinking you find it thinking that it is your own. This is a perversion to me. The true learning environment where people can explore study and become truly scholarly in any genuine sense of the word. The role of media then becomes less of an audio visual aid and more of a subject of study if you like. So we tend to find less useful film which is a replication of a textbook. In fact one company called their films text films and many films that are are used in schools today are simply catalogs of facts like Illustrated lectures.
This kind of film becomes less and less useful and the kind of film that becomes more and more useful. Is the film which in itself is literate. I can parallel this with a textbook it's a rapid decline in spite of the textbook publishers institutes have their own lobbies at work and all state for eventual capitals. The textbook is really becoming less not useful it's being replaced by anthologies of works which are literate and or scholarly but are not read with instruction in mind is being replaced by just darn good books. Books that are worth reading instead of. Look at Dick and Jane type of thing which I'm not talking just about primary level right through college level. Some of the very few textbooks which I've ever encountered that I would want to read afterwards it would like to read I had to buy them for
particular curse purposes. So we find the same kind of thing happening with film. This is happening slowly in our schools. It needs a lot of encouragement. The sum of things a National Film Board has done. I'll mention one because to me it's very modest but it's very important and that is for three years we've had a summer institute in what we call screen study. We could call it media communications because for political reasons the National Film Board of Canada is supposed to be concerned with the film. Right. But once we get political clearance first we can CERN ourselves with anything we think is significant. This institute has had 30 teachers from across Canada at each summer. It is highly structured. I say that that is people don't just come and find a vacuum there.
There's a wealth of resources provided for them. Terms of films and media people artists scientists linguists film makers all kinds of interesting people to meet with discuss with but the kind of structure is quite different from the normal university course structure in that it is open it's open to anything happening. It is not open. It is not established in such a way that you must accept and regurgitate some kind of closed fixed system. It's a stimulus kind of environment. And out of this of out of the first summer for instance came 30 teachers very dissatisfied with the way they are teaching because they found that they really learned something in this other kind of environment for six weeks and they went back to their schools except for a couple of them dropped out because the frustration of trying to face their old situation
was too great. The others went back and 28 different media study programs resulted. There were all different factors some of them. I personally really wouldn't want for myself but I was excited by the idea that instead of anything standardized these people were going back and doing something they genuinely believed in something that was quite different than they had done the year before it was kind of a measure to me of growth. This has only affected directly I guess 90 teachers in Canada but it's been a very exciting experience for us and these people were not people who were working necessarily in with Indians or poverty programs or whatever their mixture of people or just people lots of people could come and could do something about this experience when they got back to their schools set up so that there's a great
deal of participation as much as anyone wants. It's not like the sensitivity training or Tikrit type of thing where you are. Brain washed into very your soul even if you don't want to. It's it's left it's rich and stimulating but it's left up to individuals as to how they wish to respond to it. It's supported during the year which is very important we were having a discussion on this morning earlier supported during the year by the Film Board by the people who run the Summer Institute who continue to build up both politically and in a material substantial way. Any assistance they can give to the teachers who have been to the institute. I guess what I would like to conclude with this question and a couple of comments. I wasn't too clear this morning whether about this but I think someone raised the question the first
session to the effect that perhaps now we don't live in a world of magic. I may have not heard that clearly. This is quite a different world from the world of cave drawings. I would question that. I think after seeing this film today we might question whether we don't still live in a world of magic. I think the crisis of education is a process of exploring that magic even if we still continue to be enamored with it at least understanding it understanding arrow that you. That I have a good deal of faith kind of top of individual freedom and equality will result from this guy. You heard Gordon Martin of The National Film Board of Canada as he spoke on the subject. Understanding media. Mr. Martin spoke at the annual conference of the Institute on man and science held in Rensselaer Ville New York
- Understanding Media
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