Are you kidding me? This is a supposed classic in communication studies, so I wanted to like it. And being that it's held in such high regard, I naturAre you kidding me? This is a supposed classic in communication studies, so I wanted to like it. And being that it's held in such high regard, I naturally had high expectations going in (though, I admit, those expectations were tempered by my familiarity with scholarship in the field). The problem is that this work speaks volumes as to why theories in communication studies are so utterly lacking in anything approaching scientific rigor.
There might be something to the idea that the medium of communication shapes societies and their subsequent development. It's a plausible idea. In fact, I'll go further: It's almost obviously true in certain cases. For example, developments in writing and the printing press led to decreased power from the Church, sure. However, Innis wants to go further than that and thinks he's uncovered a deeper principle at work. He claims that certain mediums of communication are grounded in a concept of space and others in a concept of time, and it is the bias that societies have toward one or the other that influence their development.
Mediums grounded in time, Innis says, are more durable and those grounded in space are less durable. But I'm still not entirely sure why this durability criterion should be at all important when discussing communication mediums and their impact on societal development. He claims that more durable mediums (time mediums) are suited to decentralization and hierarchy in social institutions, while space mediums are just the opposite. However, he never clearly states why this should be the case. Nor does he truly explain why tendencies toward hierarchy or decentralization should be doing the work that his theory requires. They're just claims he makes with astonishingly little support. The fact that he can place these concepts into a historical narrative with various facts peppered in shows nothing except an inclination toward storytelling.
I'll end by saying that Innis' writing is not "difficult" or "academic." Those are the descriptions I read before starting this book. Actually, the word people are looking for is "bad." The chapters are composed of paragraphs that are essentially successions of historical facts, often with no apparent order. Transitions between ideas are employed sparsely, if at all. Irrelevant details have been consistently added to each chapter seemingly for the sake of demonstrating breadth of research. He's a charlatan, and it shows.
This book is primarily a memoir documenting the author's time spent interacting with octopuses at a couple aquariums and during a few scuba diving excThis book is primarily a memoir documenting the author's time spent interacting with octopuses at a couple aquariums and during a few scuba diving excursions. In many, many ways, she's able to demonstrate how octopuses are unusually unique and intelligent creatures that deserve special attention for qualities and behaviors that are typically only seen in higher-level mammals. To this end, the book is a clear success.
However, I was hoping for a greater emphasis on the scientific exploration of consciousness as it pertains to non-mammalian animals (with an obvious focus on cephalopods). But in fact, all scientific discussion is almost completely absent except for a few studies on octopuses, crabs, and prawns that are mentioned only in passing. In several places, the author even succumbs to an almost religious mysticism that unfortunately dirties some otherwise intriguing passages. She also could have been a little more careful with some of her descriptions: There's a fair amount of anthropomorphizing here to wade through.
All in all, the work is an enjoyable read, and it brings a truly fascinating animal to the spotlight, but it fails to provide any deeper understanding of octopus or non-human consciousness....more
3 1/2 stars. This is an amazing story—engrossing and elegantly written. It's too bad that Zamperini apparently chose to conclude his life in a way tha3 1/2 stars. This is an amazing story—engrossing and elegantly written. It's too bad that Zamperini apparently chose to conclude his life in a way that's altogether and utterly trite....more
3 1/2 stars. Three points make this book difficult to review: a.) the subject matter is fascinating, b.) Haidt's descriptive accounts of moral psychol3 1/2 stars. Three points make this book difficult to review: a.) the subject matter is fascinating, b.) Haidt's descriptive accounts of moral psychology are penetratingly deep, but c.) his political and moral conclusions don't follow from his scientific position. Quite possibly the largest flaw is that he lacks any compelling argument for moving from the fact of moral pluralism existing in the world to a normative endorsement of that pluralism.
Prior to reading the book I already knew that people moralize all sorts of things along several moral dimensions, but Haidt doesn't really make the case that each of those dimensions should truly be valued (although he more or less asserts that they should). For instance, why should I consider sanctity a moral value, or, rather, why should I include sanctity as a moral dimension alongside harm reduction in my ethical judgements? True, sanctifying propositions or beliefs may create beneficial group cohesion--in a religious form, perhaps--but that group cohesion doesn't matter if the negative effects of strong group cohesion outweigh the benefits. He even comes very close to outright endorsing group cohesion for the sake of group cohesion. He does mention the possible exclusionary nature of strong group cohesion, but he brushes it over as seemingly unimportant (he actually relegates the treatment of homosexuals and other minorities by strongly cohesive, dominant groups to a footnote!). Haidt simply fails to show that, normatively, morality should include anything other than harm reduction (or happiness contribution).
I guess, to be honest, I think he's just generally too sympathetic toward conservative values.
I shouldn't give the impression that this is only a book of flaws, however. The descriptive psychology is superb, and it's definitely worth the read for that alone (which is the majority of the book, anyway). Just don't put too much weight into the concluding chapters.
A few months ago, I went to a local library book sale. They allowed you to put as many books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc. into a brown grocery bag forA few months ago, I went to a local library book sale. They allowed you to put as many books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc. into a brown grocery bag for only $5. That's a pretty phenomenal deal, if you ask me. Anyway, that's where this book comes in. Normally, I probably wouldn't waste my time on an over 20-year-old critical work of the state of experimental psychology, but I figured some the criticisms may still be relevant today. And plus, I had a whole grocery bag to fill!
Well, I should've left this one on the shelf. Kline criticizes pretty much every perspective in psychology from the late 1980s. He says that the topics psychologists choose to study are trivial, and this triviality is a result of an overreliance on the scientific method as adopted from the natural sciences. He also puts a lot of stress on the idea of theories requiring some sort of immediate practical utility. He even goes so far as to equate the dominant style of psychological research with a form of fascism, and he says that experimental psychology attracts only those who are emotionally "repressed."
Apart from some of his obviously exaggerated and misplaced criticisms, some of his other points actually are legitimate and still relevant today. For instance, he correctly notes that many psychological theories are merely descriptive rather than explanatory. He points out that psychology suffers from no widely accepted Kuhnian paradigm. He illustrates the intractable problems with behaviorism. And he shows how a lot of psychological research is overly speculative.
However, in the final chapter he provides the new direction in which experimental psychology should proceed. That new direction? Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic research. Yeah, um, no. If anything is draped in the emperor's clothes, it's Freudian "psychology" by quite a long shot. Skip this one....more