Citizens And Nation By Edward Friesen

1584 words - 7 pages

It is a given that eras come and go, and that history changes. However, not all transitions between epochs are neat, or beneficial for those who had enjoyed power and prestige in the previous epoch. At the same time, the ways in which those epochs are written into history always tell their own story about how people understand history and change at any given point in time.
In Gerald Friesen’s book Citizens and Nation, he outlines four major epochs of communication in Canada: the oral-traditional societies of Aboriginal people, textual-settler societies, print-capitalist national societies, and the present-day screen-capitalist societies. Friesen’s central thesis is that “…the very acts of communication – the social contexts created by voice, writing, print and modern electronic forms – establish a framework for citizenship and nationality and thus for Canada” (Friesen 16). However, if we consider the medium as the message, as Marshall McLuhan would put it, it is important to consider that Friesen’s work itself is an artifact of the bygone epoch of print-capitalist societies, and itself represents a standpoint that sees print-capitalist societies as somewhat superior to the rest. As a product of its time, written as the print-capitalist society gave way to the screen-capitalist one, Friesen’s book is positioned as a work that sees affinities in the epochal transitions.
Friesen notes that during the transition from the textual-settler socieites to print-capitalist ones, “Changes in communication technology and economic arrangements transformed every sphere of life” (Friesen 183). Friesen describes the power and evolution of the print society as tied to a “…redefinition of space and time” (Friesen 184). This redefinition enjoyed a concomitant “…reconstruction of the conditions of daily life through ordinary citizens’ political action” (Friesen 184). Therefore, this epoch was defined not only by a technological rise in the reach a communication message could have, but it was also defined by the uses and contexts of media in order to tell national stories and unite Canadians. However, because this was a print-capitalist society, a major aspect of this feeling of unification was centered around commodification of stories: turning narratives into something to be consumed, as well as turning people’s major social roles into those of consumers. The print-centered nature of the epoch meant that language had an especially strong role: “Language occupies a special place in discussion of nation, partly because of its role in establishing the boundaries of communication but also because it channels the currents of thought in the community” (Friesen 186–187). The written and printed nature of communication in this epoch encircled and created community, and allowed a rhetorical division to come into being between those who were inside and those who were outside of it. There is, then, a sinister underdone to the development of language in this era: Friesen...

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