Harold Innis’ bias of communication thesis, it seems to me, actually goes much farther than the usual rendering that explains his idea of bias by observing that stone inscription is time biased because stones last a long time, whereas paper manuscripts constitute a space biased medium of communication since papyrus is easily transported. This is not entirely untrue and the examples here are his own. But Innis was already a media ecological thinker and to this extent had already anticipated McLuhan’s dictum that the content of any given media was other media. For Innis as well, any media can only ultimately be understood in terms of its integration in a media ecology. Just as cutting either with the bias of a given fabric or against it results in tailoring with a different look and feel, so a media ecology with its bias turned up with regard to space or time results in a different kind of civilization. Innis was quite emphatic that his ultimate concern was to understand and oppose what he called the present-mindedness and space bias of capitalist modernity, as the U.S. came to inherit the legacy of the British Empire. Innis moreover sought to understand not just the role of modern mass media (an ecology with the commodity “information” — strategically and purely synchronic, with zero duration— at the top of the food chain) in accumulating capital but capital itself in media ecological terms. Thus his is “plea for time” and his heterodox economic thinking.
The significance for us is clear: petrocultural capital is a space biased media ecology, as its crisis prone volatility well attests. Whereas an ecologically sustainable world can only be built out of the common wealth of social reproduction because common wealth is time biased.