Andrew Ó Baoill writes that James Carey has died. Carey was a professor who worked in media studies, communciations studies, etc. Although there’s nothing elsewhere about his passing that I can find, Andrew is based in Carey’s old stomping ground of the University of Illinois and thus may have local information, so am sure the obits etc tomorrow will cover the story.

I had an interesting introduction to Carey’s work. He wrote very clearly on communications and took a theoretical position that was critical of sender-message-receiver and medium-neutral notions within communication studies. A few summers ago, I worked as a research assistant for Liora Salter at York University in Canada (who bears absolute responsibility, incidentally, for my entry into cyberlaw and ultimately this current PhD…), who did work on communications and culture, alongside many other things. And the very first task that I worked on was assisting with an article (published here – PDF) on ‘Science and Public Discourse’. The usual stuff for an RA – checking citations, finding bibliographic information, etc.

In a fit of nostalgia, I’ve just reread the article, which is still a fantastic read (I never got around to reading the published version!) as well as my notes compiled for Prof. Salter. Footnote 15, citing Carey’s challenge to old-style communication models in her paper is the reason that during that summer, I devoured Carey’s writings, as well as the grandfather of Canadian communications studies – Harold Innis – and the old reliable, McLuhan. The three make up a triangle of sorts. My subsequent studies with the Open University barely mentioned them, focusing instead on the pair of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall (and setting them up as different approaches to culture in the first instance…).

I’ve recently been reading a lot of Manuel Castells. His ideas on space, time and flows etc (a little off the point even for this gentle meandering) are to me strongly influenced by Carey and by Carey-interpreting-Innis. Carey, though, hasn’t really been cited or acknowledged all that much in the legal side of information/cultural/communications writings in recent years. His books aren’t well known in Irish universities, let alone in law schools. But understanding his understandings of how meaning is produced and how information flows could open doors within many areas of law and legal theory, especially in intellectual property. So here’s hoping for a change.

James Carey RIP.