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Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication
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Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  147 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Communication plays a vital and unique role in society-often blamed for problems when it breaks down and at the same time heralded as a panacea for human relations. A sweeping history of communication, Speaking Into the Air illuminates our expectations of communication as both historically specific and a fundamental knot in Western thought.

"This is a most interesting and t
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 1st 2001 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Communication defines us. We need to communicate in order to survive, to fit in, to be understood by others and so that we can understand others. This is a subject which I am passionate about and that's why I decided to read this book - well, not only because of that but well, the other motives aren't relevant in this instance.
The author wrote an amazing overview of the history of this complex concept: how it came about, different uses of the concept and how it evolved through the centuries. He
Jan 16, 2013 Damon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: quote-unquote
From page one, this book blew my mind. Peters does a great job of stepping back and assessing how and why we communicate, beginning with the philosophical opposites of Jesus and Socrates (seriously), hitting the ideas of Renaissance idealists, and ending with our endless pursuit to communicate with animals, machines, and other things that can't directly talk back.

He covers an incredible amount of territory, but what makes the book work is Peters' pitch-perfect balance between academic thoroughne
Jan 18, 2011 metralindol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
чудова книга. проникливий погляд на речі, які, здається, скоро стануть об'єктами археології, і на поняття, які ніколи такими об'єктами не стануть
Oct 27, 2007 David rated it it was amazing
What can I say? I worship John Peters.
Mar 06, 2013 Joy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites, orals
As someone with a great respect for the historicist tradition, I thought I would hate this book. But I didn't. I actually loved it. Here Durham Peters (DP) employs a genealogical method to cut through the common elements surrounding notions of "communication" in Western thought. For DP, communication is ultimately about overcoming the bounds of our subjectivity to connect with an other. This framing allows him to extract some plausible sense of continuity between historical figures dealing with ...more
Oct 26, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I wasn't 100% sold on this until I got halfway through. From there, what begins as lucid (though somewhat dull) academic synthesis becomes something much more argumentative and -- as a result -- much more interesting to read. Throughout, Peters essentially argues that communication is best understood as something that fundamentally tears us apart. His elucidation of the power of that loss, however, and its capacity to enable us to better understand why we seek to communicate at all is wholly con ...more
Michael Meeuwis
Mar 09, 2013 Michael Meeuwis rated it it was amazing
A very rich, and interesting book, poised intriguingly between a general-market book and an academic one. I find its description of communication--always necessarily incomplete, problematic, based on impossibilities, but so what?--to be thought-provoking and potentially fruitful. The author speaks from deep theoretical knowledge of both contemporary and historical theory; I realized, among other things, that I really want to read Peirce and re-read the Phaedrus. (Or have I read the Phaedrus? I f ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Baris rated it it was ok
Shelves: comps
I hate to troll about the book, which everyone else seem to liked. However, I think author seems to hide his clichés behind pretentious writing and apart from summarizing the views of big and fancy names as Jesus, Locke, Hegel etc. he does not offer anything original else than the banal, cliché, third way between communication as “therapy” and “total impossibility.” Although I find the discussion on communication as dissemination (rather than interaction) interesting, his lack of attention to hi ...more
Jon Torn
Jan 08, 2009 Jon Torn rated it it was amazing
This is one of the books that really inspired me to see the BIG picture in my chosen field. Really digs into some interesting stuff over two and a half millennia. Some of the coolest sections cover the influence of religion and spirituality on the way we try to connect. I enjoyed reading about Jesus as a communication theorist, angelic communication in the medieval era, and especially all the stuff on Mesmerism and spirit mediums in the 19th century. Full of ideas but not too jargony, very acces ...more
Nov 24, 2010 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
This history and formulation of theory relating to communication was on my bookshelf as I started my research. I owned this book before I realised that I was going to write about communication theory, and I only noticed that it was there when it was cited in another source I had found. I don't know when I bought this book, and I don't know why, but it is an excellent history of communication ideas. It also provides its own useful conception of a way in which communication can be understood (alth ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Kara rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Such a fascinating historiography of the idea of communication. It is incredibly dense in its references, and covers so many areas that have influenced what we think of when we say communication, and how that affects the way we study it and the impact it has on society. I don't really even know how to fully explain the depth of this book, but would strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the study of communication.
Jan 25, 2011 Aarika rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
After coming to terms with the almost-archaic writing style, I really enjoyed the book. Peters successfully takes the idea of communication to new, philosophical depths. This is a book that would have been received with open arms during the Renaissance and will be received with open arms one hundred years from now.
Sep 13, 2014 Adna rated it liked it
Speaking Into the Air is one of those books you have to read and re-read in order to fully grasp the content. It compacts the history of communication and various philosophical ideas concerning communication.
Jesper Balslev
Aug 12, 2015 Jesper Balslev rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kommunikation
Mesterværk. Ville ønske jeg kunne give den 7 stjerner. Kommer til at genlæse den mange gange. Kapitlet om SETI (Machines, Animals & Aliens) er sublimt.
Chris Condie
Jun 04, 2015 Chris Condie rated it really liked it
A difficult read, especially if you have not had a lot of experience in philosophy classics; but very thought provoking with a wonderful, inspiring conclusion. I recommend it.
Imar de Vries
Imar de Vries rated it it was amazing
Jun 28, 2012
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May 01, 2012
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Caleb King rated it it was amazing
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“Open scatter is more fundamental than coupled sharing; it is the stuff from which, on splendid occasions, dialogue may arise.” 3 likes
“Miscommunication is the scandal that motivates the very concept of communication in the first place.” 2 likes
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