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When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking about Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century
In the history of electronic communication, the last quarter of the nineteenth century holds a special place, for it was during this period that the telephone, phonograph, electric light, wireless, and cinema were all invented. In When old Technologies Were New, Carolyn Marvin explores how two of these new inventions--the telephone and the electric light--were publicly env ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 24th 1990 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published 1988)
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Bibliography from Scott Berkun's "The Myths of Innovation"
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In When Old Technologies Were New (1988), Carolyn Marvin explores the drama around new technologies in the 19th century (especially the telephone and electric light) "in which existing groups perpetually negotiate power, authority, representation, and knowledge with whatever resources are available" (5). She shows how old practices shift, new practices develop, and relationships change as people re-interpret their world (5). She defines media as "constructed complexes of habits, beliefs, and pro ...more
I wish all histories could be this compelling while maintaining a high-degree of theoretical relevance. Marvin's history of electronic communication (think its earliest manifestations: lights, telephones) compiles an impressive and provocative array of primary source documents to expose the mindsets of these technologies' earliest users. She chooses examples that (one hopes) are representative, but that mostly stand out because they are memorable (Yale undergraduates unearthing a lamp post becau ...more
There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
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“It argues that the early history of electric media is less the evolution of technical efficiencies in communication than a series of arenas for negotiating issues crucial to the conduct of social life; among them, who is inside and outside, who may speak, who may not, and who has authority and may be believed.”
“New media may change the perceived effectiveness of one group's surveillance of another, the permissible familiarity of exchange, the frequency and intensity of contact, and the efficacy of customary tests for truth and deception.”More quotes…