MDIA 1010: The Evolution of Media
Professor Wolfgang Suetzl
Exam #1 Study Guide
Yellow - vocabulary
Green - key concepts
Pink - important figures
I. Changing Perspectives
A. Media is inherently changing; we often think of media as an evolving form of communication, and expect that in the future, its will grow and adapt to fill its role in society.
1. Examples of this future-oriented thought process can be seen in many media platforms’ slogans: “See what’s next” (Netflix)
II. A “Medium”
A. Means “middle,” or “in-between,” and refers to an exchange of something.
1. An exchange between places, times, people, or types of reality (as in fictitious texts or films)
B. Each medium has a technical and a symbolic dimension
1. Technical: refers to the “tool” that the medium becomes, and how we are able to use the medium to accomplish a certain task or fulfill a certain purpose.
2. Symbolic: refers to the meaning that the purpose has (in itself, the symbolic dimension helps to determine the technical dimension, by a system of needs and fulfillments).
a) Example: A cellphone’s technical use is to be a portable device on which one
can access lots of material; it’s symbolic use refers to the type of material that is
accessed on the device and how it is used.
C. North American academics consider the study of media as a “Communications” study, whereas European academics consider it a study of “Technology and Art”
III. B.C. Era Media
A. The Tata Plaque (ca. 45,000 B.C.)
1. A “handheld” device of the paleolithic prehistoric time period; a modern-day smartphone 2. Formed from a mammoth tooth, smoothed, curved, and carved with lines
3. Expected to have a more symbolic use rather than practical use as a tool, due to the smoothed surfaces and curved edges of the plaque
Don't forget about the age old question of How do we use them in the process of understanding?
4. The carved lines in the device hold symbolic importance
B. The Ishango Bone (ca. 18,000 B.C.) We also discuss several other topics like Define chromosomes.
1. A baboon bone, with many notches made into its sides
2. Thought to be used as a mathematical device (for measuring or for calculating)
C. “Venus” of Willendorf (ca. 25,000-28,000 B.C.)
1. A female body figure, with amplified features (breasts and womb) that might imply it was used as a fertility symbol
D. Narmer Palette (ca. 3100 B.C.)
1. An Egyptian palette with written hieroglyphs on its surface
2. Hieroglyphs: photographic images that either represent whole concepts (i.e. a pharaoh represents a pharaoh), or rebus symbols/phonetic values (i.e. a catfish and a chisel, We also discuss several other topics like ⮚ What function might they serve?
representing the sounds “nr” and “mr”).
IV. The Myth of Epimetheus
A. Greek myth
B. Epimetheus (“hindsight”) and his brother, Prometheus, were titans tasked with distributing gifts among the animals of the Earth.
1. They gave sharp teeth, talons/claws, and powerful eyes to the predators; camouflage patterns, large ears, quick reflexes for prey, etc.
C. But unfortunately, Epimetheus was unable to think ahead, and as a result ran out of his “gifts” before he could give anything special to the human.
D. Prometheus (“foresight”) stole fire from Zeus to give to the humans, since Epimetheus had not been able to provide them with any gifts. If you want to learn more check out What is a financial bubble?
1. Note: fire is the symbolic and anthropological origin of technology; by gifting humans fire in this myth, Prometheus effectively prompts man to begin creating his own If you want to learn more check out What is the role of courts in society?
E. But because Prometheus had stolen from Zeus, the king of the gods, he was punished to eternal suffering; he was chained to a rock, and would every day endure his liver being picked out by an eagle. During the night, his liver would regenerate, until the next day when the eagle returned.
F. The concept that this myth seems to define is that unlike most animals who have been given the gifts they need to survive, humans are “incomplete” and seek more from life. They have freedom and the necessity to decide for themselves who or what they want to be, and to define their purposes in life. In media, this may mean inventing or developing technology, communicating dif erently, or somehow advancing the way our society operates through dif erent media platforms.
1. Friedrich Nietzsche calls man “the non-determined animal,” while Jean-Paul Sartre laments, “We [men] are condemned to be free.”
G. Prometheus’s punishment also reminds us that as we accomplish certain things through the development of media, we also create new problems.
1. Example: In the 20s/30s, the radio was a new medium through which one could learn about the world quickly and conveniently; but during WWI, it became a tool of
propaganda and of war communication by the Nazis in Germany.
V. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Don't forget about the age old question of what is subatomic particles?
A. “Our reality is a mediated reality,” the message conveyed through this famous allegory, refers to the idea that we are not seeing the entirety of our realities; we are either fed one vision, or we are blinded to the whole picture.
B. Often, we may suspect that this “mediated reality” is an illusion, in which case, we may feel pessimistic. If we are content, and do not realize that our reality is, in fact, “mediated,” we will conversely feel optimistic (and ignorant).
C. In media, symbolic content is constantly under the suspicion of being false or mediated. VI. Early Writing: “Proto-writing”
A. An early form of writing; it develops into what is known later as “full writing”
B. Proto-writing was restricted in its use of pictographs --- icons that refer to the same object that they visually represent --- it did not allow for the communication of abstract concepts (ideas, thoughts, etc.)
1. Pictographs are used to transcend language barriers, save time and space, and reduce the chance of miscommunication. They are typically universally understood icons, making them quick and easy-to-read forms of communcation.
2. Otto Neurath (1882-1945) invented a pictographic system he called Isotype --- it was meant to unite society through a system of universal isotypic pictographs. He believed in the fundamental that “words separate, [but] images unite.”
3. Other examples of pictographs include emoticons, used on mobile phones or computers, which are used to modify or clarify the emotional quality of our written messages
C. Early writing develops from hieroglyphs into full writing, allowing for further expression, and the ability to translate what our thoughts are, before our observations.
VII. Early Media Devices
1. Johannes Gutenberg develops the printing press, (1450), developed from the mechanical model of the wine press
a) Printing is different from writing because it is a reproduction, in which we begin
to create identical copies rather than original material.
b) Gutenberg may have gained the idea to begin reproducing prints from his past
experience selling souvenir mirrors to pilgrims in the town of Strasbourg --- a
stop on the way to the city of pilgrimage, Aachen, which was also recognized at
the time as an international center of trade, bookbinding, and bellfounding.
2. The Reformation marks a point in history during which printed leaflets begin addressing social grievances; previously called newssheets in Germany, these increasingly more
popular leaflets became known as newspapers.
B. Telegraphy (from 1858)
1. Cables running between North America and Europe led to a drastic change in
communication and economy in both continents, by eliminating the need for
cross-Atlantic transportation vessels, and increasing the speed by which messages could be delivered back and forth.
C. Phonautograph (by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, France, 1857)
1. A device that records sound
2. Originally, the idea of recording sound was thought to be a “visual recording,” in which sound could not actually be played back.
a) Sound is understood as a fleeting, immaterial, and airborne subject, making the
concept of “capturing” or recording it seem as improbable as catching the wind.
3. Scott de Martinville’s device operated by capturing sound waves in a large cylinder, causing vibrations in a membrane at the lower end of the “drum,” before a bristle
attached to the membrane would inscribe the sound vibrations on a soot-coated paper
wrapped around a rotating cylinder.
4. However, his phonautograph could not play back sound; the sound vibrations marked on the soot-coated paper were intended to be used as visual study material and for analysis of the tracings.
a) The idea of “playback” was developed by poet-inventor Charles Cros
D. Existence of Electromagnetic Waves (1877)
1. Heinrich Hertz performed an experiment in which he was able to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves, using an original device.
2. As a result, the measuring unit for radio frequencies is named after him (Megahertz, Gigahertz, Kilohertz, etc.)
E. The Writing Ball (1867)
1. A precursor to the typewriter, the writing ball developed by Malling Hansen was intended for use by the blind, as a device with which they could hope to write.
2. It had the same keys as a typewriter, although the “keyboard” was shaped around a curved surface, giving the device the appearance of a ball with letter keys.
1. The typewriter was a device that notably paved the way for women to begin entering the modern workplace, around the 1920s.
1. Appealing due to its realism, and the “promise” that a photo will show its viewer things as they are, rather than an artist’s interpretation and his/her choice alterations.
2. However, photography is not always realistic; the “daguerreotype” needed to be taken with a long exposure time, meaning that moving objects (such as humans, animals,
vehicles, etc.) would not appear.
3. Photography can also be easily edited/manipulated to suit the interests of the
a) Example: in a political setting, such as during Joseph Stalin’s control of the
Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky was removed from a photograph of a Leninist
speaking event after he fell out of grace with the ruler, and was ordered to have
been edited out.
H. Emperor’s Panorama (“Kaiserpanorama,” 1880)
1. A rotating device with changing images that give the illusion of motion as they differ from one position to the next.
a) Example: Edward Muybridge’s infamous Horses in Motion, 1878
1. The first feature movie, A Trip to the Moon by Georges Melies (1902), was heavily
fictitious, allowing its creator to tell entertaining stories that could not happen in reality.
2. But film also has the potential for a realistic dimension, as in documentary film
J. The Web
1. Mosaic 1.0, on Microsoft Windows, was the first popular Web browser that saw its rise to popularity in the year 1993. In comparison, modern day web browsers are much more
complex, but some of the key buttons/keys have remained the same, even after 20+ years. VIII. Media Traits:
A. Composed of various technologies that are constantly evolving, failing, succeeding, evolving more, becoming forgotten, etc.
B. Media has no finished medium, or point at which it will cease to develop further. However, breakthroughs in social stabilization of media (i.e. laws, patents, marketing, research, etc.) have helped to create a sense of security in its ever-active environment.
C. We tend to disbelieve or distrust the symbolic content of some media forms, under the impression that what is being communicated to us is somehow a “mediated reality” (see: Plato’s Cave Allegory)
A. In the past, humans tended to think of the occurrence of certain events as governed by fate, thereby beyond their individual control.
B. “Fate” could be conceptualized in gods or higher powers, such as the Fates of Greek Mythology (“Morai”)
1. Clotho spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle
2. Lachesis measured the thread of life allotted to each person with her measuring rod, and 3. Atropos cut the thread of life, signifying the death of its owner
C. In Medieval Ages, fate was controlled by Fortuna, who had a wheel upon which each person sat; at times, that person may reach the top of the wheel --- a position associated with good fortune, health, happiness, etc. But that person could just as easily fall to the bottom of the wheel, and begin to suffer, so long as Fortuna decided that the wheel should be turned accordingly.
X. History: The Results of Human Action
A. History, to be recorded, requires the existence of a historical subject (a “maker of history,” so to speak), from which histories can be derived.
B. Humans begin to think more about history as being changed by free will, rather than fate, after the scientific revolution. The revolution brings about the commonplace use of calculability and predictability in measuring natural phenomena, and a general secularization (loss of religious belief), allowing for deeper and freer thought processes.
C. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
1. Held that humans have free will and reason, and are identical with themselves
2. Considered the body as separate from the mind
3. Founder of French rationalism
D. The French Enlightenment
1. Considered the rational human being as the master of his/her own fate, and as bestowed with natural rights
2. Any authority that referred to God was no longer accepted
a) This was also a trait resulting from the American revolution
E. Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831)
1. A philosopher of history
2. His view of history included the perception of history as a “dialectical process” involving a thesis, a counterthesis, and a resulting synthesis.
3. Believed that history is progressive; as we move through history, we march forward from ignorance to knowledge. Human thinking corrects itself after it makes mistakes, until we finally achieve the “absolute spirit:”
a) A point in time at which we have a full transparency of the world, a complete
understanding, and “history” will come to an end.
b) Because history, to Hegel, is the process of moving through ignorance into
knowledge, once we attain complete understanding, there becomes no need for
the progression of history.
4. History is archived through media, making our journey to the absolute spirit entirely dependent on the media that we can create, protect, and learn from now.
F. Criticism of Hegelian/Western Concept of History
1. Karl Marx criticized Hegel’s idealistic vision of history, and insisted that
change/development is not the result of ideas, but of a class struggle around access to the means of production. He challenges the Hegelian concept of history with a new
philosophy called historical materialism.
2. Additionally, the Hegelian model of history did not include women as historical subjects. As a result, in most places women had to fight for their rights to vote.
a) Mary Wollstonecraft’s book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), in
part helped to inspire the suffragette movement of the early 20th century.
3. It did not include gay people as historical subjects, either, but instead assumed that everyone was heterosexual.
a) Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs was a pioneer of the gay rights movement who criticized
the Hegelian concept of history because of its exclusion of homosexuals.
4. “Postcolonial theory” criticizes the absence of non-whites and non-Europeans in the western writing of history.
a) Early writers of postcolonial theory include Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and
XI. Media and History
A. Media can be used in historical perspective
1. To view how media was involved in historical events
B. As historical media (for archival functions, or influences on how we view history)
C. Or as an agent of history
A. Human perception tends to privilege content, which is why media operates functionally in our society. We may privilege content over technicality (i.e. when watching a film, we prioritize the film and its story over the movie screen itself), but we don’t think of both at the same time.
1. Example: Ambiguous images force us to privilege one form over another --- the black over the white, or vice versa.
XIII. Studying Media
A. We can study media in terms of its use in communications (US), as artefacts (continental Europe), and/or as cultures (UK).
B. Media can be categorized according to its:
1. Technical function
a) Example: communication media, between a sender and a reciever (i.e.
telephones, postcards, posters/flyers, signs, etc.)
b) Example: storage media (i.e. information residing on a separate technology, like
a CD or USB)
2. Use of sensory organs
a) Either through audio media, visual media, or audiovisual media
b) We have no media that can reach our senses of taste or smell, because both
require wetness to function, and moisture doesn’t mix well with technology.
c) Additionally, the western tradition has privileged sight and sound over other
3. Presence of technology
a) Primary media: requires no technology to communicate (i.e. speech,
gesticulations, facial expressions, etc.)
b) Secondary media: needs technology on the back end/origin (i.e. a camera is
required for photography, but not required to look at a photo)
c) Tertiary media: technology is required on both ends of the medium-exchange
(i.e. radio, film, computers, etc.)
a) Analog media: transmission of a signal through analogies
b) Digital media: transmission of a signal through computation
5. Anthropological status
a) Human media: typically used in performance media (i.e. actors, judges, jesters,
b) Technical media: Media that is outside of the body
XIV. Ice Age Media
A. Neanderthal: an extinct species of human that was widely distributed in ice-age Europe between ca. 120,000-35,000 years ago, with a receding forehead and prominent brow ridges.
1. Neanderthal media includes the Tata Plaque,
2. Cro-Magnon (ca. 28,000 B.C.),
a) An ancient, possibly lunar calendar
b) Calendars allow humans to predict natural phenomena (i.e. change of seasons,
day and night, fertility cycles, menstruation, migration of animals, etc.)
3. The Vogelherd Horse (ca. 30,000 B.C.),
a) The earliest known animal carving, which is noted for its exceptionally accurate
shape, and the engraved symbols in its neck, back, and chest.
4. “Venus” of Willendorf,
5. Reindeer engravings on antler baton (ca. 10,000 B.C.),
6. Ishango Bone.
1. Altamira cave paintings (ca. 34,000-15,000 B.C.), Spain
2. Lascaux cave paintings (ca. 15,000 B.C.), France
3. Dordogne mutant animal drawing (ca. 14,000 B.C.), France
4. Graffiti in Pompeii, Rome (ca. 100 B.C.)
5. Recent examples of political graffiti in Syria (2011)
a) Graffiti is often used by marginalized cultures and has become its own
subculture (i.e. 1970s NYC)
6. Walls were used in the past, and are used presently, because they are available and
visible to the public.
7. Digital versions of walls can be online messaging boards, Facebook walls, or YouTube comments pages
C. Purposes of Ice Age Media:
1. Cultural (i.e. naturalistic sketches)
D. In Ice Age Media, humans start to use symbols which signify meaning.
1. This begins to develop a culture or symbolic exchange, and to develop
A. From the Latin scribere, meaning “to scratch”
B. Question: Why did humans start to write?
1. Awareness of our own mortality is a driving factor in the creation of writing and symbols a) Example: engravings on tombs, gravestones, etc.
2. Another factor was the importance of telling time
a) The Mayan culture in Mesoamerica, for example, had advanced astronomical
knowledge, and is known for its elaborate calendar system. Calendars were often
used to predict the future, making them important for use in ancient Mayan
3. Often times, writing equated to a security of power
a) Writing helped authorities and rulers to legitimize their positions, glorify their
own actions, and rule over their people.
(1) The Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1754 B.C.)
(a) One of the oldest surviving deciphered pieces of writing,
which specifies laws on trade, social matters, contract,
felonies, and other material.
(b) But first begins with a praise of Hammurabi as “mighty King,
King of Babylon, King of the whole country of Amurru, King
of Sumer and Akkad, King of the Four Quarters of the World”
(c) The code was developed in order to address the ancient
Babylonian empire’s growing administrative and economic
(2) The Rosetta Stone (ca. 196 B.C.)
(a) A stone engraved with three different scriptures: Ancient
Egyptian hieroglyphs, translated into Demotic, translated into
4. Writing could be used for administration
a) Writing helped to organize the growing amounts of information in rapidly
(1) Example: clay tokens representing product/crop quantity came into
common use in the Middle East with the advent of agriculture. The
“token system” required the creation of new symbols, sub-symbols, and
a writing system under which they could be recorded.
(2) Example: Sumerian cuneiform script on clay tablets were used for
accounting tools; small notches or symbols were embedded in the soft
clay to denote balances and dues.
(a) Sumerian clay tablets are considered the oldest surviving
(b) The Sumer civilization is usually credited with the first writing
C. From Proto-writing to Full Writing
1. The importance of rebus symbols
a) Logographic symbols: symbols that represent an object; they are usually
modeled after the object that they are meant to represent
(1) Example: the bull represents a bull
b) Phonographic symbols: symbols that may represent a sound
(1) Example: an owl representing the “hoo” sound; the letter “A”
representing the “ah” sound
2. “Complete” or “Full” Writing
a) Complete writing must have as its purpose communication
b) Complete writing must consist of artificial graphic marks on a durable or
c) Complete writing must use marks that relate conventionally to articulate speech
(the systemic arrangement of significant vocal sounds) or electronic
programming in such a way that communication is achieved
d) Full writing allows the communication of thoughts independently from objects,
and permits us to discuss abstract concepts such as emotions, fiction, ideas, and
(1) For this reason, full writing facilitates the writing of philosophy,
literature, science, etc.
a) Scripts may fall under one of two pure forms: phonetic notation (phonography)
or cryptographic notation (logography), although all forms of writing have both
elements present in different volumes.
b) Phonography: phonetics determine how a word should be pronounced
(1) Examples: Finnish, French, English
c) Logography: conceptual information determines writing; cryptographic codes
are used to symbolize meaning.
(1) Examples: Chinese, Japanese, Korean
XVI. Writing Surfaces: Durable or Ephemeral
2. Clay (flexible when moist, but when it dries it becomes a semi-permanent record)
1. Papyrus (used from ca. 2550 B.C.E. in the Nile valley; it was lightweight and mobile, but prone to easily deteriorate or become damaged)
a) Note: An example of papyrus’ ephemeral nature was the destruction of the
Library of Alexandria in the late 3rd century A.D.
b) Valuable ancient writings on philosophy and science were lost, and as a result of
this tremendous loss of knowledge, humans have started taking steps to protect
their media (i.e. backing up digital files, using fireproof record vaults, etc.)
2. Wax tablets (used in Greece and Rome for temporary writing; may have contributed to the idea of a bound book because of the manner in which it was stored between two
hinged tablets to protect the wax)
3. Parchment (dried calfskin, used by Romans and in the Medieval Ages)
4. Silk (used in China since 200 B.C.E. for important religious and civil texts)
5. Paper (reportedly discovered by Tsai Lun, a Chinese monk who observed paper wasps making their nest, ca. 105 C.E.; paper arrived in Europe via the Silk Road, and first
produced in the Iberian peninsula by the Moors in the 9th century A.D.)
XVII. Writing Tools (used with surfaces)
1. Often used for marking incisions in wax or clay --- in soft surfaces
1. Made from one of the primary feathers from the wing of a bird (usually a goose)
2. Used frequently in the Middle Ages by monks in scriptoriums
3. The ink used with quills, throughout the Medieval period, consisted of iron salt and oak galls, which literally burned into the writing surface
D. Pens (fountain and ball point)
1. Steel dip pens were a development of the quill --- more durable, but less flexible (ca.
2. Ball point pens were patented by Laszlo Biro in 1938; and immediately became an
important tool for the US military, who saw it as a new type of writing tool which could
be used at high altitudes
E. Digital styluses
XVIII. Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion (ca. 1687): The Dawn of the “Clockwork Universe” A. First Law: An object at rest remains at rest, unless acted upon by a force. Similarly, an object in motion remains in motion, unless acted upon by a force.
B. Second Law: In an inertial reference frame, the vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object, multiplied by the acceleration a of the object (F = ma).
C. Third Law: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.
XIX. The 19th Century Marks the “Mechanization of Everything”
1. A symbol of speed and efficiency (therefore, became closely associated with feats of the industrial age, such as the railroad)
2. Industrial production principles were applied to writing. Whereas before, writing and handwriting were personal, unique, and emotional, typed letters were reproducible,
de-personalized, and standardized texts.
a) Industrial production fundamentally shifts the focus of manufacturing from the
craftsperson and his/her skills or techniques to the final product that creates its
3. Early typewriter models include the literary piano (Samuel W. Francis), the small and portable typewriter for use in the mountain farming communities of the Alps (Peter
Mitterhofer), and then the first commercially successful writing machine that allowed
writing faster than handwriting (Christopher Latham Sholes).
a) Mitterhofer’s typewriter (ca. 1864) was described by its inventor as capable of
“gaining time, evenness and readability of script, saving paper, no exertion of
eyes and the chest, usable by the blind, allowing users to focus on their
intellectual work, usable by the sick and bedridden,” in addition to being a
device which can be used by the military.
4. QWERTY keyboard developed ca. 1878, in a way such that the types are arranged not to jam. There was, at first, an absence of the number 1 (replaced by the letter i) and an
absence of a shift key (because all writing was uppercase at first).
5. The first typoscript (typed manuscript) in the history of literature was Tom Sawyer (ca. 1876) by Mark Twain.
6. The invention and commonplace use of the typewriter allowed for a new job market: stenographers/typists.
a) Many, if not most, of these typists were young women, because there was a
scarcity of male workers after the American Civil War. These women tended to
see typing as a way to gain more independence, as it was a job and their
previous studies emphasized female dexterity (i.e. piano and violin lessons,
7. The typewriter was, however, unfortunately seen as a threat to the existing social order by some, and yet as a means of emancipation for those who were oppressed by the order.
a) Examples: the idea of women working was perceived as threatening by men, but
as liberating by women.
8. The military was interested in using the typewriter as a means of quick and reliable communication; telegraph operators able to read and write Morse code found it much
faster to use typewriters, and typing also reduced the likelihood of misreading messy
XX. Cultural Consequences of Writing
A. Writing detaches communication from the body by removing the need for face-to-face communication. This effectively removes small details of conversation, such as body language, facial expressions, and vocal intonation.
B. Plato’s Dialogue Phaedrus:
1. The dialogue contains a criticism of written speech, establishing a pattern of criticisms that seems to recur in posterior media revolutions:
2. Writing will lead to a loss of memory, because of kinetic memory tactics (i.e. how one often hears that “writing notes will help you to remember/recall them more easily”)
3. Writing will create pseudo wisdom (distortion of the truth) because you cannot ask a written text questions, but must read what is already written for you. This increases the
risk of misinterpretation between an author and his/her audiences.
4. Writing offers no possibility of dialogue (development of ideas through discussion) 5. Written language “has no soul;” it is only a mere image.
C. Writing makes us think differently; it restructures the manner in which we think and actively process information.
1. Eric Havelock was a professor at the U. of Toronto, Yale, and then Harvard, whose work was primarily concerned with the impact of writing on thought
a) He persisted that writing frees the mind from having to memorize material, and
allows it to be applied to think for itself, about “novel and unexpected” things
b) Writing, therefore, allows for the mind to think objectively and abstractly
c) It also allows the sense of an autonomous self (personality)
(1) Members of oral cultures, for example, have no sense of an
autonomous self. Conversely, written cultures, such as ancient Greece,
have language and alphabets which offer a complete rendering of
speech (including vocals), which travel easily, which allow for
abstraction/objectivity and a sense of causality/science/technology, and
which allow laws to be published in a written form (denoting the
emergence of a sense of justice, and the deepening of a culture).
D. Walter Ong’s Perspective
1. According to Ong, oral cultures require repetition in order to preserve their cultural
memory, and they are therefore less capable of renewal.
a) Oral cultures tend to invest a lot in passing on knowledge, and preserving it.
This makes them more likely to be seen as “conservative.” Culturally, there is
less space in oral cultures to begin questioning the traditional knowledge, and
therefore makes it difficult for these types of societies to renew.
2. Additionally, some of the consequences of writing include a privileging of the visual over the sense of hearing, as well as the emergence of linear, evolutionary thinking,
inwardness, individuality, and realism in literature.
a) Oral cultures differ from writing cultures in the fact that they are more
audial-based than visual, and that their literature relies on mythologies, making
its consumers struggle to determine the difference between fact and fiction.
E. The Importance of Writing May Be Overrated
1. Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009)
a) Points out that some of the most creative periods in human history occurred
without writing (i.e. the beginning of agriculture and the taming of animals, etc.)
(1) Example: the quipu, a form of Inca writing without script that involves
many variables of tied and knotted threads to carry information (i.e.
thread color, length, location and size of knots, thickness, number, etc.)
b) Writing becomes useful, Levi-Strauss argues, as a tool of domination.
(1) Writing modifies knowledge, but does not add to it. It can be used to
shape beliefs, and thereby “enslave” other human beings
XXI. The Printing Revolution
A. The origins of printing lies in eastern Asia
1. Printing with movable letters was first popularized in China, by movable wooden type. 2. Printing in Asia occurred in a different social context than it did in Europe, and its
evolution occurred over a much longer time span
a) In China, there was a high demand for books, as a result of a well-organized
educational and exam system; this effectively created a market for books used in
civil servantry exam preparations.
b) Rulers in China and Korea established their own printing and book shops for
books that they considered to be of ideological or commercial importance
c) Books were often appreciated as aesthetic objects or gifts in these cultures
d) Also, the printing of sacred texts was considered a religious act.
3. However, the complexity of Chinese script became an obstacle in the spread of printing. B. The Jiki is the oldest known printed book (ca. 1377)
1. It is a Buddhist religious text from Korea
C. The spread of printing in Europe, after the development of Gutenberg’s printing press, was a revolutionary development that ended the medieval social system.
1. Incunabula are printed works produced before 1500 in Europe.
2. Early centers of printing included Mainz and Nuremberg in Germany, Rome, Venice, and Paris.
D. An important customer of the printing press was the church; it used printing to recreate indulgence letters --- legal documents signed by the pope that promised people redemption if they donated to the church.
1. But in addition, Gutenberg was able to find use for his device by printing other one-page publications such as calendars (modern-day newspaper), prayers, listings of dates and
their respective saints, best days for bloodletting, lunar phases, etc.
2. He also printed 180 Bibles, from which only 48 copies still exist.
E. In North America, the first printing press was located in and went into operation in 1638 at Harvard College.
F. Printing was also not accepted equally in all places, nor did it spread at a quick rate.
1. For example, in Russia and the Ottoman empire, printing was slow to take off due to a low level of literacy, as well as opposition on the part of governments and churches, who saw it as a threat to the established hierarchies of power at that time.
G. The “Printer’s Device,” first developed by William Claxton
1. Claxton printed the first book in English, and used a printer’s device --- or a symbol to denote himself as the one responsible for the print (i.e. a signature)
2. Claxton’s first commissioned print work was Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, by the hire of one of his patrons, Margaret of York, in 1475.
H. Soon enough, printing begins to move away from seeking an emulation of handwriting. Instead, typography emerges as an art in its own right.
1. And a second historic typeface, italic, was created in Italy to mimic the natural slant of handwriting.
XXII. Consequences of Printing
A. The Rise of Humanism
1. Humanism is a Renaissance scholarship that draws upon classic sources
a) The Renaissance culture that followed the Middle Ages in many parts of Europe
had a renewed interest in classical philosophy.
b) Printing made these works accessible to scholars, undermining the Church’s
control over knowledge production. The Church often had a problem with the
classical Greek writings, since the Greeks were considered heathenous on
account of their polytheistic religious beliefs.
2. Aldus Manutius was among the first Italians to take up the art of printing in Venice, and he printed an edition of the works of Aristotle.
3. The Nuremberg Chronicle is one of the most important secular (not controlled by the Church) printed book, and a landmark in the history of printing. It is a chronicle of
human history based on the biblical narrative, and is also known as the first book that
completely separates illustrations and text.
4. Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream is a love story told in allegorical, dream-like
language. The tale represents a rare example of fiction in early printing.
B. The Reformation
1. Martin Luther is responsible for the first translation of the Bible from Latin into a
vernacular language (language spoken by the common people)
a) The availability of Luther’s German-translated Bible created a huge new market for printed Bibles
b) However, Bibles in vernacular languages undermined the Church’s supremacy in religion and scholarship.
c) Luther’s reformation, in tandem with Gutenberg’s printing press, initiated the demise of the Medieval social system.
2. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
a) Elizabeth Eisenstein emphasized in her work on the early printing culture the importance of printing in the spread of reformist thinking and in challenging the Church’s control over knowledge production and dissemination.
(1) Censorship emerged as an attempt by the Church to stay in control; it
created an Index of Prohibitied Books, which was renewed up until
1948. 20th century literary figures such as Sartre and Beauvoir are on
the index, as are key figures of the scientific revolution such as Francis
Bacon and Galileo Galilei.
C. Popular Press
1. Leaflets were produced by early printers to target a mass market, in order to attain a steady stream of income.
a) Often, these leaflets may revolve around “miracles,” or unnatural occurrence that would secure a large readership, by virtue of their connecting the medieval faith-based worldview with the sensationalism of the modern period (things that are “unbelievable”)
b) Other times, leaflets may have reports on executions --- burning witches and “godless fellows”
c) Although the literacy rate of people in the early modern period was low, leaflets were able to reach a wider audience because they were read aloud in public
areas where people assembled (i.e. markets, pubs, streets, churches, etc.)
d) Leaflets, flyers, pamphlets, and similar mediums were useful because of their mobility, low price, short production cycle, and viral distribution.
e) Pamphlets can include propaganda, such as anti-Pope reformist material, etc., and typically are decorated with a grotesque illustration of some sort.
(1) Examples: Half-man, half-creatures; violence against children; etc.
2. Newspapers published daily begin to evolve around the beginning of the 18th century in Europe and North America
a) American newspapers evolved differently than in Europe, due to the fact that international news arrived slowly and traveled with difficulty. Because of this, daily newspapers in America tended to focus their content on local and regional news stories. This may have consequently resulted in a more informed stance on local issues, favoring democratic participation and the drive for national
b) Newspapers could be used both as an instrument of control by those in power, and a tool of democratic control of those in power.
(1) Example: American newspapers offered logistical support during the
US’s struggle for independence, by serving as political and planning
informants during important events (i.e. Boston Tea Party)
c) Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette was a new newspaper format in which moral, political, and social themes were more prominent than
sensationalist stories. Early US newspapers, like the Pennsylvania Gazette
understood their function as providing moral education to readers.
(1) Symbols, like the “Join or Die” snake, became more powerful when
used in newspapers whose themes revolved around politics and morals
(2) Newspapers could also serve as a forum for debate (i.e. the “Federalist
d) The press played a key role in American independence, which is why it was
protected early on in the Virginia Declaration, and later the Constitution.
(1) Media freedom was at once curtailed in the US (ca. 1798) to ban “false,
scandalous, and malicious writing” about the government or Congress,
but was repealed four years later.
e) The 1830s saw the rise of the “penny press,” in which newspapers transitioned
from subscription-based readerships to street peddling marketing practices,
reaching more everyday audiences.
f) The invention of the steam press allows mass production on a new scale
g) Newspapers begin having to fight against censorships, and they’re increasingly
h) Press taxes are removed
i) New types of content are developed, and new audiences are reached
3. Media frenzies
a) The story of the London serial murderer “Jack the Ripper” was an early instance
of a media frenzy in English newspapers.
(1) Because of the increased readership, many newspapers began to take an
active part in creating stories that would secure a large and loyal
readership. This new effort to appeal to the masses, known as “popular
press,” sometimes overrode considerations of editorial quality.
4. Standardization of Language
5. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
D. More Privileging of Vision Over Hearing
E. Emergence of the Professional Authors and of “Originality”
1. Authorship is a cultural novelty in the 18th century; it was a completely new concept. Before, we would only have been interested in the stories, not the authors. The idea that a story or poem can be interpreted in the light of an author’s intentions because the author
has a direct and unique relationship to the work becomes the strongest in the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.
F. Emergence of the Modern Nation State
1. Modern nation state: a contract between the government and the people
G. Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy
1. The first major attempt to understand aspects of western culture and society as a result of print media.
2. Changes that attribute to the spread of print are: (the above), as well as the breaking of the Church knowledge monopoly, emergence of “newness” in authors’ media, the first
problems of author anonymity
1. Renaissance Era painting begins to use perspective, symbolically as a way of recasting our view of the world in which the individual human being (viewer or artist) in the
a) Similarly, the book medium puts the author or reader individual in the center.
b) Example: Pietro Perugino’s The Delivery of the Keys fresco (ca. 15th century)
uses a geometric grid pattern for proportions in his painting.
c) Additionally, architecture begins to use proportions and perspective to achieve
domes and other feats of construction.
2. In paintings without perspective, the size of the people typically corresponded to their social status. For example, larger people were of a higher class, such as princes or
clergymen, and smaller people were peasants or simple tradesmen.
a) Perspective therefore creates a “level playing field” for every object appearing
on the image, including people.
1. The aspect of craft diminishes greatly, and inspiration is considered internal, meaning that an author (original creator) has original genius.
2. Before the late 17th/early 18th century, writers had serious jobs and often simply wrote as a second job, from which they did not derive their primary income. However, in the
early 18th century, writing increasingly becomes a professional activity.
a) The moral title (resulting in benefits accrued from a work that are exclusively
the author’s) of one’s writing is the copyright law.
(1) In 1886 at the Berne Convention, copyright becomes the subject of an
international treaty, and does no longer need to be registered for --- it
comes into existence with the creation of an original work.
(2) Copyright is a type of intellectual property, and part of a giant global
industry (entertainment). Intellectual property rights may be treated
differently according to different legal systems (i.e. Civil law in
continental Europe, Latin America, and Russia, which emphasizes the
author’s rights; vs. Common law, which is popular in the
(3) Copyright protection covered 70 years, until the “Mickey Mouse
Protection Act” (ca. 1998) extended it to cover 90 years.
A. The Rise of “Yellow”/Tabloid Journalism
1. Yellow (UK), or tabloid (US) journalism combines popular and sensationalist content with real reporting in order to reach a large audience and share a strong political influence a) Example: Nellie Bly, a young investigative journalist, spent ten days in an
asylum pretending to be mentally unstable, to report on the conditions and
environment of the “madhouse;” she is also known for her reports in the New
York World regarding her trip around the world in 72 days. Her serialized
articles secured a returning readership.
b) Example: Elizabeth Bisland competed against Nellie Bly in a similar trip around
the world, sponsored by the Cosmopolitan magazine.
B. Photography in Journalism
1. The first photograph printed in a newspaper, “A Scene in Shantytown” (ca. 1880) drew readers’ attention to urban squalor and misery (“muckwracking” journalism). At this
time, journalism on the impoverished city populations gave rise to the concept of
photojournalism (i.e. images are now being used to tell their own story rather than as
mere illustrations to support a written article).
a) Photojournalism also makes it easier to cover conditions, such as urban squalor,
disease, and street crime, rather than only events.
2. Photography also had to utilize the halftone technique, in which the human brain can be tricked into seeing greys where there are printed black dots of varying size and distance
C. Female Journalism
1. The Ladies Mercury (ca. 1693) was the first ever women’s magazine
a) The public sphere was mainly defined by a predominance of men. Women, on
the other hand, were considered as belonging to the private sphere of the home
and the family.
2. Later, when women begin to campaign for the right to vote, publications of their
movement, such as the Woman’s Journal become pivotal motivators and informers.
A. Telegraphy detaches communication from objects, whereas previously writing detached communication from the body.
B. Prior to the telegraph, in the US, the Pony Express was the fastest communication route to the West Coast (10 days from NY to San Francisco).
C. Optical (visual) telegraphy
1. Early forms of optical telegraphy include fire signals, sent from tower to tower across a distance. They use the “Polybius code,” which divides letters into two-digit numbers that correspond with the fire signals.
2. The “optical telegraph,” or “semaphore,” developed by Claude Chappe (ca. 1790-1840) was a windmill-like device with one long wooden shaft, and two smaller shafts attached
to its endpoints. Each shaft was connected to a pulley system, and could be repositioned
to correspond with a certain coded meaning.
a) Used to inform over distances --- fires, maritime news, etc.
b) They were often positioned on hilltops for visibility. However, changes in
weather, time of day, and transmission/reading errors were obstacles of this kind
3. Shutter telegraphs were a form of optical telegraphy used in Britain. Opening and closing the six panels attached to the device in various combinations would indicate letters.
4. All historical forms of optical telegraphy were used mainly for military and official state purposes. The medium was not available to common people or businesses, unlike
D. Electrical telegraphy
1. News of the first electrostatic telegraph came about ca. 1753, when an anonymous writer in the Scots Magazine published a document about the device. The system was meant to
operate with 25 wires (i and j shared one), with electrostatic charges transmitted through
them to move tiny balls made of pith.
2. The five-needle telegraph developed by Charles Wheatstone and William Cook was the first successful electric telecommunication device
a) Electromagnetic charge could move the needles into various positions
b) The first commercial telegraph line under this telegraph was set up along the
Great Western Railway connecting London and Cornwall
3. Samuel Morse sent the first telegram in 1838, using 3km. of wire. After struggling to find investors who would support his telegraph, he demonstrated his invention at the Capitol
in Washington, sending a message to Baltimore (“What hath God wrought?”), and
received a patent in 1847.
a) His system of telegraphy was simpler and more resilient than the needle
b) He suggested that the government buy his patent and license it to private
companies, to create a system of checks and preventatives of abuse.
c) Morse’s code was developed with the idea to have the simplest signs (singular
dot or dash) for the most frequent letters in English (e and t); prior to the digital
age, Morse code was widely used in maritime radio service and the military, but
has now become obsolete. It was used because there was a smaller likelihood of
miscommunication when the signal was also audible, and because it was easier
to scramble Morse code than language.
4. The first underwater telegraphy cable was laid between England and France via the
Channel (ca. 1850)
a) Water changed the electromagnetic properties of the cable, and insulating it with
rubber did not work
b) The first transatlantic cable was laid in 1858, and broke after only three weeks of
(1) The first message sent across the Atlantic was “Europe and America
are united by telegraphy. Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace
and good will toward men.”
(2) Telegraphy across the world inspired utopias of a connected and
peaceful society; learning about others would reduce the likelihood of
war breaking out
5. Today, submarine communication cables are still used; modern day optical fiber cables carry more than 90% of the global digital data traffic.
6. The telegraph also changes news writing, and forces writers to choose shorter, more brief wording to eliminate the high costs of sending messages far.
E. Wireless telegraphy
1. Guglielmo Marconi begins experimenting with wireless telegraphy in 1894; in 1896, he was able to transmit a message from aboard St. Paul over a 66 nautical mile distance,
proving that wireless telegraphy on board of ships was possible, and that radio waves
propagate over water (key to transatlantic wireless technology)
a) In 1901 Marconi was successful in transmitting the first signal across the
Atlantic, from England to Canada.
b) Marconi, as well as other wireless signal transmission pioneers, thought the
reception of large audiences was a problem. They believed that wireless
telegraphy was a one-on-one medium, and that access to the transmitted signals
needed to be limited from others to reach the correct recipient.
c) The idea of radio broadcasting sees its opportunity in the general availability of
radio signals --- the basis of broadcasting. Once aired, radio signals can be
received by anyone with a receiver who is within the covered area of the
2. James Clarke Maxwell’s A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field showed that light waves and electromagnetic waves behave in similar ways because they are part of
the same electromagnetic spectrum.
a) He proposed the electromagnetic theory of light: electrical waves travel at the
speed of light.
b) Maxwell’s theories led to the prediction of the existence of radio waves
XXVI. The Telephone
A. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone as a device to attempt to teach the deaf to speak, by using sound signals (i.e. vibrations) available to those without hearing.
1. His telephone prototype utilized electromagnetic impulses, generated through the
diaphragm when a speaker makes a sound. The receiving end of the telephone was
supposed to reverse the process, turning impulses into vibrations and sounds.
B. The first telephones were used like intercoms, to connect two points
C. However, telephones were capable of networking; in the telephone network, every subscriber can call another subscriber. Before direct-dial was introduced in the 1940s and 50s, all calls connected at a telephone exchange using switchboards.
1. These exchanges (midpoints between calls) were at first staffed by teenage boys, who had previously worked for telegraph companies.
2. Soon, women entered this type of employment, because employers found that initially, they could be paid less than teenage boys.
a) For most women, the telephone exchange was a gateway to employment, and for
parents, the job seemed respectable (a female supervisor with a maternal
attitude, and no male colleagues)
b) Telephone operators also became icons of an emerging popular media culture
for women, representing modern style and technological progress; and later, as
pioneers of communication and heroines of American nation-building.
D. The telephone was originally thought of as a technology serving businesses and professionals before private homes; doctors and physicians’ offices, lawyers, etc. would often have telephones for business.
1. In the 1920s, telephone providers discovered the private home as a new potential market. Unlike a telegraph, telephones were easy to handle and required no special training to
operate, making them a more accessible technology for everyday people.
2. In private homes, speaking to someone who is absent via the telephone became a novelty, and existing formalities of interpersonal communication (including social hierarchies)
were impossible to maintain.
E. Bell successfully created a monopoly over the telephone industry
1. The minimum flat rate for a telephone in Boston was $6 (equivalent, at the time, to
approximately 10% of the average monthly income); later, Bell went from a flat rate to a
measured service, depending on how often a customer used his/her phone
a) This was an extremely expensive, and resulted in the Rochester telephone
boycott (ca. 1886), where 800 of Bell’s 950 subscribers discontinued their phone
use for a year and a half in protest of the switch
2. But as Bell’s patents expire, the price of the telephone subscription drops and the market becomes more competitive; rival companies, such as the Rochester Telephone Company
(now Frontier), are formed as a means of gaining independence from Bell.
F. Towards the 70s, when phones become less expensive, the general public begins to see more use of phones for socializing (for no particular reason other than to chat) than as a tool for sharing information
XXVII. Radio Broadcasting
A. The Teatrophone (ca. 1881)
1. A stereo transmission system that operated with telephones. It was developed by Clement Ader and demonstrated at the Paris World Fair in 1881.
2. Often, people may have gone to teatrophone rooms to listen to broadcasts together.
3. In England, many feared that telephone broadcasting would make “all classes kin,”
eliminating the social hierarchy that separated upperclass from lowerclass.
B. The Telefon Hirmondo (“Telephone Newspaper”)
1. A telephone distribution system in Budapest, Hungary, which offered live music transmissions in addition to twenty-eight newscasts per day and employed its own reporters.
a) They also offered time, weather, astrology, phrase of the day, chamber tone,etc. services to listeners.
2. Telephone distribution systems such as this created audience and programming clues for what would later become broadcasting.
C. Wireless Technology
1. The term “radio” did not become common until the early 20th century, although radio receivers were still called “wireless sets” in Britain after WWII.
D. Amateur Radio Culture
1. Before the Radio Act (ca. 1912) was passed in the US, anyone could use radio as much as they pleased. However, amateur radio broadcasters often played pranks via radio, such as directing military ships to incorrect locations, which resulted in a ban during WWI for security reasons.
a) This, in addition to the sinking of the Titanic (where people could have been saved if wireless broadcasting signals had been received), also led to a more
systematic international regulation of the radio frequency spectrum.
2. Amateur radio was an early pop-tech culture, a “grassroots” community focusing on experimental use of radio technology.
a) They contributed to the development of the radio in significant ways, including the use of shortwave frequencies for long-distance communications (shortwave frequencies also required relatively small transmission power to broadcast)
E. Reginald Fessenden’s First AM Radio Broadcast (ca. 1906)
1. Fessenden realized that for speech and music transmission, a continuous wave was required, and that the spark transmitters used for wireless telegraphy needed to be replaced by continuous wave transmitters.
a) That is why AM radio is typically used for live, continuous broadcasts on short/medium wave bands, such as sports or talk shows.
b) Music transmission requires the use of longer wave bands
c) AM is a more favorable radio type for smaller, independent stations
2. AM technology made radio suitable to become a mass medium by dramatically improving sound quality
F. Lee de Forest’s Audion (ca. 1906)
1. The audion is the precursor of the vacuum tube, used to amplify signals, by counteracting the dampening of sound that occurs when transmitting via electromagnetic waves. a) Amplification allowed continuous wave transmitters (AM radio) to replace the previous spark transmitters.
2. The audion is later replaced by the transistor, which allows radio sets to become smaller and use less electricity because they do not produce light or as much heat.
a) As a result, radios become smaller, lighter, and portable (for use as portable sets or car radios)
G. Edwin H. Armstrong and FM Radio (ca. 1933)
1. FM radio allows better sound quality and is less prone to interference, but has a more reduced reach.
a) This is why FM radio stations are typically found in areas with a high population density (i.e. cities)
b) Typically uses VHF bands (Very High Frequency)
2. FM radio broadcasting in the US begins in the late 30s, and starts to outnumber AM stations in the 70s