Chapter Abstracts

Chapter 1:  Devon Powers: The End of New Music? Digital Media, History, and the Idea of Attention

Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009 caused a palpable jolt within the world of pop music, and not only because one of its most talented sons had passed. As the mourning extended over the subsequent days and weeks, Jackson would return to dominance of that world from the grave, driven by the overwhelming resurgence of his music into everyday pop cultural life— from dance parties in the street to theme nights at bars, on the radio and all over television.  And thanks in large part to digitization, Jackson ruled popular music sales in 2009: his albums zoomed to the top of the iTunes charts for singles and downloads; videos and ringtones sales skyrocketed; and as of October, Jackson had sold more than 10 million albums worldwide since his death, with his 2003 album of number one hits the bestselling album of the year .

The Jackson example is a strong reminder of the multiple ways in which digital music technology has challenged the very notion of “new” music. Alongside episodes like these, the conjoining of new media and music has destabilized the popular music market in other crucial ways: from the leaking of tracks before official release dates to the mining of artists’ back catalogs, new media has rendered “newness” both easier and more difficult to achieve. While oldies stations and the first nostalgia-driven reissue craze of the late 1960s music industry are earlier signals of “new” interest in “old” music—and events like deaths, scandals, and comebacks have long been catalysts for the revisiting of a musician’s oeuvre—digital technology makes accessing music from past eras easier than it has ever been before, underscoring the capacity for the consumption music to reach an unprecedented level of bricolage.

Such a shift showcases the irony of popular culture historians’ dependence on the concept of newness. Genre developments and innovations, musical release dates, chart placements, and the like are typically used as indices of historical relevance, assumed by historians as evidence that certain music mattered in its moment. Yet the shift to digitization and new media reveals that these occurrences are better understood as opportunities for attention—moments that, in a new media landscape, become equivalent to numerous other kinds of moments ripe with attention potential.

Given this context, this article will theorize ways in which historians can approach the idea of “new” music in a new media environment. Focusing specifically on how new media transforms the distribution and consumption of music, I will suggest that, to contend with a new media environment, historians of popular music must become historians of attention, reframing their questions to consider why certain music garners or doesn’t garner attention at a particular moment. This suggests a renewed focus on the role of promotion and circulation in the lifespan of popular music, but also raises important questions about the ramifications of this “end” of new music. What will this shift mean for history which has been predicated on the notion that music emerges during and speaks to a particular time and place?


Chapter 2:  Noah Arceneaux: “All You’ll Need is a Mobile Couch”: The History of Mobile Television in the United States

In the final decades of the 20th century, mobile phones became smaller, cheaper, and an almost mandatory accessory for anyone in the middle-class. In the 21st century, the growth of these devices has not slowed, though they now do far more than simply relay voice communications, and have become a profitable platform for content producers, marketers, and designers. In sharp contrast to traditional media industries, including television, print, and recorded music, which have seen dramatic declines in revenue, the growth of mobile media applications signals a pronounced shift in how consumers will access news and entertainment in the coming decades.

This chapter explores the current explosion mobile media by examining a forgotten episode in media history, the Telephone Herald of 1911-12. Inspired by a similar venture in Hungary, this media outlet delivered news, music, and children’s entertainment to subscribers in Newark, New Jersey, via telephone lines. Though the company lasted only a few months, its programming foreshadowed the content that would eventually be delivered to listeners over radio airwaves in the following decade. This early attempt at using the phone for the distribution of media content is contrasted with the MediaFlo system, one of the current technologies for transmitting video to mobile phones. Qualcomm, the company behind MediaFlo, has not found the success they were envisioning with this initiative, and this chapter draws from interviews with engineers and technicians at the company to detail some of the specific obstacles that have been encountered. Mobile television has become quite popular in certain parts of the world, South Korea in particular, though Americans have not embraced this method for viewing video content as rapidly as marketers initially hoped.

In addition to contrasting these two specific business ventures, this chapter also seeks to explore some of the tropes associated with “new media” in general. The specifics of technology may change over time, though the particular hopes and visions which the public attaches to the latest media innovations remain remarkably durable in American popular culture. This historical perspective on mobile media thus hopes to contextualize the current situation, and provide a more realistic perspective on the latest “revolution” in media.


Chapter 3:  Stephanie Ricker Schulte: Cutting the Cord and “Crying Socialist Wolf”: Unwiring the Public and Producing the Third Place

This chapter uses wireless technology as a case study to discuss and model an advantageous method for studying new media. While new media are major and transforming components of life for much of the United States and, increasingly, the world, they are not merely technologies. They are also cultural locations and leading frameworks for understanding shifts in democracy, consumption, capitalism, and public space, as well as the nation’s future within these shifting landscapes. A testament to the productive power of ideas and cultural conceptions, this work is an example of how useful it is in studies of new media to examine the complicated and indirect ways cultural production operates. This study traces the history of narratives about wireless technology that circulate in the public sphere in the early 2000s. By identifying and analyzing complex overlapping narratives about wireless technology, this chapter places cultural representations in their political, historical, economic, and cultural contexts, providing insight into how new media participated in larger important debates.

This project builds on works such as Anna McCarthy’s Ambient Television, Lisa Gitelman’s Always Already New, and Lynn Spigel’s Make Room for TV to investigate new practices of digital mapping, cellular telephony, global positioning, and wireless networking that allowed individuals to participate in rewriting, remapping, and personalizing their environments as well as public space. News media and policy discussions of these technologies focused on the technology’s individualistic and democratic potentials, drawing on techno-utopian rhetoric of the late 1980s and early 1990s and Al Gore’s famous “information superhighway” political rhetoric of the 1990s and projecting it from virtual onto the physical realms. For example, as Wired reported in June 2007, emerging wireless technologies will create what the magazine calls the “Internet of Things,” or hyperlinked and digitally tagged public objects, buildings, and locations. These digital tags, accessible with a cellular phone’s digital camera, will allow individuals to experience their physical surrounds as “clickable,” much as they understand cyberspaces. These shifts are imagined in this and other sources as transporting virtual liberation to the physical world.

But, as this chapter illustrates, culture and policy (as a cultural actor) – and not necessarily technological capabilities – determined the ways the technology was understood; these understandings, in turn, had material consequences and helped shape the development of new media technology. Focus on the emergence of representations of the new media within a larger cultural context – as seen in news media, advertising, films, and policy – offers a window into central tensions of various historical moments, showing that discourses have formative effects on technology and on the society that produced it. In its focus on ideas, this study brings a variety of disciplinary perspectives to the study of the new media – including those of cultural studies, media studies, and policy studies. By combining cultural studies and policy analysis methods in particular, this work provides insight into how policymakers engaged visions of the new media in popular culture and news media to enable some policy solutions over others, thereby directing the new media’s development. In this case study, liberatory rhetoric focused government attention on wireless technology as key to the future of democracy.


Chapter 4: Christian Thorsten Callisen & Barbara Adkins: Pre-Digital Virtuality: Early Modern Scholars and the Republic of Letters

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Chapter 5:  D. Travers Scott: Sound Studies for Historians of New Media

The growing field of sound studies concerns itself with both listening as practice and sounds as objects of study. Aural experiences have been examined to theorize Western sensory hierarchies, corporeality, epistemology, and ontology. Sonic perception also has been explored as method, applying modes of listening, biomechanics of hearing, and re- prioritization of phenomenological stimuli. In this chapter, sound studies or audio culture is introduced, not through a historicizing chronology of a nascent discipline, but as a discursive site, a realm in which different vectors originating from numerous fields and disciplines intersect around sonic questions, concerns, and phenomena.

Sound studies offers a rich array of objects and mode of study, with great utility for historians of new media and communication technologies. Beginning with a brief introduction to sounds studies, this chapter examines its philosophical foundations, ideological challenges, major works, and distinctions from other fields. I then demonstrate three examples of sound studies applied to new media history. First examined are the promise, launch, and failure of various videophone systems. From the beginning of telephony, the inclusion of live images was imagined and promised. As technological advancements made this possible, various videophones were introduced in the 1960s, 1990s, and 2000s, yet none achieved mass adoption. Sound studies will be employed to theorize the persistent appeal of the idea videophones, yet also their recurrent failure due to the unique intimacy, affective states, and intersubjectivity of sound-only communication. My second example focuses not on a sound technology, but instant messaging. Here sound studies examines the neglected aural aspects of media, such as user feedback elements and ambient machinery noise, in addition to audio content. From Internet Relay Chat to popular instant messaging applications, such as Microsoft Messenger and java-based web messaging (including text, voice, and video iterations), the value of sound studies as a method for formal analysis of technological experience will be demonstrated. Finally, my third example shows the application of sound studies to examining representations of new media, applying a sound-studies approach to the techno-horror of Koji Suzuki’s Ring novels, their international hit film versions, remakes, and imitators. An aural perspective here amplifies the concern in these narratives with the reproduction of appropriate technological subjects. The chapter concludes considering unique issues for media historians, such as extrapolating aural clues from silent archives, descriptive challenges, and expanded listening techniques.

Chapter 6:  Zizi Papacharissi & Elaine Yuan: What if the Internet Did Not Speak English? New and Old Language for Studying Newer Media Technologies

It has become customary to welcome new media with a narrative that extols their potential for democratization, equality, utopia, and general advancement. Subsequent research, however, typically reveals that new media are not inherently democratizing, reproduce social inequalities and modify, but do not necessarily improve upon pre-existing social conditions. This tendency frequently leads researchers to interrogate new media in a manner reflective of Western dogmas of inquiry, possibly resulting in theories and histories of media that contain a Western bias. In this chapter, we argue that the tendency to perceive technology as a liberating force derives from Western canons of social inquiry,  borne within systems that emphasize capitalism, imperialism, and neoliberalism. As a result, scholars invest time in search of community, identity expression, citizenship, civility, and democracy ideals that processes of industrialization and post-industrialization have reformed in Western societies and that technologies could somehow revive. And yet, time and time again, research results reveal that more than anything, media possess the ability to connect. They do not magically transform, they do not democratize, and they do not fix inequalities brought on by systemic organization. Yet, their transformative abilities are frequently interpreted through metaphors of magic, dominant in societies organized around capitalist modes of production.

In this chapter, we employ the metaphor of the network to make sense of technological architectures that emerge in western and non-western societies. Using this metaphor, we analyze and compare societal structures across cultures, to understand the ways in which networked architectures shape are shaped by the histories and geographies of individual cultures. Resulting patterns of communication lead to a different paradigm for examining technological impact, which emphasizes gradual change, adaptation, processes of remediation and technological affordances that are interpreted differently, based on the cultural context within which they are reified. In this manner, social hierarchies are not upset, but rather reorganized and repositioned. We conclude with a synopsis of this paradigm, identification of terms and language pertinent to historically and culturally conscious inquiry of the internet, and methodological suggestions.

Chapter 7:  Teresa M. Harrison: The Evolving Medium is the Message: McLuhan, Medium Theory, and Cognitive Neuroscience

Although Marshall McLuhan had departed the cultural landscape more than a decade before the widespread diffusion of the Internet and the invention of the World Wide Web, there is little doubt about his importance in helping us to make sense of the changes introduced by new information and communication technologies. As perhaps the first theorist of new media, McLuhan speculated about the effects of “electric” media such as radio and television on a world whose configuration and preoccupations he viewed as largely the consequence of print on paper. After nearly disappearing from disciplinary discussion by the end of the 80’s, his ideas were revived in the 90s, becoming even more influential in helping us understand the nature and consequences of “electronic” or computer-mediated information and communication technologies.

McLuhan believed that the particular content or message conveyed by a medium was far less important a media experience than the accumulated impact on generations of media consumers of consistently absorbing messages conveyed by a particular medium form. His general claim, supported by the work of Ong, Havelock, and others, is that the medium through which messages are transmitted shapes and structures one’s cognitive experience of the world.  More specifically, the persistent effects of consuming alphabet fixed on paper, made possible by the printing press, have created a kind of thinking and social order that emphasized the development of linearity, deductive logic, and argumentation more generally as the sine qua non of rigorous thinking, tendencies toward individualistic identities, and even the growth of nationalism. McLuhan believed these tendencies were destined for radical and wide-reaching change given the alternative experience of using television and radio and, by extension, electronic computer-mediated media (in which television and radio could be embedded). Thus, McLuhan was not only a theorist of the particular new medium of television, he was also a theorist of new media more generally as they contribute to and shape the ongoing cognitive and cultural development of human beings

McLuhan’s ideas about the interaction between media ecology and cognition, learning, and social organization were born partially of his own familiarity with the physiological processes of the brain (McLuhan,1978).   Indeed, he found the hemispheric division of labor in the brain assumed at the time to be evidence for his claims about how media interactions shape cognition. Three decades later, it is evident that the brain is significantly more complex than he imagined, but it is also evident that McLuhan’s ideas about the fundamental importance of media might now be explored in more of their complexity. Essentially, the effects of media on culture take place through the interactions of media with the human brain.  If McLuhan is correct, interactions with media produce characteristic cognitive forms and these cognitive forms come to be mirrored in the organization and institutions of culture.  McLuhan and others have argued this case for the effects of print and literacy on linear thinking and institutions in western culture, in contrast to the preceding oral culture. It now behooves us to inquire about the ways that thought and social organization may change as we transition from a historical and cultural dependence on print to a media ecology that is electronic.

In this chapter I  trace the history of McLuhan’s thinking (as well as those who have extended his work) about media and cognitive development from its initial contrast in the transition from oral to print culture to its more contemporary contrast in the anticipated transition from print to electronic culture.  My goal is to synthesize from this body of thought a set of expectations and testable claims about the effects of specific new communication media on the cognitive development of digital natives and the kind of cultural evolutions we might expect to follow from such changes.

Chapter 8:  Dmitry Epstein: The Analog History of the ‘Digital Divide’

Throughout its relatively short history the concept of the ‘digital divide’ has fueled substantial research.  The social citation index contains almost 500 items answering the search string “digital divide”, and Google Scholar returns over 30 thousand results to the same query.  A thorough reading of the research, however, reveals that the meaning of the term has changed during the years, as it reacted to theoretical shifts, public attention to the issue, and changes in the information and communication technologies themselves.  The conceptualization of the digital divide went from a dichotomist definition in terms of physical access to technology, to a series of inequalities along various social, cultural, and political dimensions, to its recharacterization in terms of digital inclusion.  As a result, it is not surprising that in his review of a decade of digital divide research, van Dijk calls for more work towards “conceptual elaboration and definition.”  This chapter situates the scholarly discourse about the digital divide in the context of communication theories and theories of development.  It examines the debate on the digital divide as evolving in three distinctive, but interrelated, domains.

Focusing primarily on the theoretical domain, this chapter  tracks its evolution in recent history.   I start with a description of semi linear development of theoretical concepts addressing societal change and socioeconomic development.  Particularly, it will focus on conceptualization of communication factors in these processes.  The main goal of this part is presenting the “digital divide” in the context of macro question concerning the role of media and information technology in societal change.  Next, I present the evolution of the concept of the “digital divide” itself.  First, it is explained as a logical continuance of previous theoretical constructs.  Then, following the introduction of the critique, I discuss the contemporary directions.  At this point the linear, semi-chronological trajectory of concept evolution is split. In conclusion, I suggest theorizing efforts that could incorporate the classic contribution with contemporary knowledge on media, communication, and socioeconomic development.

Chapter 9:  Michael Dick: Twenty Years of Unnecessary Forward Slashes: Towards a Post-ontological Critique of Narratives of the Development of the Web

My primary objective with this chapter is to investigate the aspirations and related work of computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (the self-professed “inventor” of the World Wide Web) and the organization he heads, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), from the cultural studies perspective. More specifically, as we recently marked the 20th anniversary of Berners-Lee’s first conceptualization of what would become this most-ubiquitous of networks (the “ENQUIRE” system he created while working as a research scientist at CERN in March of 1989), I intend to reflect upon the rhetoric relating to the socio-technical construction of the Web itself by Berners-Lee at the outset, attempts to govern the medium through the enforcement of standards by the W3C since its founding in 1994, and the ways in which both actors currently conceive of the Web’s future through the various projects they have undertaken to advance their ideologies. As I will illuminate through a methodical review and discussion of the literature, both Berners-Lee and the W3C continue to view the Web as a medium that can ultimately be shaped and controlled by centralized authorities, in spite of the many ways in which the technology has been, and continues to be, shaped by society itself given its decentralized nature. Some specific items I will consider include: the initial decision by Berners-Lee to abstain from patenting the technology; his vision of the “Semantic Web” (first articulated at the time of the Web’s creation but revived more thoroughly in 2001); a desire to amalgamate disparate scientific and sociological research agendas concerning the structure of the Web and the implications of network topologies within a newly-created discipline known as “Web Science” (2005); and finally, some very recent attempts to use the Web as a vehicle for social development (e.g. through the launch of the W3C’s “Mobile Web for Social Development” initiative in 2006 and Berners-Lee’s creation of the “World Wide Web Foundation” in 2008).

A key theme that emerges in the above work is a desire to advance the Web from a disorganized “Web of documents” (understandable only to humans and featuring knowledge representation systems that are modified through the “wisdom of crowds” philosophy inherent in “folk taxonomies” or “folksonomies”), to a highly-organized “Web of data” (understandable to machines and “intelligent agents” and based on top-down, ontology-driven representations of knowledge). Naturally, the cultural studies perspective opposes such a rigid political economy of the Web, and thus offers an ideal vantage point from which to discuss, analyze, and ultimately critique the perspectives of Berners-Lee and the W3C. One particular example that I feel very aptly-demonstrates this point, and which thus forms a part of the proposed title for this paper and a vignette for framing my research, is the recent admission by Berners-Lee that the “http://” part of the URL (specifically the forward slashes) was arbitrarily constructed and rendered “unnecessary” by Web users who desired a less cumbersome syntax. To this end, I am especially interested in highlighting the important role participatory culture has played in shaping the Web of today, and will thus draw upon theorists who espouse the social construction of technology, social production, and the general importance of post-ontological thinking in shaping networks and other large-scale technological systems to evoke the sought-after notion of the “cultural democracy” (i.e. the Habermasian notion of the “public sphere” within the online realm).


Chapter 10:  Peter Schaefer: Interface: History of a Concept, 1868-1888

This chapter traces an early history for the concept of “interface” as it pertains to communication history and the history of science. Since the advent of mainframe computers in the early 1960s “interface” has been used commonly to refer to conduits for data transfer. It wasn’t long thereafter that the term also became nearly synonymous with interpersonal communication. Today, one can just as easily talk about the interface between a lawyer and a client as one can talk about the interface between a lawyer and a laptop. This goes to show the close association of “interface” with the idea of communication, particularly in the digital era. However, Victorian era physicists employed “interface” to describe sites where heat, light, and electricity flowed between different materials. How was the 19th century conception of interface similar to or different from our contemporary notion? This chapter addresses this question by mapping a twenty year trajectory of the term starting from its origin in 1868. The person who plays the most prominent role in this history is Sir William Thomson. An acclaimed scientist with influential theories on electricity and the laws of thermodynamics, Sir William was knighted for his work on the transatlantic telegraph. In addition to his integral role with the formation of information technology infrastructures, Sir William was the central figure using and actively promoting the term “interface” to describe natural phenomena. I build connections between Sir William’s work with telegraphy and his interest in interfaces as they related to his theorizing in the natural sciences. For example, Sir William frequently used ”interface” to describe his theory of light, and this theory was based on his understanding of how signals traveled through a telegraph wire. 19th century physicists such as Sir William were not isolated from then contemporary revolutions in communication technology. On the contrary, they were working to better understand problems such as the dissipation of energy and the relationship between conduction and signal velocity. In this context, interface was a useful signifier for describing the transfer of energy that could also be used to describe the transmission of information. By the 1880s “interface” wasn’t used only to describe theories in the natural sciences but also made some appearances in journals associated with the telegraph industry. I argue that the 19th century conception of interface is not a discrete prehistory to its conception in the 20th and 21st century. Rather, I make the case that the use of “interface” from 1868 to 1888 reflects a shared set of assumptions for modern notions of communication.

Chapter 11:  Brian O’Neill: The Long History of Digital Radio: Old Media in a New Century

Radio is a medium that has changed relatively little over the course of its history. Originating within the suite of scientific discoveries that produced wired telephony and telecommunications in the late nineteenth century, wireless broadcasting seemed to emerge almost as a by-product but once established changed little in the century ahead. Technical enhancements to radio such as the introduction of FM and stereo broadcasting sought to improve the quality of a service whose parameters were firmly set within the paradigm of a twentieth century mass communications medium. The essential quality of radio thus defined, characterized by Scannell (2010) as its ‘listenability’, is as familiar now as the first rudimentary broadcasting experiments that led to the rise of the medium.

Digital radio, the contours of which were first delineated in the early 1980s, stands poised between incremental development of this basic configuration and a more profound and radical transformation of the medium. Proposed by Europe’s leading broadcasters and electronics manufacturers as the next-generation platform for radio broadcasting, a swift migration to a fully digital environment was envisaged to match equivalent developments in television, cable and satellite services. Rival technologies, a diversity of regulatory approaches, a fragmented market and the disruptive forces of convergence on the internet have created a ferment in the field in which competing concepts of ‘newness’ and opposing visions of the future shape and prospects for the medium collide. Digital radio’s credentials as new media are as a consequence uncertain and insecure.

This chapter examines the meaning of digital radio against this historical background. A twentieth century technology in a twenty first century context, digital radio represents the oldest of new media and yet remains an incomplete project. Negotiating its functionality between the listenability of radio as conventionally received and the sociability of interactive and participative forms of networked audio media, digital radio presents a canvas on which many of the unresolved tensions of digitalization can be read and better understood.

Chapter 12:  Benjamin Peters & Deborah Lubken: New Media in Crises: Discursive Instability and Emergency Communication

Media are paradoxical creatures: they often stimulate conversation in the very act of attempting to reduce the role of interpretation. This may be especially true of new media, understood simply as media scholars do not yet know how to talk about. Since at least formally acknowledging the “part played by people,” scholars have been preoccupied with the human desire to build communication systems that eliminate the need for interpretation. This chapter argues for a refreshed historical understanding of new media configurations by examining and comparing two such systems—fire alarms in early nineteenth-century New York and missile launch commands (or “go codes”) developed by mid twentieth-century computer network researchers. The first system—anchored by bells—broadcast information locally to all members of the community within earshot, while the second—motivated by bombs—directed covert signals carrying commands from military leaders to missile launch sites. Despite their obvious differences, both fire alarms and go codes were top-down command and control systems that privileged efficiently transmitting information in emergency situations for the purpose of community safety.

Eighteenth-century New York fire alarm ordinances simply directed fire fighters to immediately respond to the sound of the City Hall bell, and word of the fire’s location was disseminated through word of mouth and on-the-street investigation. As the city’s population grew after the Revolution, arrangements for summoning assistance increased in complexity, and efforts were made to shift the burden of transmitting information from interpersonal networks to standardized auditory and visual signals. On the other hand, the ARPANET—the first large-scale, distributed network computer network and predecessor to the contemporary Internet—emerged out of the US Defense Department research arm’s response to the threat of Soviet nuclear missile strike in the 1960s. Similar to the fire alarms, the ARPANET was developed to standardize and securitize the sending and delivery of informational signals. In late 1959, the Defense Department ordered Paul Baran, among others, to develop a computer network system that would effectively transmit the go code even in the event of serious infrastructural damage. The go code began as a simple message—to launch retaliatory missiles, or not—that, like the fire alarm system, was soon coupled with locational data, such as a launch timetable and target coordinates.

In both instances, neither fire alarm nor go code systems enabled unadulterated, point-to-point transmission of information. Instead, both were developed in response to situations that demanded fresh considerations of systems designed to pursue signal redundancy over greater distances and in increasingly complex socio-material environments; both showcase negotiations by parties interested in the implementation of this kind of communication system—from local and national governing bodies to ecclesiastic authorities; and both underscore how new media configurations are subject to the changing strategies and negotiations resulting from shifting technical, cultural, political, and social circumstances. This early comparative analysis will shed light on and raise pressing questions toward a critical rereading of new media less as functions of a progressive march of technical construction than as byproducts of human interpretation.

Chapter 13:  Holly Kruse: Pipeline as Network: Pneumatic Systems and the Social Order

The pneumatic tube is an extant, yet often overlooked, communication and information technology that has much to tell us about networked technologies in the contemporary world.  Even though James Carey points out that the telegraph was the first technology to divorce communication from transportation, one might argue that another early nineteenth century innovation – capsules carrying messages in pneumatic tube systems – accompanied the telegraph in decoupling the sending of messages and transportation.  Messages in underground pneumatic postal systems in the nineteenth century traveled faster than human assisted transport could carry them; pneumatic tube networks also enabled telegraph messages to more quickly reach their recipients, more fully allowing the telegraph to be considered “the Victorian Internet,” as proposed by Tom Standage.

Pneumatic systems did not merely foreshadow the physical structure of modern communication and information networks: they illustrate the ways in which networked technologies have reified relations of power, including in terms of gender and class. While the nineteenth century saw the introduction of such systems for mass message transport, it always saw the growing use of pneumatic networks to send “buy” and “sell” orders to the floors of stock exchanges and to carry money from clerks to central change-making locations in department stores.  Indeed, clerical jobs were often tied to pneumatic systems in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Moreover, department store clerk, office worker, and increasingly as the nineteenth century progressed, postal worker were among the few jobs that were open to women.  These were white-collar jobs often sought after by those who aspired to join the growing middle-class.  Although with a few exceptions – like Weaver’s in Lawrence, Kansas – department stores no longer use pneumatic networks, the technology is still a staple in the banking industry, especially in conjunction with drive-through windows, which are usually staffed by female tellers.  Pneumatic transport systems are also widely used in another service industry – health care – where hospitals use them to quickly and efficiently move samples from one location to another.

As with newer information and communication networks, discourses of efficiency were and do frame discussions of pneumatic systems.  As with electrical and electronic networks, pneumatic systems promised and continue to promise faster transport of information and greater freedom from the constraints of geography for some, while reinforcing limits on mobility and autonomy for others.  For instance, the banking industry has wedded pneumatic tubes to telephones and video screens, creating remote teller systems that link bank customers to tellers who are clustered in a workroom elsewhere in the bank.

This chapter describes pneumatic systems as agents of disembodied communication and information transport, as constitutive of relations of power  (especially those related to gender and class) that are understood and enacted in geographies, and as corollaries of other networked media in the ways that they organize space and meaning.


Chapter 14:  Gerard Goggin: Telephone Media: An Old Story

The telephone has been with us since the last decades of the nineteen century. The cellular mobile phone, its eccentric, hybrid successor, is rather more recent, being available commercially since the late 1970s. Sometime in 2010, the number of mobile phone subscriptions worldwide will top the five billion mark — now firmly established as an exemplary cultural technology. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the long histories of the mobile phone, and to use this case to explore the nature of new media and history. To do so, I focus on the curious nature of the telephone as a media form. The chapter is an account of the long history of attempts over at least a century to create different kinds of telephone media, and, closely related to this, to grasp, promote and legitimate the telephone, and the mobile phone, as media. I explore not only what are the contexts for understanding ‘newness’, but also, and related to this, fundamental questions about what counts as ‘media’. And what counts as media, and what their characteristics and implications are, of course, are very much a preoccupation of contemporary cultural politics.

To develop my argument, firstly I begin with a review of early experiments with the telephone, from the 1880s onwards, in which the nascent technology appears very closely associated with, resembling, or assembled as part of, media forms. Secondly, I look at the emergence of the cellular mobile phone from the middle of the twentieth century until the 1980s, and discuss moments where this new portable device was conceived as media. Thirdly, I look at the appearance of the term ‘mobile media’ from 2002 onwards, in industry, scientific and technical circles, public discourses, and theory. Here I am interested both in seeing what kind of claims are made to establish the media nature of mobiles, but also what kinds of rhetoric were used to authorise such calls (including the types of media histories that were marshaled).


Chapter 15:  Meghan Dougherty & Steven M. Schneider: Web Historiography and the Emergence of New Archival Forms

The Web is a distinctive mix of the ephemeral and the permanent: its content can be relied upon to last for only a relatively brief time, but it must exist in a stable form prior to its presentation in order for it to be experienced. The ephemerality of the Web requires that researchers take pro-active steps to enable future analysis, and the permanence of the Web makes this possible. Although archiving techniques have and continue to be developed to support scholarly research of Web-based phenomena, these techniques pose significant challenges for the historians of new media. The response to these challenges has changed the nature of archives in significant ways, facilitating the emergence of what we term “Archive 3.0.” Early archives of physical objects began as bureaucratic entities housed in closed spaces with limited access, which served the purpose of preserving artifacts. Archive 2.0  is a recent instantiation of archives that relies on the mechanization and digitization of archive records. Archive 2.0 enables easy access, and fast linear search and retrieval. Archive 3.0 is motivated by access and enrichment. Enrichment is facilitated by the supporting architecture that allows once static databases can be extensible, engaging, and social. Extensibility and enrichment underlines the “complex series of authored stages” of the Web archiving process as well as the historiography that develops from those archives. These stages, evident in the selective and iterative nature of Web archiving, hold significant implications for historians and their interpretations of archived artifacts, as the process of archiving, and the nature of the archival interface, are themselves an interpretative model that requires exploration and inquiry. This chapter will explore the ways in which scholarly web archiving responds to the tensions between the ephemeral and the permanent nature of Web artifacts, and examine the implications of Web archiving techniques on the interpretative models employed by historians and other scholars of the Web. We will trace the evolution of Web archives in scholarly practice, and suggest that emerging techniques of archiving require a new interpretation of the archive itself as an authored and social medium.


Chapter 16:  Fernando Bermejo: The Evolution of Audience Labor: Appropriating Online Activities

One possible approach to studying the historical dimension of communication media consists in looking at its economic functioning and examining how it changes over time. The aim of this chapter is to do just that by analyzing the evolution of one specific element of media economics: audience labor. The audience’s relationship with the media involves a variety of activities that can be conceptualized in many different ways and from multiple points of view. Perhaps the most common ones are those that look at the audience as interpreter and the audience as user. Most literature in the field of audience studies examines the meaning-making activities and capabilities of audiences, and the uses to which the media are put by those audiences. The idea of audiences as workers, though not so habitual in communication’s literature, may help us complement and expand these two main views.

In a sense, interpretations, uses, and labor can be conceived as separate and complementary dimensions. However, instead of viewing the three approaches as separate, we may add an extra dimension to our understanding of these processes if we examine interpretation and use from the economic point of view. In order to do this, this chapter will look at the different audience activities afforded by communication media in their historical evolution and will examine the economic significance of those activities. In particular, it will examine how the increasing interactivity and flexibility provided by digital media contrasts with the limitations of legacy media and opens the door for new forms of audience labor.

If in the cultural industries the audience works outside the realm of the media to be able to pay the price of accessing cultural goods, in the realm of traditional mass media the audience gets those culture goods for free, but works at watching ads and learning to purchase certain consumer goods. In the world of digital media the range of possibilities increases and they often overlap, the audience can pay, it can read, listen or watch extra, it can learn to consume, it can click and it can search, and it can produce. As a consequence, a new media economic logic seems to be developing.

Chapter 17:  Niels Brügger: Digital History and a Register of Websites: An Old Practice with New Implications

When writing the history of any media — old as well as new — it is important and necessary for a media historian to get a chronological and systematic overview of the detailed information, comprising that history. One way of doing this is to create a register of the media in question. Studies of newspapers, film, or radio and television programmes very often take as their point of departure a register where the basic information of the object of study is listed: when was the newspaper printed, where, and by whom? — what was the name of the television programme, who made it, and when was it aired?

However, when writing the history of one of our newest media — the website — such old practices are challenged since the website is a very different media type compared to newspapers, film, radio and television. When doing web history we normally have to rely on archived websites, but as opposed to the archives of old media the archived website has a number of specific characteristics, some of which are related to the problem of updating throughout the archiving process, others to the lack of temporal coherence, etc. (cf. Brügger 2009). We are therefore forced to reconsider a number of the theoretical and methodological approaches that normally go unquestioned in the practice of making a register of old media.

Following this line of thought — and in contrast to registers of old media — this chapter sets out to outline and discuss some of the general theoretical and methodological implications of making a register of websites. The impetus for this discussion is an ongoing research project about the history of the Danish national public service broadcaster DR’s website, and the practical work with establishing a register of the sub-sites on this website from 1996 to 2006 (eg. sub-sites such as The history of DR’s website will thus illustrate the general theoretical issues, which are inherent in the making of any register of websites (and not just sub-sites).

Chapter 18: Adriana de Souza e Silva & Daniel M. Sutko: Placing Location-Aware Media in a History of the Virtual

The notion of the virtual has gained renewed scholarly and popular interest with the advent of new media and the Internet. Yet the virtual itself along with the philosophical traditions and debates it invokes, has received relatively sparse attention in the communication literature, even though the term “virtual” is used so readily to refer to new information and communication technologies. In this paper, we define two primary threads of conceptualizing the virtual and apply them as critical frameworks for analyzing specific examples of locative media. Locative media technologies are mobile devices equipped with location awareness (via WiFi, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and/or cellular triangulation), allowing users to access place specific information and interact with other users depending on their geographical location. These applications are now used to download / access location-specific information and to support the creation of locative mobile social networks (such as Loopt, Brightkite, Foursquare and Whrll).

We argue there are two primary threads through which we can analyze the development of the concept of virtual and apply these perspectives to locative media. The first thread, which considers the virtual as a simulation, has intellectual roots in the Platonic philosophical tradition that conceptualized representation as a copy. The second thread, which views the virtual as potential (and not separate from the real), has intellectual roots in the Aristotelian philosophy that conceptualized representation as potential linked to or moving toward actualization. In contemporary scholarship, these two trends are developed in very particular ways by theorists such as Baudrillard (as with the first case), and Deleuze (as in the second case). Finally, we address how Katherine Hayles’ theory of virtuality emphasizes the materiality of the interfaces that carry digital information, which act as mediatiors of our relationships with digital and physical spaces.

Our goal is therefore to interrogate what we consider are the two primary threads of conceptualizing the virtual by applying them as critical frameworks for analyzying specific examples of locative media. Our examination demonstrates different but overlapping ways of understanding and applying the virtual, which also helps us to differently understand our interaction with public spaces, non- and collocated others, and information through locative media. Consequentially, we conclude that, while theories of virtuality that relied on representation/simulation were adequate for the analysis of human-computer interfaces through the early 21st century, these theories are inadequate for understanding locative media applications.  We thus offer Hayles’ approach to information/ materiality, as well as Deleuze’s approach to virtual/real as concepts central to theorizing about locative media.

This chapter contributes to ongoing theoretical conversation about the virtual, and in particular to how that conversation relates to communication studies of new media, which address how the Internet, mobile phones and location aware technologies mediate the relationships between users and physical spaces, and among users themselves by (1) proposing a new theoretical framework for analyzing the virtual within locative media, and (2) examining how the articulation between space, mobility and location transforms the traditional way we think about the relationships between interfaces and information.

Chapter 19:  Simon Popple: “It’s Not Really Our Content”: The Moving Image and Media History in the Digital Archive Age

Media Archives now have the potential to absorb and disseminate ‘original’ historical artefacts through a multitude of new media platforms and to increase the franchise for these materials.  They also have the potential to incorporate new levels of interpretive and contextual sources and to offer insights into the ‘mediation’ of the events they represent. This chapter will assess the consequences of digital resources for archives, audiences and media historians through the recent Open Archive case- study project conducted with the BBC. 

For the BBC the digital capture and storage of new content represents an instantaneous ‘archive’, but the question of how to engage with their vast pre-digital ‘historical’ resources offer exciting challenges and opportunities. The BBC has an estimated 400,000 TV and Radio programs and an estimated 900,000 hours of content (comprising 600,000 of video/film and 300,000 of audio) dating back to the 1920s. It also has a vast ephemeral archive.

The results of the Open Archive Project which looked at a specific element of the archive relating to the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike suggested that to actively deal with media historical sources a large institutional broadcaster such as the BBC needed to develop models which enabled audience interaction and stimulated engagement with a much broader set of public and institutional communities.  Re-constructing  and researching key historical events from a finite ‘dead’ set of  archival sources could be a thing of the past and the additional voices of those who were present and can offer contesting and contextual commentaries open  up new historical methodologies which are profoundly exciting. The role played by digital technologies and their impact on how we as historians, sociologists and communications researchers conduct our own research and stimulate and engage our students is now at a crucial stage and the issues raised by this project might perhaps stimulate debate about the way forward.