INTRO TO MEDIA STUDIES
TERRAIN OF MEDIA
HISTORY, ECONOMICS AND INSTITUTIONS
SECTION 1: POWERPOINT NOTES
Terrain of Media (pages 2 – 17)
The Media Industry: The Coming of Modern Media (pages 18 – 24)
History, Economics and Institutions (pages 25 – 39)
SECTION 2: ARTICLES
SECTION 3: VIDEOS
SECTION 1: Powerpoint Notes
Defining the Terrain: Communication & Media
“of all things communication is the most wonderful” – John Dewey 1939
What do we mean by communication, and media in relation to
• Mass Communication or Mediated Communication?
Mass Communication used to be phrase of choice of the study of media
roughly 30 years ago has fallen out of favor. Now seen as a phrase that
identifies to a period of time of media as a social phenomenon, and a period
of time in the scholarship, how scholars study media. Thompson still uses the
term, but he uses it with some reservations. Like Thompson, Magder prefers
the term “mediated communication”
- You need to be attentive to the words you use not just the biggest word
but the word that really does mean what you want to say. You don’t always
have to say “I” in your essays, because we know its “you.”
• Challenging Concept: Despatialized Simultaneity media in relation to
time and space
- Thompson focuses on this idea
• Media Eras: taking a much longer frame of reference not just in relation
to our personal lifetime, but across centuries, or the whole of recorded
human history. Arguably, the human history that starts with the transition
from orality to print.
• Distinguish between old/new/traditional media Manovich
• Take Thompson’s advice and think of media and what it means in Symbolic
Power. Not interested in media as aesthetics, or media as entertainment, or
even just a source of information ie. Is it going to rain today?
- Think of Media as SYMBOLIC POWER speaks to the social science
What is Communication?
“a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common
system of symbols, signs and behaviors.” –Webster’s Dictionary
Communication as preservation over time
• INFORMATION important word, interesting that Webster used this word
• INDIVIDUALS not institutions or groups? Centered on individual, free will
and autonomy of an individual, seems very American
• COMMON SYSTEM Sapir? Not just any system, but a common system,
something that we SHARE.
• Communication comes from Latin word that means to share, brings about the
word “community.” People share values, set of behaviors, and more. 3
Project Loon: Distance & Connectivity
Balloon-Powered Internet For Everyone
• Project Loon from top 10 media events of the summer
• While “WE” might now take access to the internet for granted, the point of
Project Loon begins with that not everyone is online, not everyone has access
- Not everyone can get to school, but what if we can get school to THEM. That
notion of getting school to them, has to do with DESPATIALIZED
SIMULTANEITY. Figuring out a way to communicate meaningfully, educate
at a distance.
- Through the Internet, we can find a way to connect. A story/narrative of
hopefulness, a notion of humankind conquering its differences, solving its
problems and finally getting along.
- We can bring the world together
- “Global Village” oxymoron, the idea of a global village is the idea of media
conquering space and locality and bringing people together.
- Just because we connect, doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to get along
“be careful what you wish for”
- Common for companies like Google and Facebook to make this kind of
Loon: How it Works
How Google imagines this plan
• Balloons serve as satellite transmitters, relay points for electromagnetic
signals that provide the broadband that get people connected
• Most of the Internet, is transmitted with waves? cables? Glass? Fiber-optics…
wires… wireless? We think of transmitting of data as “over the air.” Turns
out, most Internet broadband traffic moves around via CABLES. Mostly fiber-
optic these days also some made of metal.
90% of that traffic is moved by CABLES. A lot of those cables course through
the United States. There are choke points along the way… one of those
happens to be the Port Authority building… that’s where the main
transatlantic cable comes in to the United States. GOOGLE OWNS THAT
BUILDING. WHAT A COINCIDENCE?! Massive building
• Why balloons? How? If most Internet traffic is over wires, then there is a
bottleneck point. Wire connects to wire. If a country wants to tap in and
listen, and record, it can – pretty easily. Over the air communication is a lot
messier. It is harder to control and listen to. If you want to turn it off, shut it
down, all you have to do is “pull the plug,” “cut the wire.” EASY.
- During Arab Spring when traffic from Egypt just STOPPED, it was because the
government just pulled the plug.
- Balloons allow you to bi-pass the choke-points, and Google does not like the
choke-points. Political/philosophical and business reasons
- Why are balloons also good? They move into space that is considered
“international,” belongs to no country. You are allowed to police your air 4
space, but your air space does not go all the way up to the moon. Where does
national territory end? No country can legally shut you down, same as in the
middle of the high seas.
1 “human” balloon flights
• Ben Franklin was in Paris in 1784 to watch the first person fly in a balloon;
the French pioneered using Hydrogen in balloons and safely getting humans
up into the air.
• When New Yorkers walked across the Brooklyn bridge in the 19 century, th
they were at the highest point anyone had stood on a fixed, built structure
when they walked over the apex of the bridge
• The use, was the military
Military Uses of Balloons in the 19 : “tele” vision
• Balloons used for military
• French army using balloons for reconnaissance extend their vision, close to
• By the end of the 19 century, the British, always quick to adopt a new
technology to advance their military and commercial empire, are using
balloons in battle, but this one especially, transmitted RADIO SIGNALS.
Marconi had only 2 or 3 years before developed a capacity to successfully
send radio signals, wireless messages, not voice but telegraph messages,
morse code, without any wire whatsoever. This balloon had the capacity to
send radio transmissions
• By 1899, Marconi is now able to send radio signals almost 60 miles
• Television Tele- at a distance
Hoboken, NY Heavyweight Boxing Match
• All of those people, hundreds of thousands, are on site, paying an immense
sum of money to stand there, to watch Jack Dempsey and George Carpentier
in a heavyweight boxing match that was legendary. Dempsey opened a bar
on 2 ave called Dempsey’s, still there
• Fight was commercially a huge success, all of those people paid a large
amount of money to see this 5
Dempsey – Carpentier: Times Square: Despatialized Simultaneity
• This match was followed by people that weren’t there
• These people in Time Square are watching the results/ live feed of the event,
not a video feed, or even an audio feed, but a sign board that is being changed
as the results from each round come in
• Hundreds of Thousands of people following the match in New York and
elsewhere in Paris, people followed via telegraph (with some delay)
• Example of Despatialized Simultaneity NEARLY simultaneously, across a
river/ocean, people are following the event
• Media created the capacity for despatialized simultaneity
• If you understand this concept, you can see how over time, the concept
changes partially in relation to the capacity of media as technology
• In 1920, only way to get mail to Paris was by a boat. Telegraph speeds this up
using copper cables across the Atlantic Ocean, would get a signal from NY
to Paris in a couple of hours. Not real time but way faster than the Post.
Dempsey – Carpentier: Despatialized Simultaneity
• Close up image of a sports broadcast
• Reporting on the fight into a telephone, connected by wires to a radio
transmitter, capacity to transmit the human voice. Capacity to transmit the
human voice without wires was new, 5 or 6 years old. Military had capacity
first. What we refer to as broadcasting starts roughly around 1920
• Radio trasmissions were delivered to theaters, playhouses, to community
halls, town halls, around NYC, a range of 120 sqaure miles, people paid a fee
to sit in a hall and LISTEN to the “broadcast” of the event shorter time
• List of some of the people to listened to the event, rougly 300,000 in all
• Telephone at this point is connected by wire to a radio transmitter, and radio
transmitter is sending the signal
• Still today, we use hundreds of cables.
• We still have to “plug in”
A clip from Eight Men Out (1988)
• Through telegraph messages, the action is being recorded. Baseball was slow
enough to do this
• Human beings have always looked for ways to despatialize simultaneity. This
term is confounding at first, but it is very much a part of who we are. 6
The Nature and Scope of Communication: can one definition suffice?
Cooley and Sapir reflecting an interest in the idea of society and emergence of
psychology as a discipline.
also strong interest in “culture” as concept and explanatory variable : anthropologist
note that Comm pushed aside as a master discipline of a the social sciences.
people come at it from other disciplines: socio / psych / linguistics/ education / pol
sci - facul in dept.
social sciences -
Cooly / Postman: preservation in time and nature of learning / cannot have
objectivity without print
• FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN ACTIVITY: so fundamental, that we don’t quite
understand why the study of communication is not a core discipline in
schools. Perhaps because we take it for granted. A lot of schools don’t “do
communication.” Why? How do you create a market, buy and sell, without
communication? How do you make collective decisions, create rules of
behavior and enforce them, regulate human life, politics, without
communication? How to exist as a group? What is education, but a subset of
communication? Historically, it has been the case that in the academy, we
tend to bypass that first moment of communication and focus more on
aesthetics, narrative stories, without thinking first about the act of
communication. Challenging because it seems so fundamental.
• Sapir’s Definition: EXPLICIT OR IMPLICIT we may be unaware of some of
the forms of communication we are using, we may not be focused on them,
unintentional? But still communicative.
- Given this def., it is hard to think about what isn’t communication isn’t what we
wear, then, a form of communication? Think about the “message you are sending,”
or images you are “projecting.” 7
Edward Sapir: Primary Communicative Processes
gesture - body language and facial gestures, as well as pitch, tone and intonation of
what’s missing: images -- ???
A word is a vehicle, a boat floating down from the past, laden with the thought of
men we never saw; and in coming to understand it we enter not only into the minds
of our contemporaries, but into the general mind of humanity continuous through
n.b. communication is an individual act structured by historical and social contexts
• Think of media explicitly has one FORM of communication (form is a word
that Postman uses)
• There are “primary” and “secondary” communicative processes
• These processes are “in and of themselves” communicators
• Obviously, language, the words we use to express our thoughts, is
foundational. The study of language becomes the study of communication.
But we are not studying “language” in this class. Notice he hasn’t said
anything about “writing things down.”
- The spoken word
- He moves from LANGUAGE to GESTURE all of the ways we use our bodies
• Everyone has some intuitive understanding on bodily gestures as a form of
communication, we know what a variety of gestures mean. Not just things we
do with our hands, but expressions we may make with our face (rolling eyes,
frowning, smiling, furrowing your brow, intonation, getting close/far to
- Intonation for expression, enthusiasm, even silence
• When you begin to study the use of language/gesture, it is important early on
to recognize the way we understand “gesture” is in part a function or related
to the particular social, and historical context in which you live. referring
to final quote on slide, “an individual act structured by historical, social and
- Our social and historical context right now is contemporary, United States,
early 21 century, New York
- The meaning of gestures is not the same around the world, it varies from
place to place
- When you move from citysmaller town, country country, the context
changes, and changes what a gesture might mean.
- Non-verbal language studied across cultural contexts:
- Bowing in certain Asian cultures is a respectful thing to do
Thinking about SYMBOL SYSTEMS: everything to do with the understanding
of rules, conventions, norms with a particular social group. RELATIVITY.
Sapir is saying that CONTEXT MATTERS. 8
• Imitation of Overt Behavior:
- Reproduce all of the existing habits of communication, ways of making
meaning, as well as the values and attitudes which go with the ways we
- Goals of communication is not to make you someone who thinks new
thoughts, but to understand, to be able to fit in and “get it,” understand what
other people already understand because they are part of the social group.
Reproduction of a society. Remaking, not changing, altering.
- Madger’s trouble with Sapir: when he turns to “social suggestion.” (page 76)
SOCIAL SUGGESTION DISCUSSION:
- One person cannot create a new habit: at least not a social habit, only an
- What about Rosa Parks: refused to move from a seat reserved for whites in
the ‘50s during segregation. Did Rosa Parks, herself, cause a change in the
habits of American Society? Not right away. But all of those individual acts of
“revolt,” “rebellion,” or “unwillingness to imitate the overt behavior that was
the norm,” the sum-total of them over time, did they lead to a change in habit,
- Goth example: you aren’t really rebelling because you are just following the
social behavior of a new group that has already been established.
- Communication through action? As opposed to language/gestures.
- Madger: Sapir has realized, that he may have already boxed himself into a
corner. The language you learn when you are young, for the most part,
determines your thinking. When you learn a language, you learn a way of
thinking. A given set of words and syntaxes that have been established over
time, and gestures that are commonplace and accepted. Then there is
imitation of overt behavior. Reproducing, fixing, reinforcing the status quo.
But social scientists are interested in both the ways societies stay together
peacefully, and at the same time, interested in the process by which
SOCIETIES CHANGE. How do we create order/stability/how societies
function on a daily basis in safe ways without anxiety, worrying too much.
But also, societies change over time. Rosa Parks is a really good example. The
ordering of segregation was a well-oiled machine backed by big institutions,
and then it changed (but not overnight).
- Madger thinks this is the paragraph where Sapir hears his colleagues saying
that human beings have the capacity over time and the will, to try and change
things. To not say what they are supposed to say, and think new thoughts,
and marry who we want, and wear what we want. Sapir tries to “solve for
that problem.” 9
Sapir: All Communication is Contextual
• Within a society, there are groups. Not an infinite number, we decide to label
these groups. They can be quite small.
• Family: a small group Parents and children
• Sapir says, within a society, it is important to appreciate context and the
relationships within context. Each context, from small to large groups affects
the way communication takes place and the expectation of communication.
• In a family, it doesn’t take much to get your point across b/c so much is
already understood/implied/already said b/c you know so much about the
other person who you are in dialogue with. A simple facial gesture and you’re
done. Used to your/their advantage. “I’ve heard this already.” You can script
the rest of a conversation with your parents once it starts.
• When you think about context, think of it in respect to the way cultures are
commonly understood, but also in relation to groupings within society. It
matters to the way we interact with one another. (students and teachers)
• Thompson says the same thing.
• Mediated communication is not “free-floating,” everything is
“contextualized.” There is a social/historical context to all mediated forms of
communication. Ask Where, When, and To Whom when looking at a text,
because it matters communication is sometimes taken OUT OF CONTEXT.
• CONTEXT MATTERS. (donuts in clip)
15. Harold Lloyd: scene from “Speedy” (1928)
Edward Sapir: Secondary Techniques
“facilitate the process of primary communicative processes”
• Move the primary processes of communication forward, maybe transform
them into another form, and we’re pretty comfortable with most of these.
• Language: primary, writing secondary. Writing is the fixing of language,
the storing of language. NOTICE: didn’t say, “on paper.”
• In other words, without language, what would writing be for? So writing is
• Spoken word, before written word. Postman
• What happens what that transition takes place? What happens when we
develop the writing systems?
• Symbolisms: like a traffic light. We know from experience that green means
go, red means stop. Pretty new phenomenon, 120 years old at most.
• Smoke signals are another way of communicating a message, has nothing to
do with writing at all. Problematic b/c not permanent.
• “liking someone’s picture on Facebook”? Is this secondary?
• Morse Code: specialized language, series of dots and dashes that refer to the
• Flag signaling, used by the Navy.
• Systems developed by specialized needs. 10
• Physical Artifacts: help primary communication.
• Television (no one had one yet at this time for Sapir)
• How is the telephone secondary? It facilitates spoken language, but room for
interference. Possibility for error is increased. The telephone is secondary for
language because it creates the possibility to move the spoken word, or
orality, across vast distances, so that people can have a conversation without
being in the same place. You can have a conversation without being “co-
• Video-chatting? Still secondary. Developing forms of mediated
communication often tries to bring us back to simulating what happens face
Media: General Attributes (John Thompson)
• Thomson is concerned with physical artifacts MEDIA
• Distinguished by other forms of communication by 4 characteristics:
1. All media involves some form of FIXATION. They STORE and PRESERVE. The
attribute of media that most interests Postman, initially, in a society where there is
no means to store language to a society that can. The capacity to fix.
2. Media is reproducible. You can create multiple copies. May be slower if writing
by hand, or with computer it can be easy. Printing press designed to make multiple
copies. The capacity to make copies, process by which we produce things is
extremely important to media. Commercialization of media. Media is created to be
sold in a marketplace core of media, distinguishes media from art. Art is a single
object, single artifact or product that is related to an artist and made as only one
3. Media move through space and time (space-time distanciation), or facilitate
the movement of our ideas and thoughts and expressions through space and time.
Speak to people across vast distances, sometimes with error, sometimes costly, but
all media have a dramatic effect on the way we experience space and time.
4. Media require some specialized knowledge. A way of Thompson saying, with
media, there is another point of learning to become competent as a communicator in
your social settings. It might just mean simply, learning the etiquette of how to
conduct a phone conversation, but may be more complicated over a computer. Need
to know how to use a computer. One thing to know how to code, how to watch a
movie and make sense of it, but different to MAKE a movie. Listen to music v.
producing music. With media come a whole new range of rules and conventions that
need to be learned and SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE. Production. 11
Mediated Communication vs. Mass Communication (John Thompson)
Why does he choose not to use the word “mass?”
• Mass dehumanizes the individual. There are no significant differences
• Mass also implies that everyone got the message. Not all mediated
communication is either received by a mass of people, or even intended for a
mass of people, or even AVAILABLE to a plurality of audiences.
• Example: Super Bowl between 1/3 and ½ of the population in the United
States, and elsewhere in the world, same as World Cup, Olympics. Mass
Events. Circulation of the New York Times: about 1 million and 5 out of 300
thousand… most people don’t read it. Books, magazines etc.
• Thompson is not interested in “mass” as a huge number, but mediated
communication is made AVAILABLE to audiences. You can choose not to pay
attention but you can get it if you want it. Most people choose not to.
AVAILABILITY. PUBLIC QUALITY.
• We need to think about mediated communication in relation to FACE TO
FACE communication. What is distinctive about mediated communication?
5 Characteristics: an Ideal Type
• Compare and Contrast
• Face-to-Face Communication
- imagine just 2 people, just you and a friend or acquaintance. What are the
characteristics of interpersonal communication?
Ideal example, conversation is working and efficient.
1. Sender & Receiver – these words are very important in communication
- Are the senders and receivers equal in number, same skills, same authority?
- There is an exchange taking place
2. Continuous Feedback: The response to information is continuous, on-going,
IMMEDIATE. I am talking to you, and you respond. In the same moment, you are
both the sender and receiver. The movement of messages is dynamic.
3. Multichannel Communication: Is video chat a primary source of
communication in Sapir’s world? Video chat adds a visual element. Simultaneity
is taking place, in the moment, not delayed. Telephone is the first form of
intantaneous communication at a distance. It involves sound, the ear. Without
hearing it is hard to participate. When you add video, you add a “sense.” you
have added the eye. You have added “visuality.” working in 2 modes. Hearing
and seeing. What other senses might you be able to use to send or receive a
- Touch? Bell Telephone ran an ad in Canada reach out and touch someone.
Metaphorical, you can’t actually touch someone. If someone is present, you can
literally reach out and touch them. It sends a message. “types of touches.” Caress, 12
handshake, punch. TACTILITY. Can you touch in a video chat? Not the other
person, you can’t extend tactility across that space.
- Smell? You may prepare for an interpersonal encounter by checking how
you smell. Companies exploring the idea of delivering scents. Scent
enhancement. Scent matters and figuring out ways of adding scent
- Taste? Rarely used in common every day interpersonal exchanges, but could
- Body language, gesture would be categorized under sight, or touch.
4. Utterances are Spontaneous: You respond in an interpersonal conversation
in a spontaneous way. It is not planned. You may try to plan, to script in advance,
what you will say. “awkward conversation.” You might choose in that moment to
use the telephone, or text, because you realize that if you are face-to-face it will
get more complicated b/c it is hard to stick to your script. The other channels of
communication might get in the way, such as scent. “you smell really good, but I
hate you.” It is safer, in terms of tactility.
5. We ASSUME that the norms of the conversation are equal. No one has an
authoritative advantage. A conversation with a professor is not exactly an ideal
type, because it is teacher and student, teacher has more authority and can use
What if someone has a sense deficit?
1. Newspapers, Television, artifacts of media: many receivers, few senders.
Social Media. Twitter: people have millions of followers, “receivers.”
2. Feedback is time-delayed, as opposed to continuous. In a mediated
environment there is typically a time-delay. Even in arguably the most co-
present versions, such as telephone or video-chat. Multi-channel
communication is limited, the feedback that is happening is limited by the
3. If we are having a telephone conversation, I can interrupt you. If you are
talking face-to-face, you can make a gesture to show you don’t disagree
without saying anything yet. You haven’t verbalized your feelings but you
have already sent your feelings with body language, rolling your eyes. On the
phone you have to wait for them to finish their sentence. Feedback is
continuous in interpersonal communication because you can use the many
senses. Sending a lot of messages before you speak. Limited channels on the
telephone, so feedback is not continuous. The messages your body is sending
is hidden from view.
- Mass-mediated: How do you tell CBS you don’t like their programming?
Maybe, you just change the channel. Maybe you write a letter to the editor of
your local newspaper. Feedback is not IMPOSSIBLE, it can still exist, but it is
4. In the case of mediated communication, utterances are scripted or planned:
a telephone convo is not the best example, because it is somewhere in between 13
mediated and face to face. But if you think about the press, or television, or
publishing of any type, then it is true in virtually every case that the messages
are scripted/planned, even on radio. It seems the radio announcers or local
television news is spontaneous, but is planned in advance, maybe not to the
word, but generally. Even when you have callers, their conversation is screened.
Even this is scripting. They are looking for someone who will talk about “this.”
Screening process scripting/controlling the environment.
5. Norms of Convo are Unequal: the telephone convo is a problem, doesn’t fit
the category very well, but other forms seem to follow this attribute. Senders, by
virtue of their profession, have authority, status. They have knowledge and skills,
and have an unequal advantage in the exchange. It is a POWERFUL POSITION.
SYMBOLIC POWER. POWER TO CONTROL, set the agenda. Plan, script, screen
conversation. Important form of SOCIAL POWER.
Interpersonal v. Mass-Mediated Communication
Is there an “in-between?”
Tactically, Madger tries to standardize everything, by making slides in advance
makes a nice baseline. Because he has done that, he comes to the lecture and
seems more extemporaneous, more informal. Almost everything he says is
scripted. He checks his facts before he comes in here. He tries to know what will
happen here, has stories up his sleeve. But he doesn’t use a microphone so he
doesn’t create a barrier between us. If he uses a mic, we are more likely to go
online, talk to friends, because he is easier to hear. Mic creates distance. How
technology effects distance. Doesn’t stand on a stage more distance
Mass-Mediated Communication: additional characteristics
- We can name them. They hire people. Firms. For profit or non-profit
- Media is not just something that you or I do. Traditional media institutions:
television, radio – Pandora?
- Business to make money
- They want to operate in markets where media products are bought and sold.
• Structured Break btwn Production and Reception:
- Happens behind the scenes
- Produced media is planned and planning takes time
- Professional work takes hours and hours, not continuous
• Extended availability in space and time
- Think expansively about space and time
• Public-ness about media, not designed to be private, not hidden from view
- Designed to be public 14
- Not always a feature in other scholarship
- Over time, we shift our own understandings of what is public and what is
- Your notion of what should be private may be different from Madger’s
- How you guard your privacy given that we have grown up with social media.
We have a different relationship with these categories than him.
- Look at the history of the telephone booth as an indicator of how we think
about privacy once upon a time, the telephone booth was a really
contained space. VERY PRIVATE. These walls begin to disappear. There is no
enclosure. With time, we are more and more comfortable with people
listening to us talk on the phone.
Telephone is an interesting form of mediated communication because it is
somewhere in the middle. It has all of these other dimesions. Bell Telephone
Operators in the picture. The connection used to be made MANUALLY. It is a
very local medium.
We tend to think of it as long-distance. The first transatlantic telephone phone
call from here to London was made in 1950s. Capacity to carry a total/maximum
of 36 conversations. TOTAL. If the 37 person tried to call you would get a busy
signal because the CABLE IS FULL. NO MORE SPACE TO CARRY YOUR CALL.
When you could dial yourself, you would routinely get busy signals. Even in the
70s, only a few thousand phone calls at once.
When you think about the telephone historically, for a very long time is was a
local communication. Very uncommon for people to use it the way we use it.
That is still novel (in Madger’s frame of reference).
Further Reflections on Mediated Communication: space and time
“Information and symbolic content are made available to more individuals
across larger expanses of space and at greater speeds.” (30)
simultaneity no longer requires locality/presence
the “here and now” loses its concreteness
• Madger’s preferred quotations from Thompson’s article.
• Something that Sapir talks about as well
• Here and now loses its concreteness.
• People look at their phones while you are trying to talk to them. Of course
they are HERE, in front of you, but WHERE ARE YOU? 15
• Mediated historicity: sense of the past is a function we are dependent on.
- None of us were alive when President Kennedy was shot but we know about
the event. We may have a visualization. We might think we have an
emotional understanding of the event, but it can’t be personal because we
weren’t there. He wasn’t there either, he watched it on TV over and over
- Sense of history taught through schools. “A” history, not “the” history.
• Mediated Worldliness
- Sapir: because of the ability of media to move through space, we potentially
build connections with people/groups that are far away from us, at a
distance, definitely not “co-present.”
- Potentially this challenges the way we think of social groupings.
- We think about politics, world governance: we divided the world up into
states based on some notion of nationhood – language, culture, values. This is
a geographical system of separation. Arguably it is a function of the way
historically, we thought about space, connectedness. This may change the
way we think of the groupings that matter to us, the way we define ourselves.
Self-identity changes as media alters our idea of space and space in relation
to time. Not good or bad, just DIFFERENT. We are immersed with mediated
forms of communication, so our thoughts are just different than those who
did not have these forms.
• Mediated Sociality
Further Reflections on Mediated Communication: Public Character and
Public Circulation of Media Forms
• When scholars compare personal/mediated communication, there is always
something more honest, genuine, about interpersonal communication
- one-on-one is better.
- Multi-channels has got to be better. Continuous feedback.
- Not interested in making the case that face-to-face is BAD, but it can be made.
- Different argument: ability to move across space, and ability to preserve and
store, fix in time media provides us this. Distinct advantages.
• Public-ness of media increases likelihood that people will participate. You
can’t have the type of governments we have today without mediated forms of
communication. Representative democracy. Public debates. Election.
All a function of mediated communication.
Mediated communication have over time expanded our
understanding/notion of what should be public. Going towards another
revolutionary period. Expanded how we demarcate private and public.
Madger thinks expanding what should be part of the public domain is a
benefit. Example: radio discussion of birth control on radio, source of
politicians and religious leaders saying “you cannot talk about that on the
radio!” Trying to prevent radio stations from speaking about it. Radio was 16
coming into the home, and looking for topics. Pushes into the realm of the
family. Plays a role in bringing that topic into public view. Making it a topic
that people can talk about. “airing it” bringing it up. It has always been there,
but we are going to “air” it.
Mediated forms of communication, over time, expand the range of expressive
forms. Give us more ways to express ourselves. Great to be able to use the
human voice, gesture, body language, intonation. But what about when you
add all of these apps on your computer and phone. What happens when you
can edit and play your own music. You can draw. Materials available and you
• Seems like mediated communication is always trying to “go back” to
Tries to mimic, re-mediate, interpersonal communication or face-to-face.
Public-ness of mediated communication is very important attribute,
Media as Social Power
“capacity to intervene in the course of events, to influence the actions of others
and indeed to create events, by means of the production and transmission of
symbolic forms.” (Thompson, 17)
vs economic power, coercive power, and political power
Black Robe (1991)
Orality and literacy
Multi-layered film about Jesuits working their way through the Great Lakes
region, interactions with indigenous people
Scene shows one of he Jesuits describing to the leader of the tribe what writing
does, and how it works.
Illustrates the transition; symbolic power attached to mediated forms of
communication. Reaction is that this guy is a magician, a wizard, the devil?
Frightening moment for people who have never experienced writing. Hard to
think about this transition.
Neil Postman: The Information Environment
• If you take a very long frame of reference, get to appreciate that there are
revolutionary shifts in the pattern of communication. Maybe we are living
through one now.
• Shift from orality to literacy language and gesture to writing.
• Notion that we move from a society where things are present, resonant
linearity of writing. Syntax. We move into a world that is abstract, objective
and rational. Very different understanding of time. With writing you can
“store.” We are reading Sapir, an article written in 1931, and we are talking
about it now. 17
• Postman wants you to think about those moments when there is a seismic
shift in the pattern of communication.
• Are we living through one of those seismic shifts printing press is
mechanical literacy. No longer have to record by hand to make copies.
• EPOCHS of communication
Neil Postman: media and memory – the medium is the message?
If writing reduces the power of memory, what do we make of the Internet?
In Science Journal:
Google effects on memory
- Remembering telephone numbers
Becoming symbiotic with our computer tools.
What is important is knowing how to find something, not knowing the thing itself. It
is all about SEARCH. The information will be available, but can you FIND IT.
Neil Postman: The Information Environment
If you change some of the fundamental attributes of mediated communication what
happens socially? What happens to the way we think, the way we see ourselves, the
way we interact?
What is New Media? Lev Manovich (2001):
First touch-screen telephone released 2001
Simple, clean rendering of the attributes of new media.
We don’t know media that IS NOT like this. People had to wrap their heads around
this, but its OUR WORLD.
Numerical and Programmable
Modular: pieces, can be broken up, cut and pasted.
Automated: smart phone, push technology, notified of something
Variable: changeable, altered
Transcoded: until now, media scholarship focused on the text, the result, the
newspaper article, the tv show, the music, the broadcast what you see/hear/read
What Manovich is suggesting that we need to appreciate that beneath the cultural
layer, there is another layer, a computer layer, a layer of code. We NEED to
appreciate the code as scholars of media. Not enough to look at the result. Make
comments on our state of being, the society we live, without understanding the
code. The code matters. The writing instrument mattered when it was invented.
Manovich’s newest book.
Visualizing the study of media in 2013. The book on the left, the most widely read
book that introduced the study of media to high school students. Stop looking at the
pretty pictures! LOOK AT THE CODE. 18
SECTION 1: Powerpoint Notes
The Media Industry: The Coming of Modern Media
RCA unveils TV at 1939 Word’s Fair in NYC
Cameras taking pictures of people while they were watching TV
They would write things down on cards and hold it up to the camera and see it on
• Emergence of commercial media
• Look at prevailing business models applied to media
• Think about the complex relationship over time btwn media and government
• Relationship btwn monopoly and competition
Margaret Graham: The Threshold of the Information Age
Vacuum Tube Era, 1907 – 1960s
• What does Graham mean by a NATIONAL COMMUNICATION
During this period, she sees the emergence of this national infrastructure,
driven by 2 strong logics:
1. derived from business – a commercial logic, media creating a product for the
market, profit based
2. Imperative that comes from the gov’t/state, military – national defense,
building up and protection of a nation
• Develop an appreciation for what Graham means as a mobilized society
• Relationship of media and patriotism
Earlier Information Networks: from transoceanic to transcontinental
1830 - 2 million more newspapers than letters
95 % of the weight and 15% of the revenue
• Not a commercial institution, but owned and operated by US US Post
Office, still a monopoly when it comes to the home-delivery of letters.
- Infrastructure that goes along with that: post office has installed all of these
boxes, no one else has the legal right to do that. Monopoly established by the
US gov’t, the framers of the constitution. Congress has the power to establish
post offices and postal roads, and no one else has that right. ONLY congress
can create/operate a mail-delivery system. Congress is the ONLY BODY that
can operate a NATIONAL POSTAL SYSTEM. Only body that can print money,
raise an army.
- One of the very first legislative acts is the Post Office Act, 1792 purpose is
to create a transcontinental network for the movement of messages (as
opposed to transatlantic) 19
- Congress trying to create an INTERNAL system for the movement of
messages. Shift in focus from transatlantic to transcontinental, pushing
1. Until roughly 1860, it is cheaper to send a newspaper through the mail than
it is to send a letter, even though personal letters weigh less.
2. Editors/publishers of newspapers were given the privilege of receiving any
newspaper they wanted from any other publisher free of charge.
SUBSIDIZED BY THE US GOVERNMENT. b/c there is a cost for moving the
- Until roughly the civil war, the largest # of public employees were postal
- Post offices everywhere, build at the expense of the federal gov’t
- Talking about a network, managed by the federal gov’t, vast and expensive,
designed to make it easier to move newspapers around than letters.
- FEDERAL CRIME to put a newspaper in the mail and write on it.
- Until 1847, when mail was sent, the person on the receiving end had to pay
for the mail.
- Stamp in GB was the only stamp in the world without their name on it b/c no
one else had stamps. Revolutionized the mail system.
Boston Post Road, mid-19 century
• Post Offices AND roads
• Interest in developing an elaborate national mail system embarks on
costly venture of building roads that CONNECT. NETWORK.
• Interstate highway system in 1950s, but before that we have the mail system
• Boston Post Road build by congress to move the mail quickly
• Benjamin Franklin was Post Master General of the US just before
independence of the UK genius at figuring out how to speed up the mail
The Telegraph: Pre-Threshold of the Information Age
• Telegraph: network that now uses electricity, based on wires as opposed to
human beings. Humans at the end of each wire that need to put the messages
into a code and translate that message at the other end, and thousands of
telegraph messengers would scurry around cities delivering messages to
• Difference: developed by private business.
- Samual Morse (NYU professor! Lab in Silver Building) wanted to sell the
idea/technology/practice to federal gov’t and gov’t said NO, NOT
INTERSTED, let’s make this one private. th
- New kind of monopoly develops. Many telegraph systems but by end of 19
century WESTERN UNION DOMINATES in the United States to the point
monopoly practices become and issue
- Associated Press
- Trust eventually broken up b/c challenged in court 20
Wu: Information Empires
• Tim Wu: Ted Talk
• Information Empires are not a new phenomenon, they have a long history
• They don’t necessarily last forever. How those empires are dealt w/
responded to by society, how new competitors/new technologies emerge to
challenge those empires is critical to the study of media.
• APPRECIATE the idea of an information empire, what can come from high
degrees of concentration
• Distribution systems designed to move messages around, across space
• AT&T: American Telephone and Telegraph It controlled the telephone
system in the US, managed to make argument that one of the features of the
network is that the more ppl connected the more efficient it is, economic and
technological efficiencies that come from the network effect
- By 1895, it had managed to string telephone lines all the way to Chicago
- By 1915, managed to achieve transcontinental distances. First telephone
convo takes place between NY and San Fran
- Goes international 1920s, Cuba and then to UK in 1926, Japan in 1934
- When AT&T made these connections, made by a wire telephone system w/in
Us and then connected to wireless radio system that delivered the voice
message by wire across the ocean, actually operated by RCA
(very important to ponder)
• New Media seen on the surface as clean, but there are effects that media have
on our physical environment as well.
• These new media technologies, especially the ones that use wires
(telephone/telegraph) dramatically alter public spaces
• The way that our spaces are physically altered by media technologies need
to put up wires overhead
• Image of NYC in 1890
• Years of progress, not any cars on the road yet, or traffic lights (not invented
• Crossing the street was risky
• Wires often fell down, people electrocuted, eyesore, dramatically changed
• AT&T isn’t a monopoly yet, so competing telephone systems, and each
company is putting up their own wires
• Tallest building in the world is the Flat Iron building, first building to have an
elevator, build by the Otis Elevator Company 21
Geopolitics and Media
Wireless Telegraphy and Empire:
British Control 1890 – 1920
• Period before WW1, only way to move messages was telegraph
• GB controlled more than 80% of all of the undersea telegraph cables in the
world for a variety of reasons
1. Largest navy in the world and most powerful
2. Only operated all the largest cable land vessels in the world, all built and
owned by private capitalists, private investors
- you need places where you can reboost the signal, you need a lot of landing
stations, on big land masses (all British colonies) or, b/c of vastness of the
oceans, you need some islands.
- British navy moved around the world, did what navies do, stuck a flag in the
ground and said this island now belongs to GB, and first thing they would do
is build a telegraph station and protect it. So all of this telegraph traffic
around the world (think NSA, security) , globally, moving through a British
- Great advantage, you can listen in to all that traffic. Diplomatic or
commercial, usually not personal. Incredibly valuable traffic
- Not news to the US, but shows by early part of the 20 century, the British
gov’t was conceptualizing the possibility of what they referred to as an “all
red line.” not connotation of communism yet.
- All of British holdings around the world were colored a pinkish red, the
Commonwealth. The British, in conjunction with those colonies, thought of
the possibility of ringing the world with telephone system that only ran
through British territory.
- The US begins to take on a role more internationally/globally which begins
with Spanish American war, and realizes they will be a world power.
- High level of concern in discussion about making sure the British, who have
monopolized international traffic w/ telegraph, don’t do the same thing with
- Wilson White House during WW1 and after, biggest concern making sure GB
doesn’t gain upper hand in radio communication. British were still our
friends, and turns out a lot of American money was invested in it, but could
not get this control over radio. 22
Radio: National Defense and Broadcasting
Government Intervention to Create a National System
• In its first instance, designed to provide communication where wires can’t go
• Designed to provide ability to communicate between land and sea
• First applications of radio are to make it possible to deliver that telegraph
code from land-based station to ships at sea
• Marconi, Italian national who resides in GB, takes the lead in developing
useful radio systems th
• By the early part of the 20 century, Marconi has developed systems that
allow this communication to occur (between land and sea, and also between
• One of the ways Wilson begins to communicate with Germany during WW1
• Navy, especially, makes an urgent and powerful case that Marconi cannot be
allowed to build up their presence in radio after the war. US MUST find a way
to wrestle radio away from the British, or at least become an important
player/competitor to the British in this development
• Literally force the Marconi company in America to sell its patents to a newly
formed and created US company. PUSH them out of the market, make an
offer he can’t refuse.
- During the war, all radio licenses and all private operators of radio had to
give up their operations and hand it over to the navy.
- No private per