Debating New Media: Rewriting Communications History

John, Richard R.

Many historians, journalists, and media mavens have traced the genealogy of Victorian communications networks backward, beginning with radio after World War I and continuing with personal computing in the 1980s and ending with the internet today. This impulse has accelerated with the rise of electronic commerce, social media, and virtual reality. This essay proposes a different agenda. Drawing on recent historical writing on mythmaking, materiality, and political economy and illustrated with case studies from Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa, it reenvisions the history of new media by telling the story of Victorian communications networks in relation to the issues of their day, not ours. The essay spans five networks in the period between 1830 and 1914: the landline telegraph, the undersea cable, the telephone, the wireless telegraph, and the mail.


Also Published In

Technology and Culture,

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
May 19, 2023