Week 6: Cody Patton

This week’s readings focused on the transatlantic Telegraph cable and the challenges of the newly popular telegraph system. Gisborn and Field wanted to create a transatlantic telegraph system, but when this seemed impossible, they decided that a cable from New York to St. Johns would be a more practical place to start. Once this cable was successfully connected, they hired Whitehouse to be the electrician who would be responsible for attempting to create a transatlantic telegraph system. However, it took 4 attempts to successfully link a cable from Ireland to Newfoundland. This cable only worked for less than a month, as it would get congested when there were too many telegraphs being sent. A new cable was built years later that was successful because it utilized low voltage cables. However, the cables still became too congested, and messages often took far too long to be received.

Telegraphs were coming into the office quicker than they could handle them. Some telegraph companies hired messenger boys to run messages across a short distance because this was quicker than re-telegraphing them. Clark came up with the idea of a system of tubes that would send outgoing message while the wire service would receive the incoming messages. Steam engines powered this system which quickly became a new way of sending messages that was quicker than the telegraph in most instances. This “Victorian Internet” was similar to the current idea of the Internet being a series of tubes that allows users to communicate with each other. Whether it was the telegraph or this system of tubes, citizens are always looking for the fastest way to communicate with each other. Once these communication systems become slow or outdated, a new system is quickly created to satisfy the users. This raises the question, are users the ones who determine how the technology is used or is the technology created for specific uses?


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4 Responses to Week 6: Cody Patton

  1. benjhalp says:

    Cody, your response and question brings up a very interesting point about the advent of new communication technologies. As with many technologies, especially in regards those involving interpersonal communication, there is constant evolution, especially since companies are always trying to satisfy the general public. The question of determining how these technological innovations are used is a long-standing aspect of the development of such tools. As you described, the pneumonic tube system was discovered to be a more efficient way of sending messages to people within a city rather than using a telegram. Examples of unexpected uses for technology has always existed, but is even more prevalent today. When technology was not as personable and less accessible, it would be harder for users to create new uses. Therefore, in its earlier uses, I would think that the companies would more likely determine their technologies’ uses. More importantly, they would have the power to do so because it was not easy to change a product’s intended purpose. Today, on the other hand, technology is far more accessible and personable. For that reason, users would have a way easier time finding, developing and publicizing new uses for a technology. For instance, the ability to create apps for smart phones and other analogous products have allowed products’ uses to be changed by the users rather than just the companies. For example, check out this website from 2007, which outlined ways in which new uses for the iPod have been found (http://www.openculture.com/2007/04/10 _unexpected_u.html). Even with apps these days, that issue is complicated, since either the products’ makers or different companies are the ones making apps, which would dictate the technology’s uses in a different manner. Overall, users have way more of a say in how technologies are used than in the past, but the companies are catching up in order to capitalize on emerging apps. The middle-ground is growing more confusing, and users will always find new uses for products.

  2. sammoon724 says:

    I believe the user determines how the technology is manipulated. The telegraph started off as a means of sending messages faster across long distances. It was meant to speed up the “Pony Express” and eventually lead up to the telephone. At the time though, the world decided that they wanted to consume more and more information from around the world so news agencies dominated the telegraph lines. Because there was an insatiable demand for more and more news, the technology was adopted to be used for a new industry.

  3. sloebs says:

    I think your response brings up great points and I think it is a common question that people wonder if the users are the ones who determine how the technology is used or if it is created for specific users. Honestly I think it is a combination of the two. Users take the technology and are able to do whatever they want with it. They are able to use it to its greatest abilities but there is definitely no user manuel stating that this technology needs to be used x, y and z. That just would not work as there would be people who didn’t want to comply or that would find alternative uses for it. Then we have technologies that are created for specific users. I think this exists, but after some time, it is opened up to the public and/or the technology changes to adapt to more users needs. An example of that is Facebook. Facebook was originally created for college users but over time, as it got more and more popular, the creators have updated it to fit the needs of a greater span of users. So overall I think that while it is a combination of the two, the technologies are constantly changing to fit users and have more uses.

  4. staceync says:

    Cody, I think that you have raised a really interesting question here. People are constantly looking for a new faster way to communicate with one another. As soon as that technology starts to slow down and become outdates, a newer technology arises. I think the answer to your question is both. I believe that users are the ones who determine how technology is used and that the technology is created for specific uses. The reason why I feel like this is the case is because once there is a need for a new technology and it is created, it is up to how the users adapt the technology and how they use it in there everyday lives. An example that we discussed in class is Facebook. Facebook was originally just for Harvard University students and was to connect just those within the University. This technology was created for the specific user: The Harvard University student. Over time, the people behind Facebook recognized that other people were fascinated by this technology and therefore the technology was reinvented for the general public. From there, Facebook continued to see that users expressed a need for news feeds, as well as other ways to stay connected with their friends so Facebook allowed the technology to be used in a specific way.

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