Week 6 Readings

First off, I would like to comment that I found it quite interesting how this class has been about new social media technologies, yet we took a week of reading about old media and technologies. This class has caused me to think forwards in terms of where social media and technology can take society, but I now understand the importance of looking back and acknowledging the origins of major technological innovation.

Chapter 5 of Standage’s reading was very interesting, as it discussed the origins of making an transatlantic telegraph system. The chapter begins by explaining how many had doubt of the possibility of the telegraph across the Atlantic due to many geographic problems and the fact that technology was simply not up to the challenge. However, Frederic Gisborne’s mind and Cyrus Field’s money attempted to make this happen in the 1850’s. Field invested plenty of money into Field’s theory that a transatlantic telegraph could indeed work. The geographic moment of hope was the finding of a plateau of land where the wire could be planted from New York area to London area, and they then followed through with this. As it was finally completed, there was one successful telegraph from the Queen of England to the President of the United States (took up to 14 hours to go through). However, there were many problems, and it took many more years and plenty of money to finally develop a successful, transatlantic telegraph. However, when it was finally completed, it was an enormous breakthrough that changed society for the better.

Katz’s two-step flow theory was quite different than Standage’s reading, but was highly relevant to our class in my opinion. They hypothesized, and found, that the flow of communication goes from a media to people of popular opinion, and that this information from the few people goes out to the masses. The study found that personal influence affected voting more than mass media, and that these opinions then spread to many.

I think that these two readings, though different, can tell us a lot of about where society and technology overlap- a core element of this course. My question is, if the telegraph changed society, and now the internet has changed society, what will the next innovation be that changes how we view the world?

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