Week Six

Based on this week’s readings and by observing the media landscape around us, it is evident that changes in technology are very significant. In chapter five of his book, Standage discusses the development of early telegraphy.  He explains that, just as time travel is thought of today, telegraphy was often regarded as an impossibility in the 19th century.  It only took an ignorant, rich man by the name of Cyrus Field to do it.  The Atlantic cable failed miserably before finally succeeding and it eventually became a wildly popular technology, allowing people to connect all over the country.  What’s interesting about the development of this new technology is that, as Standage points out, there is, in fact, a limit to the “telegraph’s power to amaze” (91). Standage discusses that while many people were amazed by the network expansion of the telegraph, the “rapid delivery of messages was being undermined” (91) and the “telegraph was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success” (91).

Although Jamieson’s article centers around a time and technologies that came long after the invention of the telegraph, his discussion on the importance and impact new technologies can have, mirrors that of Standage. Jamieson explains how new technologies like radio and television similarly connected people all over the country.  In regards to politics, these new technologies allowed citizens to hear from politicians without having to leave their home.  Similarly, the politicians did not have to travel all over the country in order to be heard. While these new technologies have great benefit to citizens, there must have been some loss in the midst of all that gain. Just as the telegraph was endangering itself by  becoming a “victim of its own success” (91), how might newer technologies, like radio, television, or something else be doing something similar?

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1 Response to Week Six

  1. bridgethi says:

    As you suggested, there are many ways in which new technologies have become “victims of their own success”. As discussed in the Jamieson reading, televisions have aided society in many ways. They have provided us with a new channel of communication and as Jamieson mentioned, they have aided politics and other causes. However, television proved to be more than just a way to transmit information people needed to hear, it also became a way for people to get what they wanted: entertainment. As years have passed since the introduction of the television, it has changed the American way of life from one that was far more active to one that is passive. Not only do people have instant access to receive news, they essentially do not ever have to leave their homes, or their couches. This creates a struggle both in terms of implementing change in society, as well in terms of the physical health of viewers. The television, while providing access to live events without physically being present, has also changed the motivations of those watching.

    Another new technology that has become a victim of its own success would be the Internet. While the Internet has provided us with cheap and instant access to information, it also creates the problem of information overload and too much information being shared. Though it has enabled us to find all kinds of information and better access the news we need, the Internet also allows the finding of personal or private information that may have gone under the radar in days prior to its creation.

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