The Telegraph and The Internet

In the reading, The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers Standage discusses the history of the telegraph, including the failures and successes. The telegraph was able to connect the world in a way that had never been done before. Governments and citizens could send messages across oceans and continents. This invention allowed news to travel faster and reach more people. While it is clear that the majority of people viewed the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph as a huge step forward, not everyone did. Standage states, “far from welcoming the telegraph, many newspapers feared it (p. 148). Newspapers worried that this invention would ultimately hurt the newspaper industry and change the way news was distributed. This fear, however, was unnecessary. After the technology became established, it became apparent that the telegraph “was not suitable for distributing the news to large numbers of readers (p. 149). In this case, new technology ended up improving communication and was a catalyst for further technological advancements.

I believe that the invention of the Internet has created the same sense of worry around the newspaper industry, but also around many other industries. The Internet has allowed information to be shared at an even faster rate with very little cost, thus changing the journalism world forever.

In The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Pariser discusses how websites, such as Google and Facebook, have advanced in ways that allows data about your interests and behaviors to be applied to almost every other aspect of the web. But does their power go beyond that of personalization? I believe such companies have the power to stall technological advancements. For example, companies such as Apple and Google are able to sell products that are only slightly better than the previous model (ex: iPhone4 to iPhone4S), in order to insure people will continue to buy their products when an upgrade is available.

Standage stated, “the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is invariably overstated, while the ways in which they will make things worse are usually unforeseen”  (p. 104). Has the invention of the Internet caused unforeseen negative effects? In what ways do you think the Internet has made things worse? Do you think that large companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. have too much power and control too much of the technology industry?

This entry was posted in Fall 2012, Week 6. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Telegraph and The Internet

  1. brittanyverner says:


    I enjoyed reading your insights about the telegraph creating fear and how we then also saw this with the Internet. I do agree with Standage that the negatives often go unseen if you are not educated about them. Many people do not know that their internet activity is being watched or their emails being read. For instance, when I write something in my gmail email…there is suddenly an ad for something related on the page! I mean come on!? Is there no way to have privacy on the internet, even in your own email accounts without then getting bombarded with advertisements. I think the potential for negatives with the Internet is increased without educating the people about what sites are doing with their information. The solution is for people to become aware and then challenge these websites/companies to stop using our information without our consent.

  2. arpeters says:

    I definitely agree with Standage that the negative effects of the telegraph were unforeseen, but I believe many people realized that the invention of the Internet would come with negative effects. If we can learn anything from the past (in this case from the telegraph) it’s that new technologies don’t always have positive outcomes. So yes, I agree that the rise Internet came with negative effects, but I don’t think these effects were necessarily unforeseen. You mention the effect of the telegraph on the newspaper industry, and in relating that to the Internet, the newspaper industry has clearly taken a hit with the creation of online newspapers, but I believe that the Internet in some sense has increased accessibility to information. Personally, I know I am much more likely to read news online that pick up a physical newspaper, so this easy access to information is most likely having a positive effect on my knowledge of current events. Just like the telegraph, the Internet definitely has many negative effects, but there are many positives that go along with it as well.

  3. Lauren says:

    First, I have to say how much I agree with the statement that the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is most definitely invariably overstated. When reading the story of the telegraph, I was very amused by the fact that people were so convinced that this new technology was bound to create world peace. On that note, I do believe that the invention of the Internet may have caused negative effects but I am not quite convinced that these were unexpected, or even that they have made things worse. I find the rate at which information travels via the Internet a little unnerving at times. It makes me uncomfortable how little privacy we have anymore, especially if we want to take advantage of all the positive aspects of the Internet. Yet, I also think most of our generation has enough experience to be able to understand that we need to be careful what we do or say on the Internet. Yes, it is very daunting that large corporations have so much power over what information we see and don’t see during our time on the web. However, I believe that there are too many ways that the Internet positively contributes to our every day lives to say that the Internet has made things worse. I find it impossible to imagine my life as a college student sans Internet and will gladly accept the negative aspects that come with it.

  4. nverduin says:

    I would argue that there is a period of adjustment for society to understand new technologies. It takes society time to fully understand the potential opportunities and threats that come with it. As Standage pointed out in The Victorian Internet, the adoption of the telegraph took sometime. Newspapers and diplomats didn’t quite understand implications of the new technology and therefore misused the technology at first, such as sending battle information to the newspapers before the target was reached. Shirky examined this idea by comparing the revolution of the printing press to the revolution of the Internet.

    Like Shirky stated, I think there will be a period of time, in his opinion 50 years, in which society will go through some sort of chaos with trials and failures before they develop a complete understanding of what the Internet is capable of. Like the revolution of the telegraph, the Internet has changed social bargains and understandings of the world, and we are still in the period of discovering how things are changing. I think as the technology has become more rooted in our daily life, that we are more aware of the negative effects, but we are unaware of how to counter them. Like Shirky, I believe that we are in the period of where the old model of doing things is breaking faster than the new model gets configured.

  5. Lauren Rouff says:

    I definitely agree with your comments about the Internet and how it has changed life. While I see many benefits of the Internet and find myself amazed of its features almost daily, I do agree that it has probably made some things worse. For one, everything we have been talking about filtering and personalization can definitely be seen as a negative. It can be argued that because the Internet is becoming so tailored to individuals, people are learning less about certain things. This is just one example of a negative. As far as your second question regarding power and control of just a few certain companies, I am not sure if it is really a problem at the moment. As we have been discussing, almost anyone can be a “journalist” these days with blogging technology, Twitter, etc. I feel as if control could be spread and distributed because of this.

  6. jamislev says:

    I similarly agree with Standage’s statement about new technologies being overstated as modern advertisements are painting fantasy visions of how innovative technology can change us and transform our lives. Somehow, members of modern society are buying into these advertisements and believe that their lives will improve if they adopt updated and new models of technology their friends or acquaintances are buying. By doing so, members of society are becoming consumed with an obsession of desiring and craving new technology, spending money frivolously, and developing a need to buy what is owned by the majority of Americans. I believe that the Internet definitely caused unforeseen negative effects as Americans have became increasingly reliant on using it as an artificial and necessary mode of communication as well as a tool for obtaining information. It is now easier to just message or chat with a friend virtually because of social networking sites such as Facebook, and many members of my generation will never develop a desire to read the newspaper because we can search for recaps and summaries of news stories on popular Internet websites such as Google. It is consequential that these large companies (Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.) have gained vast power, and because members of modern society buy into their advertisements selling any new products, these leading companies have encouraged us that we need the Internet and technology to survive in modern society.

    Jami Levin

  7. nvelaga says:

    I definitely agree with Sandage. I feel like the telegraph has been a a catalyst for innovation and the negative effects due to it. But to answer your question about Internet having unforeseen negative effects, I would say yes depending on how the internet is used and he knowledge of the user. If you think about authors, like Shirky have pointed how the internet has been used positively to promote collective action, but also arguments between people because of their level in society ( SideKick story). I feel Facebook, Google, and Apple do have a lot of power because you can’t go to a single institution or be anywhere without relying on them. It is hidden but definitely there. I feel like society, doesn’t realize how much they rely on these companies.

  8. rebeccaashleynathan says:

    I whole heartedly believe that the internet has has caused unforeseen negative effects. From my experiences and what I have observed, I find the ability to speak as an anonymous editor on the internet a very dangerous facet. Though many would argue that it allows our generation to communicate seamlessly, it also allows us to act irresponsibly. From the social perspective, the most recent detrimental effect of the internet is bullying. With adolescents given such a huge amount of power as being automatically able to post what they would like, often they abuse their power and make uncomfortable situations for others in their communities which have amounted to an increase in the suicide rate for teens and adolescents.

    In what ways do you think the Internet has made things worse? Do you think that large companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. have too much power and control too much of the technology industry?

    Secondly, I think it is an interesting question you pose in asking whether the large companies have too much power or control in the technology industry. This summer I worked at a trading firm, and it was fascinating to watch how events surronding these companies had an impact not only on the technology industry but rather the entire market. The Apple Summit was one of the largest events. I am not sure if one could argue they have TOO much power, but time will tell I suppose. For now, I just appreciate the technologies they provide me with.

  9. klyapp says:

    You raise some very interesting questions and points of argument. The benefits an positive effects the Internet has had on society and the world we live in far surpass any of the negative effects it has caused. In class we have discussed what I believe is fe biggest negative impact that has come along with developments in social networking platforms on the Internet. Filtering and personalization has been one way of responding with the Internet’s largest down fall, which is too much information or information overload. However the Internet connects our world and without it we would not be able to create, exchange, and share information in the way that we do today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s