Telegraphy, Global Village, and World Peace

Technological innovations have been a cornerstone for global growth. The economic, political, and cultural progress both in the United States, as well as globally, all have strong ties to technology. In the novel The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage outlines telegraphy and its impact on global communication, easing government communication, diffusion of foreign news, and simply allowing person-to-person contact internationally. Standage often reiterates that many understood telegraphy as growing possibility for global peace as the ideal form of social impact and the realities of this aspiration, directly paralleling to David Karpf and his differentiation between tactics and strategies.

Though the telegraph didn’t necessarily bring about world peace, it did open lines of communication in what Standage argues is the global village, of which participants are global citizens. “We have seen the civilized world gathered as one family around a common sick bed [of President Garfield], hope and fear alternately fluctuating in unison the world over as hopeful or alarming bulletins passed with electric pulsations over the continents and under the seas” (162). This stresses the significance of the telegraph is relaying news, good or bad, to an internationally audience, able to share in a multiplicity of emotion. This directly relates to the argument made by Karpf. Though the telegraph was a means for better communication did not necessarily conflate to users obtaining a wider understanding of different worldviews. The differentiation Karpf would make could be that the telegraph is a tactic and world peace is a strategy, but one does not necessarily mean to other.

At the end of Standage’s piece, he states that with all the accessible information, the problem becomes information overload. What argument discussed in class relates to this sentiment? Using the two-step flow of communication (Katz) is there a way to support or diffuse this argument? 

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2 Responses to Telegraphy, Global Village, and World Peace

  1. gkornblau says:

    I think that the issue of “information overload” is very interesting in the way people handle this overload and the implication of this behavior on society. The telegraph increased the speed at which news could be conveyed, but it also furtther mainstreamed news sources. With the creation if the telegraph, only the most competent news sources were able to dominate the field, and therefore much of the news that people consumed came from the same source. Since these sources were publishing more and more news, as described by the “iinformation overload” concept, all of this information was coming from only a few sources whether the public liked it or not. Today, we deal with “information overload” by hand picking the news we consume, allowing us to consume news from a variety of sources on numerous topics. Unlike the telegraph, this allows us to reduce the stress of “information overload”. However, it also results in a tendcy of people to seek only opinions that are similar to those of the reader. We are no longer forcefully exposed to the broad scope of international and national news as we were during the time of the telegraph. As noted with the invention of the telegraph, every new technology has its benefits and its drawbacks, and I think that it is our responsibility to consider all points on the spectrum to ensure that we are consuming news in the more efficient and beneficial way possible.

  2. I definitely think that information overload has led to the “filter bubble” that we’ve discussed in class before, but the difference between the telegraph days and the internet is that we can engage in community conversations. Traditional news and the telegraph led society to receive and process information faster, but information was still only conveyed one-way, like a television broadcast. Now, even when we visit The New York Times’ website, we can read legitimate and newsworthy stories and engage with other readers in the comments. It may not be a perfect way to go about discussing issues, and the filter bubble will lead to certain people not engaging in partisan issues they find opposite their beliefs, but it’s a step in the right direction. By no means do I have the idealistic, utopian perspective of worldwide media Standage says telegraph-era citizens had, but he at least opens the gates for thinking of the internet as a way to transfer global information for a more informed and active political society.

    -Kristen C.

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