Revolutions in Communication is a critically acclaimed survey of media history now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher, Bloomsbury. The book topped the Amazon sales list for media history in 2011, 2012, and 2013. It is widely used in college classrooms from NYU to USC, from Western Ontario to Florida International.
The cover illustration is an 1883 solar powered printing press used to promote new ideas about energy.
The book is a social and technological history that explores four major epochs of the mass media through the technologies that characterized their development — printing, imaging, broadcasting and digital media. The book surveys all major communications disciplines, including journalism, photography, cinema, advertising & public relations, radio, television, computing and networked media.
The historical narrative in Revolutions in Communication centers around technological change — a common thread that unites global media history. This approach also provides a much-needed alternative to nationalistic and professionally oriented narratives that have guided media history in the past.
The book points out that communication technologies change because the older media form does not speak in the voice of a newer generation. Innovators and inventors then search for new forms to circumvent old institutional barriers. This social construction of technology is an attempt to find new forms that speak more to the next generation’s needs.
It has often been observed that democracy is munted when there are fewer independent fact-gathering operations or avenues for a diversity of opinion — what we used to call journalism. The hope, for the past decade, is that some formula can be found to “monetize” journalism — to make money from it.
An important new book, Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney (excerpted in this article in Salon Magazine) asks the bottom-line question: What if journalism just can’t be monetized? What then?
Robert W. McChesney
McChesney is a professor at the University of Illinois and one the nation’s leading and most thoughtful media critics. He’s the author of many other books such as Rich Media, Poor Democracy.
In Digital Disconnect notes with irony that the media saw the Internet effect coming for decades, and that for all its thrashing around with new apps and gadgets, trying to set up paywalls and link up with advertising, it has not solved the basic problem.
This video is an application for a iVersity-funded Massive Online Open Course (or MOOC) based on this book. Voting has ended and my proposal was not funded, but that is no great surprise or disappointment because there were some terrific courses being offered, and it was an honor to be seriously considered. Here’s the link to the MOOC fellowship courses. Thanks. Bill Kovarik.
“And you — sorority girl — yeah — just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.” “We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. America leads the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined.”
Acerbic. Bitter. Certainly human. But … journalistically accurate? Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
World oil reserves were supposedly located mostly in the Middle East (green column). Source: BP, 2002.
But now we know that was only one category of world oil reserve. (BP chart modified with 2000 USGS data).
By Bill Kovarik
One of the more painful lessons of recent history involves the way politics can slant scientific information.
The latest entry in this category seems to be the curiously sudden abundance of fossil fuels. Where we once had imminent shortages and a series of treasury-depleting resource wars for Middle Eastern oil, we now have natural gas from fracking, heavy oil from Venezuela and unconventional oil from Canada’s tar sands.
Reactions from the world press:
“We were wrong on peak oil,” said George Monbiot of the Guardian in July, 2012. “There’s enough to fry us all.” Environmental strategies must change now because “the facts have changed,” he said. Continue reading →
At the end of the 20th century, two main metaphors for information were common: information “overload” and the information “superhighway,” and the two concepts worked together. Just as trucks on a highway can be over weight limits, so, too, could a person’s capacity to absorb information deliveries also be overloaded.
The problem with this metaphor is that it assumes a one-dimensional delivery of a quantity of information from point A to point B.
“Ted” Kaczynski, who killed 3 people and injured 20 with his bombs, is featured as typical of someone who “believes” in global warming.
In the long history of public relations blunders, perhaps the strangest is the saga of the disintegrating Heartland Institute.
Most recently, its choice to link a terrorist with “belief” in climate change has eviscerated the Chicago based advocacy group. But even before the May debacle, the signs of dangerous incompetence on the part of public relations practitioners were all there.
Now that the average American has taken a serious interest in science, we’re seeing all kinds of new debates. People worry about radiative forcing and the use of the Stefan-Boltzmann constant in global climate models, among other things. So it’s not hard to imagine that there will be a lot more of this ersatz erudition in the media. Here are a few of the letters to the editor we will probably be seeing soon:
The so-called Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction theory is ridiculous! Iridium does not kill dinosaurs !! Show me just one tiny bit of evidence that a dinosaur ever keeled over after being exposed to iridium! You cant, can you? Stupid ass scientists. – BJR, Lubbock, Tx.
It’s hard to believe anyone but an outright moron would accept the Kepert model as a modification of the valence shell electron pair repulsion theory. VSEPR theory is practically written in the Bible. You will fry in hell, Kepert model fools! — TD, Richmond, Va.
Bateman’s biological principle is clearly an abomination in the sight of God. I cant tell you how repulsive it is to have this taught to my children in school. If people didn’t believe in Bateman’s principle, biology teachers would be cast out of their lucrative $40,000 a year jobs. When oh when will these lying scientists ever learn? — BZ, Bozeman, MT.
Quantum Field Theory? Ha! Just a plot by montrachet swilling mathematicians! — YN, Portland, ME.
And that goes DOUBLE for the Banach–Tarski paradox! — YN, Portland, ME.
The Met Office immediately issued a press release saying the article contained “numerous errors in the reporting.”
In other words, the Mail just seems to have just fabricated the data they attributed to the Met Office. They just made it up. Invented it. Pulled it out of the air. Lied. (Could it be any clearer?)
This would be outrageous for an actual NEWSpaper, but it’s standard procedure for the Daily Mail – one of the grotesque and humble relics that once adorned Fleet Street the way gargoyles have graced Notre Dame cathedral.
¶ Alan Turing a British mathe- matician who helped crack Nazi codes during WWII and who created many of the basic concepts and formulas for the modern functioning computer is getting a reputation reboot, according to a Sept. 20, 2013 Washington Post article.
¶ Color photos from 1939-43 from the Farm Services Administration, published in the Denver Post.
¶ Early Orson Wells film discovered in Italy, according to the New York Times, Aug. 7, 2013.
¶ End of KodakGreat article in The Street by Joe Deaux about the final days at the photographic giant.
¶ Ben Franklin museum reopening in Philadelphia this August, 2013.
¶ Social networking in the 1600s involved coffee houses says Tom Standage in the International Herald Tribune June 22, 2013.
Anti-Nazi documentary produced in 1934 by US filmmaker Neil Vanderbilt was rediscovered in Belgium this year. Story by Emily Greenhouse, May 21, 2013: The New Yorker.
¶ Cartoons that changed the world are posted from The Art of Controversy, previewed in Buzzfeed, May 2, 2013.
¶ Migrant Mother picture of 1936 by Dorothea Lange is worth more than 1,000 words, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
¶ Cincinnati Inquirer historical photo tour includes horseshoe-shaped copy desk (17) and linotype machines (12). March 6, 2013.
¶ Photographer Tony Vaccaro is celebrated by the New York Times. March 4, 2013.
Thomas Nast is remembered by Jonathan Yardley at the Washington Post on Feb. 15, 2013. "The best and most widely known journalists of my youth — James Reston, Marquis Childs, Red Smith, even Walter Lippmann — are almost entirely forgotten outside the trade today and only dimly remembered inside it," Yardley says. Yet Nast's cartoons remain.
¶ Medgar Evers is honored by the Zinn project on Martin Luther King day in 2013. Evers was killed 50 years ago after an interview on what was then a virulently racist television station, WLBT, as noted in Revolutions in Communication. The assassination was not directly linked to the TV, but it started a Media Access Project investigation of the TV station's programming, which led to the loss of its license for failing to serve the public interest.
¶ Iranian newspapers in the 1960s were tightly controlled, like many today in China, Russia and the Middle East. That experience, says Karen Henderson in a Dec. 15 2012 Cleveland Plain Dealer column, reminds us of the importance of the press to democracy.
¶ The "Page Three Girl" is 42 years old on Nov. 27, 2012, according to women fighting sexism in the media who are staging protests in London. Their slogan: "Boobs are not news."
¶ Hollywood blacklist started 65 years ago on Nov. 25, 1947, the day after ten writers and directors (the Hollywood Ten) got citations for contempt of Congress. They had refused to name supposed fellow communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and claimed that they had rights under the U.S. Constitution.
¶ Elijah Lovejoy, a publisher in Alton Illinois, is killed by an angry pro-slavery mob on Nov. 7, 1835. The anniversary was noted by the Zinn Education Project. "Imprudent, to defend the liberty of the press? ... Who invents this libel on his country?" -- Wendell Phillips, in speech given in Boston, one month after the November 7, 1837, slaying of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in Illinois. (Text from Project Gutenberg.)
¶ The Radical Camera, an exhibit opening in San Francisco in October, 2012, looks back to the age when photography was a social witness.
¶ Edward Curtis took photos of 19th century Native Americans. A new biography is out called Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. The author tells NPR's Rachel Martin that Curtis discovered his first subject almost by accident.
¶ Gordon Parks is remembered in a photo gallery published by the New York Times. The former FSA photographer's work is up close, personal and brilliant. He would have been 100 this year.
¶ USA Today remembers the Nixon-Kennedy TV debates. They began Sept. 20, 1960 and are credited with changing political history.
¶ One hundred years ago, the Sacramento Bee depicted a prisoner on a pedestal to decry "soft" treatment of prisoners who should be executed. Today the Bee has a very different view.
¶ William Randolph Hearst died Aug. 14, 1951, and this year the San Francisco Chronicle commemorated the event by republishing an interesting poem he wrote. When our life has passed / And the river has run its course / It again goes back / O'er the selfsame track / To the mountain which was its source. Hearst, it seems, was no competition for other journalist / poets of the age, such as Rudyard Kipling or Joel Chandler Harris.
¶ So long to Karl Fleming, a Civil Rights reporter for Newsweek whose book, Son of the Rough South, helped chronicle the era. Fleming died in Los Angeles August 11, 2012. Also passing this summer: Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmopolitan magazine.
¶ Happy 150th birthday to Ida B. Wells, the intrepid reporter who exposed lynchings across the US South in the 1890s. Original work is here at Project Gutenberg; thanks also to the Zinn History Project for noticing.
¶ Satellite communications turned 50 years old on July 12. The first satellite transmissions took place in 1962 from Maine to Brittany, France. The signal contained images of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, remarks from President John F. Kennedy, and highlights of a Phillies-Cubs baseball game.
¶ The first photo on the web was posted twenty years ago at CERN in Switzerland. (SF Chronicle also covered it.)
¶ The history of the telephone is tucked away in an AT&T vault . in New Jersey.
¶ It's the end of the line for Minitel, the original French internet built in the 1980s.
¶ Alan Turing was the most significant contributor to computing in the 1930s and 40s. June 23, 2012, would have been his 100th birthday. Wired magazine has a good overview of the man and his impact.
¶ New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit of China's printed images from the 8th - 20th centuries.
¶ The Library of Congress has published a book containing 200 years of political campaign posters. It's a treasure of visual communication history.
¶ Radio history's sentinel -- J. David Goldin -- is profiled in a Washington Post story May 3, 2012.
¶ Media history is celebrated in Google "doodles" . Over the past few years they have included Eadweard Muybridge , photographer Robert Doisneau , Louis Daguerre, and historian Ibn Khaldun.
¶ An old fashioned newspaper war has broken out in California, over a century-old conflict involving John Muir, a hydroelectric dam and the Hetch Hetchy canyon in the heart of Yosemite.
¶ The Hearst Corp. is 125 years old in March, 2012, and at least one newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is celebrating.
¶ Beginning in late February 2012, the New York Times started to open its enormous photo archive.
¶ Stanford has cracked the door on its collection of Apple computer corporation archives, according to this Associated Press story. But its not enough for some people, who think the university should be doing more to make the archives public.
¶ New digital methods are starting to unlock the "vast collections" of sound recordings. A young Alexander Graham Bell is heard in some of the first Smithsonian releases on Dec. 12, 2011. Also in store -- great performances, speeches by world leaders, anthropological and linguistic studies, and many other voices from the past.
¶ Nov. 18 would have been Louis Daguerre's 224th birthday, and Google's search page celebrated with a one-day logo in commemoration.
¶ The London Science museum will build Charles Babbage's analytical engine, first envisioned in the 1830s, according to an article in the Nov. 8, 2011 New York Times.
¶ The 200th anniversary of Niles Register is celebrated by the Baltimore Sun and others.
¶ Aug. 25 is the anniversary of the Moon Hoax. Chicago Times columnist John Kass says it's his favorite hoax of all time.
¶ Aug. 24 is Wayzgoose -- a traditional holiday for printers, writers and the publishing industry.
¶ July 22 was the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birth, and the communications and technology theorist celebrated by his most fervid admirers as Canada's greatest thinker of all time has emerged from the valley of darkness that closed around him in the last decade of his life. The Globe and Mail, July 15, 2011.
¶ The Pentagon Papers are being declassified, 40 years after they were published in the New York Times and Washington Post. Daniel Ellsberg says the Pentagon papers are still important today.
¶ Bob Woodward and Ben Bradley are welcomed at the Nixon library in April. The library's new exhibit portrayed journalists in a new and much more favorable light.
¶ Peter Forsskål's 1759 Thoughts on Civil Liberty was recently published on the web. The Swedish philosopher had a major influence on European thought about freedom of information. The newly translated manuscript begins: "The more a man may live according to his own inclinations, the more he is free. Therefore, next to life itself, nothing could be more dear to man than freedom."
¶ Phil Meyer wonders whether it's already too late for the elite newspaper of the future.
¶ Kay Mills, author of "A Place in the News: From the Women's Pages to the Front Page" (1988), died Jan. 15, 2011.
¶ Fox Propagandists Degrade Journalism - Harold Meyerson, Washington Post. -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. "is the most sustained and coordinated dose of right-wing propaganda this country has ever seen. Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace and their ilk were freelancers, much as Limbaugh is today. The choir at Fox News, by contrast, sings from Murdoch's hymnal."
¶ For Sarah Palin and Glen Beck, a McKinley Moment? Dana Milbank, Washington Post -- "One hundred and ten years ago, during another low point in the nation's political discourse, newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst - who was angling for a presidential run in 1904 - published a pair of columns fantasizing about violence against President William McKinley. "