Written by two leading social and cultural historians, A Social History of the Media provides a masterful overview of communication media and of the social and cultural contexts within which they emerged and evolved over time. The authors retrace the complex and multiple paths of development, exploring the interrelations between communication media and other aspects of social life.
The scope of this book is far-reaching, exploring the history of the different means of communication in the West from the invention of printing to the Internet. It deals with each constituent element in what came to be called 'the media' and discusses, among other things, the continuing importance of oral and manuscript communication, the rise of print, the relationship between physical transportation and social communication, and the development of electronic media. The book concludes with an account of the convergences associated with digital communication technology, the rise of the internet and the phenomenon of globalization.
Avoiding technological determinism and rejecting assumptions of straightforward evolutionary progress, this book brings out the rich and varied histories of communication media. It will be an ideal text for students in history, media and cultural studies and journalism, but it will also appeal to a wide general readership.
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Asa Briggs was formerly Professor of Worcester College, Oxford and is now Chancellor of the Open University.
Peter Burke is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Every new mode of communication provokes passionate debate about its moral and social repercussions. Today we fret over the negative influence of television and the Internet; in the 16th century, it was feared that reading would arouse dangerous emotions, especially in women. Briggs (chancellor, Open Univ.) and Burke (Eyewitnessing) present many such parallels in this overview of media history. They also assert that no medium has ever completely supplanted another. Given their belief in the nonlinear evolution of media, the text moves dizzyingly back and forth, at times verging on stream of consciousness: "The ability to get to Mars would depend on advances in space communications, and this already had its own history in 1960, a point to which we must now return." The index (not seen) and a meticulous chronology should help to alleviate confusion. Readers may feel frustrated, however, by the lack of explanatory notes; the suggested reading for each chapter rarely gives the source for particular quotations or assertions. Recommended for academic libraries needing a general survey of media history. Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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