JMC 860, More Discussion Questions for 9-17 Seminar

This week’s readings pushed a variety of buttons in my head. While some of the comments and passages about women’s treatment at the time disturbed me, my attention focused on the adaptation and modernization of society to these new technologies (telegraph and telephone). It feels like the Internet is running parallel to the attitudes that Americans faced during the early periods of the telegraph and telephone. While there are individuals praising the new technology, there are the ones claiming it could bring the downfall of society. How similar do you think modern society treats the Internet, or has society already reached the point where the Internet has become domesticated?

While Czitrom and Carey primarily talk about the technology, culture and influence of the telegraph, Fischer and Martin’s focus on the telephone and gender grabbed my attention more firmly. Fischer went so far as to suggest both the automobile and telephone were “technologies of sociability” and were shaped this way by women of the time. Might any of these ideas apply to current media like the Internet or computers? Does much of a gender divide exist today that could shape such technologies anyways?

Also, Martin talks about how companies attempted to advertise specific uses of the telephone, but society didn’t really care and created its own uses for the technology (e.g. telephone advertisements and women). What might McLuhan say about this situation? What if women did not change the telephone for what they wanted it to be? Would the telephone still have developed into a social technology? Would computers and the Internet gone down a similar path if people only used them for what companies deemed acceptable and natural?

Finally, Carey ended his piece with a really interesting note on the “frontiers” of commercial activity. Carey mentions how it took awhile to finally tackle the sabbath after space and time, but they accomplished their goal. After that victory, they focused their attention to “night as a frontier.” It almost seems as if modern society is still pursuing night as a commercial frontier that continues to change. Doesn’t it seem as if our modern culture is still figuring out how properly commercialize the night frontier?


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