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Media Technology and Society: A History From the Telegraph to the Internet Re-issue Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415142304
ISBN-10: 041514230X
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Editorial Reviews


In this widely researched history of communication and information technologies, from the printing press to the Internet, Brian Winston argues that the development of new media forms, from the telegraph and the telephone to computers, satellites, and virtual reality, is the product of a constant play-off between social necessity and suppression: the unwritten law by which new technologies are introduced into society only insofar as their disruptive potential is limited. Winston's monograph asks difficult questions: How are new media born? How do they change? Moreover, how do they change us? He concludes that the information Revolution is not revolutionary. Current technologies are merely elaborating a process of change begun much earlier, and historical study of these alterations offers many insights into the potential effects of today's latest developments.
–American Association for History and Computing Prize for the Best Book of 1998

Winston's notes should not be missed; they contain historical nuggets and comment on the main text. A valuable history illuminated with a unique and insightful model applicable to other fields. Highly recommended as a replacement for the earlier volume.
Choice, 3/99

With an impressive breadth of scholarship, the author makes an effective case...this book should provide a healthy counterweight to the hyperbole that currently surrounds talk and writing about the 'Information Age'.
American Studies

About the Author

Brian Winston is Professor of Media at the University of Westminster. He is the author of Claiming the Real (1995) and Technologies of Seeing (1996).


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Re-issue edition (May 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041514230X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415142304
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Azlan Adnan on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book won the 1998 Best Book Award by the American Association for History and Computing. It not only provides a comprehensive account of the history of electronic communications from telegraphy to the Internet, but also offers a model with which to understand the processes of change in the technologies of communication.
The purpose of book is not only to explicate a fuller account of what actually occurred in the telecommunications past but also to offer an interpretation, necessarily synthetic and revisionist, of those occurrences. The model offers an understanding of the history and the current position of communications in our culture. This understanding is not solely dependent on the performance of technology, but is also heavily dependent on an examination of the operation of the social necessities and constraints.
Brian Winston's fascinating account challenges the popular myth of a present-day `information revolution' in communications technology by highlighting the long histories of such developments. The fax was introduced in 1884. Digitalization was demonstrated in 1938. Even the concept of the `web' dates back to 1945.
In Part I, the author applies the model to the electrical systems of communication, the telegraph and the telephone. Then, in Part II, radio and television are dealt with. Part III is concerned with computing while Part IV looks at the whole development of electrical and electronic networks from the telegraph to the Internet. The conclusion suggestions, via a consideration of the current state of research into holography, that the model is still valid.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the social impact of technological change.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Galt on November 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. I first read it shortly after it was published, and since then it has stuck with me as the definitive and useful explanation for how and why media technologies are embraced by the general public. I'm writing largely because I find the two negative reviews annoying. Giving a book a bad rating solely because it didn't contain what you thought that it should contain is not useful to anyone. This book is a social history of media technology, something that it very clearly spells out both in its title and in the blurb on the back cover. And of course it's an academic book! It was written by an academic, published by an academic press, and intended for an audience familiar with the linguistic theories of Noam Chomsky (who's more than just a cranky critic of US foreign policy).
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Format: Paperback
Very highly recommended for anyone with keen interest in the history of technology, society, and business. I love this book. Let me list a few of its many virtues:

First and foremost, it is a learned and fascinating account of the history of many key technologies of the past two hundred years. It is rich with detail about the technologies, their invention process, the people involved and both the scientific and societal contexts into which they emerged. Second, it burts the popular myth of the singular invention arising out of the mind of one genius -- and replaces it with the story of how most of these technologies were in some way inevitable once the scientific ground had been prepared -- and how in many cases, there were many fathers of the "inventions." It also sheds very interesting light on the roles of both societal and commercial inhibiting and accellerating forces on the development and profusion of technologies.

For someone who makes his or her living in the business of new technologies, this is an unforgettable if slightly challenging read. It will change the way you view invention and technology and how they enter and move through our societies.
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