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New Communications Technologies

This annotated bibliography covers scholarship on the history and influence of new communication technologies. The term "new" is used in a historical sense, which is to say that all technologies were at one time new. For example, innovations in timekeeping, the reproduction of visual images, and Johann Gutenberg's invention of printing with movable metal type were new in the context of the period between the thirteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries and they helped to make possible the modern world. This bibliography attempts to cover both very old and very recent developments in communications, and in so doing to place the rapid changes of our modern-day world into historical perspective.

Scholars have suggested that changes in communication can often have profound historical consequences, challenging established values as well as economic and power structures, altering the way we organize, indeed, perhaps even transforming the way we think. Some speculate that empires rise and fall as a result of these innovations. If we look at Gutenberg's invention now more than five centuries removed from our own time, we can see that the printing press set in motion changes that were of enormous historical importance not only for Western Civilization but for the entire world. It greatly increased the volume of printed material, was a catalyst in the Protestant Reformation, in the rise of science, capitalism, nationalism, and democratic government. It freed scholars from rote memory and stimulated creative thought in many areas. It altered our relationship with history and how we experience the past.

What do we make, though, of the many achievements of more recent times? Forget for a moment the latest developments in digital computing and consider a few of the many achievements of the nineteenth century. The advent of steam power, photography, and the electric telegraph during the first half of the nineteenth century were but precursors of even more stunning advances in the later half of that century. The phonograph (which made it possible for the first time to capture sound), the telephone, the electric light and the spread of an electrical network, moving pictures, and the wireless had by 1900 laid the foundation for much of twentieth century living. These innovations in communication were part and parcel of the Industrial Revolution and they helped to facilitate the shift from rural to urban living, and the transition from traditional to modern thinking. Taken together, these developments amounted to one of the great divides in human experience.

Some measure of the magnitude of change in the United States can be seen in the statistics involving patents. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the federal government in the United States issued 50,000 patents for new inventions. Between 1865 and 1890, that number increased to 1,000,000, and in the three decades following 1890, yet another 1,000,000 patents were issued. Certainly not all, or even most of these patents related to communication, to be sure, but many did. Perhaps more important than the statistics, beyond any one innovation or set of inventions, though, was a new way of thinking. As Alfred North Whitehead once put it, "the greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention." By 1914, the British political theorist and psychologist Graham Wallas wrote that people found "themselves working and thinking and feeling in relation to an environment ... without precedent in the history of the world."

During the twentieth century, the creation of new technologies related to communication accelerated at an increasing pace. Radio, cinema, and television; radar, rocketry, and satellite communication; digitization, computers, and the Internet are only among the most obvious innovations. Numerous inventions transformed our ability to record and transmit sound and images. The power and speed of computers, which seem to increase exponentially as their size diminishes, provided unprecedented ability to deal with complex problems. Undoubtedly they will help to continue to accelerate the rate of innovation and pace of change as the twentieth-first century unfolds.

Many of the inventions of the past century and a half, either individually or when taken together, may be comparable to Gutenberg's printing press in their impact on history. Consider some of the themes in the literature of this bibliography. Several writers argue that democracy depends on print culture and that the more visual, electronic media of recent years threatens this system of government. Some contend that our dependence on electronic media imperils our legacy to future generations because while modern media give us the ability to record more than ever before, they deteriorate rapidly and the technology on which information is stored quickly becomes obsolete making the data inaccessible. Some writers maintain new media that pass easily across national boundaries and into our homes -- radio, satellite television, the Internet -- threaten the existence of the nation state. Some link the collapse of the Soviet Union to a flood of new media – computers, facsimile machines, electronic mail, video recorders – that came into that nation during the 1980s. Other scholars argue that modern technology has become so sophisticated and invasive that it threatens to destroy almost any possiblility of privacy. Still others maintain that recent developments in artificial intelligence and biotechnology may alter the very definition of what it means to be human.

It is, therefore, an important time to study communication technology and also perhaps to rethink the history of this field. The study of the history of communication is a comparatively new area. It was not until 1955, for example, that the first Mass Communications History Center was created. Established at the University of Wisconsin when the radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn donated his papers to the State Historical Society, the Center was dedicated in early 1958, at a time when television was considered to be at the "apex" of modern mass communication. A couple of years later, a group of leading historians, political scientists, and communication researchers from around the United States met in Madison and suggested several broad areas in which historical documents should be collected, to complement the Historical Society's already strong collections in print media. These categories included radio, television, film and theater, advertising, and public relations, and they defined the subsequent collection policies of the Historical Society.

These broad categories remain important, of course, to any program devoted to the study of modern communication. But much has happened since the 1950s. The Mass Communications History Center was dedicated only a few weeks after the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik and literally on the eve of the first man-made satellite to be put in space by the United States. Satellites helped to transform many areas related to communication including photography, surveillance, television, weaponry, global positioning devices, and cell phones.

The launching of Sputnik in October, 1957, had long-term consequences for research and development that affected communication in the United States in other ways. The establishment of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), created in the aftermath of Sputnik, promoted cutting-edge research in many areas including computers. Some of this work eventually led to the creation of the Internet. By the late 1950s, Americans had heard about computers but no doubt for many of them the term computer brought to mind UNIVAC, a huge machine that sometimes appeared on television game shows. Surely the increasing sophistication of computers and their widespread use by millions of people since that time represents a change of enormous historical importance.

Since the creation of the Mass Communications History Center many other developments have transformed communication and they need to be integrated more effectively into the ways we study and think about modern media. In 1955, the transistor was just making its presence felt in radios and the integrated circuit had yet to appear. Magnetic recording, both audio and videotape, had just started to bring major changes in the way Americans experienced entertainment, sports, and news. Innovations in cameras, lighting, and film technology made it possible to capture spontaneous events and replay them quickly, increasingly in color. Videocassettes, and then compact discs, combined with cable and satellite television brought great changes in home entertainment. The shift from analog to digital media during the past quarter century has affected almost all aspects of our society and we now only dimly perceive what its long-term significance may be.

This annotated bibliography attempts to bring together scholarship on these and many other crucial issues of our time. In so doing, it tries to build on and go beyond earlier reference works. Indeed, one category in the volume is simply labeled "Bibliographies." It is devoted to other bibliographies that deal with technology, many of which focus on such specialized areas as electricity, computers, motion pictures, photocopying, and more. One earlier and unnannotated bibliography similar in theme to this edition was compiled by Benjamin Shearer and Marilyn Huxford and entitled Communication and Society: A Bibliography on Communications Technologies and Their Social Impact (Greenwood Press, 1983). That work gave heavy emphasis to print media (books, magazines, newspapers), and to such non-print media as film, radio, and television. The volume appeared shortly after cable and satellite television had started to change home entertainment and about the time that video cassettes were becoming popular. Its publication came before the spread of personal computers and the Internet. Home movies and home video each received one entry respectively, and there were no entries for such topics as magnetic tape recording, digital media, or military communication. Only one entry appeared for the transistor and none for integrated circuits or microprocessing.

New Communication Technologies is an ongoing project and its goal is to eventually be comprehensive. When it first appeared in 2000, it had approximately 1,100 entries. An expanded edition appeared in 2003. This, the 2006 edition, now has more than 3,200 titles linked by more than 11,000 key terms. This work can be accessed in a number of ways. The "Search by Subject" offers fifty-one broad categories. Many of these categories (listed below) have several hundred entries. A more detailed search for more precise topics can be made by using the "Search by Keyword" or "Search by Multiple Fields" functions.

The fifty-one broad thematic categories found under "Search by Subject" are loosely organized and introduce this work.

These topics include:

  1. Aeronautics and Space Communication
  2. Advertising and Public Relations
  3. Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology
  4. Bibliographies
  5. Biography and Autobiography
  6. Books, Periodicals, Newspapers
  7. Capitalism
  8. Censorship and Ratings
  9. Children and Media
  10. Color
  11. Computers and the Internet
  12. Critics
  13. Democracy
  14. Digital Media
  15. Duplicating Technologies
  16. Education
  17. Electricity
  18. Freedom
  19. Future and Science Fiction
  20. General Histories/Studies
  21. Government
  22. History and New Media
  23. Home and New Media
  24. Information Storage
  25. Labor
  26. Law
  27. Materials
  28. Media Effects
  29. Military Communication
  30. Motion Pictures
  31. Nationalism and Communication
  32. News and Journalism
  33. Non-USA
  34. Office
  35. Photography and Visual Communication
  36. Postal Service
  37. Presidents and New Media
  38. Radio
  39. References, Statistics, Timelines, Maps
  40. Religion
  41. Sexuality
  42. Sound Recording
  43. Telegraph
  44. Telephones
  45. Television
  46. Time and Timekeeping
  47. Values
  48. Violence
  49. War
  50. Websites
  51. Women

This 2006 edition reflects research that has gone into two recent books I have completed. These are Freedom and Entertainment: Rating the Movies in an Age of New Media (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), andn Morality and Entertainment: Cinema and Censorship, 1907-1968 (now in press). The titles under "Motion Pictures" have been expanded significantly -- more than 1,500 deal with cinema in some way -- but also this research is reflected in many other broad categories. For example, "Censorship and Ratings" now has more than 960 titles and "Children and Media" has 174. Other categories that have been expanded by this research include:

  1. Advertising and Public Relations
  2. Capitalism
  3. Color
  4. Computers and the Internet
  5. Critics
  6. Democracy
  7. Digital Media
  8. Duplicating Technologies
  9. Freedom
  10. Future and Science Fiction
  11. Government
  12. History and New Media
  13. Home and New Media
  14. Law
  15. Materials
  16. Media Effects
  17. Military Communication
  18. Nationalism and Communication
  19. News and Journalism
  20. Non-USA
  21. Photography and Visual Communication
  22. Radio
  23. Religion
  24. Sexuality
  25. Sound Recording
  26. Television
  27. Values
  28. Violence
  29. War
  30. Women

Throughout history, the arrival of new communication technologies have often appeared threatening to society's customs and traditions. Censors have tried to suppress many different themes but in recent times, depictions of sexuality and violence in mass media have especially troubled critics of new media. Close to 500 titles in this edition speak to "Sexuality," and about 300 to "Violence." The invasion of the home by new media has long troubled critics. The notorious vice hunter Anthony Comstock worried about newspapers and photographs finding their way into people's homes during the late nineteenth century. During the 1920s, the radio and phonograph records brought new, and for some people, disturbing types of music such as jazz. Television, video cassettes, video games, and computers and the Internet have each in their own ways brought forms of communication into family parlors that in earlier eras had been kept outside the home. Almost 250 works in the bibliography deal with "Home and New Media."

Related to these topics are subject areas entitled "Media Effects" and "Values." To a large degree, "Media Effects," which has more than 400 entries, covers social science research going back to the Payne Fund Studies of the early 1930s. Those studies examined motion pictures. Since 1970, social science research on media effects has burgeoned, and much of it has focused on the impact of television, and more recently, video games and computers. Hundreds of studies have been done in this area since 1970, and this category is by no means complete, but it does give readers an introduction to a hotly contested and important area in which mass media may affect the public. "Values" is a category with almost 700 titles. New communication technologies often appear to threaten society's long-standing values. The controversies that have followed the arrival of new media give us insight into the ways in which people believe technology might alter their lives.

A new category called "Critics" has been added. It includes those people who believed new media were subversive to traditional values but it is much broader. This category also includes critics of censorship and rating systems, those who have questioned the optimistic, even utopian, thinking about the likely impact of such developments as computers and the World Wide Web, and before that, radio, television, and cable. It includes critics who have worried about new media's impact on journalism and democracy.

Given the great changes that have occurred in the ways in which information is created and conveyed, and their possible impact on the way people are governed, it seemed appropriate to include categories on "News and Journalism," and "Democracy." News and journalism are essential to democratic government. Some authors see in new media (e.g., the Internet) great potential for expanding the sources of information which will better inform the public and give citizens more influence in decision making. Others writers are more pessimistic. They note that such hopes were similarly expressed for cable television during the early 1970s, and before that, for television, and even earlier, for radio, and they argue that such expectations were many times frustrated. Some commentators, echoing an argument made by Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion (1922), argue that the flood of information brought by modern media has overwhelmed the public and confused the trivial with the significant. Still others, as noted, raise perhaps an even larger issue. They contend that democracy is heavily dependent on print culture and that with the arrival of television and other non-print media, the ways of thinking encouraged by print are eroding. There are 344 entries for "News and Journalism" and 321 titles for "Democracy" in this bibliography. Closely related to these themes are two additional categories, "Freedom" and "Education". Also, a category covering print culture, "Books, Periodicals, Newspapers," has been enlarged in this edition.

In the literature of this bibliography, there is much said about a revolution in communications, or more appropriately, revolutions in communication. There are critics who question facile assumptions about a "communications revolution," but they appear to be in the minority in recent literature. At least 265 titles are included in the category "Communication Revolution." Related to this topic is a new category labeled "Materials." Harold Innis wrote about the historical significance of the shift from writing on stone and clay tablets to papyrus. Papyrus facilitated record keeping and trade, and it aided Rome's conquest of Egypt. The development of cheap paper had major implications for civilization. Paper, for example, contributed to "Cultural Imperialism," Innis noted. During the nineteenth century, Canadian wood pulp traveled to the United States only to return in the form of dime novels and advertisements. More recently, magnetic tape which German scientists helped to develop during World War II brought major changes to America, first in sound recording and then in the ability to capture moving images. To give another example, silicon was a critical element in making modern-day computing possible. And related to these themes is the category "Electricity." Paul Valéry, commenting in 1962 on electricity and its attendant technologies, said that it was "obvious that this general energizing of the world is more pregnant with consequences, more capable of transforming life in the immediate future than all the 'political' events from the time of Ampère to the present day."

"Communication Revolution" is central to another category. During the past two decades, there has been considerable discussion about a "Second Industrial Revolution." This new subject area has 140 titles. Of course, Norbert Wiener used this phrase in 1950 to comment on the likely impact of vacuum tubes and precise applications of electricity. But more recent uses of this phrase have referred to creations made possible by transistors, integrated circuits, microprocessors, and modern computers. Closely related to these areas are developments covered in the original category "Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology," now with more than 170 entries. Advances in computing, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and similar fields have brought important changes to not only communication but to many other areas of life. There is every indication that changes in these areas will accelerate in the future. Here lies one of the most important set of topics for future scholars, including historians, to study.

These subjects have implications for national power as many of the 530 entries in "Nationalism and Communication" make clear. Several categories pertain to "Nationalism and Communication." There are more than 300 titles in "Military Communication," but this field clearly begs for additional study. Much cutting edge research related to communication technologies is defense-related. Computers and electronic warfare, weapons systems that depend on satellites, simulation models that use digital media and virtual reality, miniaturized sensors and other surveillance technologies affect not only the conduct of war but have implications for civilian life as well. Research in these areas often create devices that find their way into the domestic market. Developments in these areas also give governmental authorities better means to keep tabs on private citizens. The creation of large data bases made possible by digital media is but one area where new technologies raise concerns about such issues as privacy. Other categories in this bibliography relevant to "Nationalism and Communication" include "Privacy," "Surveillance," "Propaganda," "Research and Development," and "War." "Research and Development" is an area of particular significance. Since World War II, and especially after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, as previously mentioned, the federal government has been a major source of funding for research related to new communication technologies. "War," a category with more than 320 titles, has usually been a catalyst for new research in technology. One need only to recall World War II and the development of radar, rocketry, computing, and atomic energy.

As noted earlier, some writers have suggested that new communication technologies may undermine national power. Several entries in this edition speak to this issue. They see such technologies as audio cassettes, videotape, and the Internet as instruments of instability. Indeed, the two most serious constitutional crises involving the American presidency during the late twentieth century – Watergate and the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton – involved the tape recorder. The category, "Presidents and New Media," covers the impact of new communication technologies on the presidency. In many respects, the modern relationship between the President and the media began to emerge during the administration of William McKinley. McKinley, the first American president to appear in a newsreel, was also the first to systematic track press coverage, necessitated by the yellow journalism of the Spanish-American War. Later, Woodrow Wilson introduced the press conference and during World War I, created the first large-scale government propaganda agency that exploited virtually every form of mass media then available. During the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt mastered the new medium of radio. Subsequently, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan demonstrated the political advantages of television.

Other broad subject areas have been added to this edition. Categories have been given to "Capitalism." and "Labor." "Capitalism" is a theme that runs through the discussion of most technologies treated in this work, and it is a topic better developed in scholarly literature now than is "Labor" and new media, although this latter topic is drawing increasing interest. Related to "Capitalism" is the area of "Advertising and Public Relations." Advertising and public relations exploit nearly all new media and they have been powerful forces in our society during the past century. They are related to other themes such as "Propaganda" and "News and Journalism." More than 300 titles in this edition pertain to "Advertising and Public Relations." And related to "Labor" is the category "Office and New Media".

"Women and New Media" has also been added. The titles in this field cover a range of topics including automation, computers, cyberspace, duplicating technologies, motion pictures, office technology, pornography, sound recording, telephone, typewriters, and more.

The category "History and New Media," which has about 240 titles, needs to be explained. Of course this entire bibliography is about the history of new communication technologies. But this category is about how new media may influence what we know about history and how they relate to the way we interpret the past. At one level, interpretations of history that come before us in motion pictures and television programs are often quite different from the versions we may read about in books. Visually, for example, movies can offer attractive and often powerful recreations of the past. Yet their versions of history sometimes rest on slight research and dubious interpretations. Computers and the Internet also change our relationship to the past. They can offer a more varied and potent way to recall past experience, and users are less closely bound to the author's narrative than is usually the case with a book. At another level, technologies affect what we can recall from the past. Good quality paper or microfilm provide a much more stable and durable way of preserving the past than do videotape or computer discs. If newer media have advantages in the ability to create and capture experience, they often degrade more quickly than do more traditional materials. Moreover, computer technology evolves so rapidly that it soon becomes obsolete and materials created and saved on such media become inaccessible. Computer punch cards are but one example. These were used extensively in computer-based research during the 1960s and 1970s, yet today, there are few machines that still exist capable of reading the data on those cards. Another theme in "History and New Media," one akin to works in "Communication Revolution," involves the belief that the modern world has changed so drastically that history is no longer meaningful. This view has been noticeable particularly since the 1960s. Works that deal with this theme can be found under the heading of "History, break with." More than 100 titles consider this idea in one way or another.

As we consider history, we are also well-advised to think about the future. "Future and Science Fiction" assembles works by authors in the past who have speculated about the future. In 1888, Jules Verne contemplated what life might be like 1,000 years in the future. He talked about collecting energy from the sun, electric lighting and heating, "telephonic journalism," news conveyed by phonograph and other voice transmitters, sending "images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires," "electric computers" (in which as many as thirty scientists might work on their "transcendental calculations"), advertising reflected on clouds, travel by "air-coach," color photography, a home entertainment center that would allow one to listen to concert music, and a "Piano-Electro-Reckoner" which performs "the most complex calculations ... in a few seconds." Such reflections are usually interesting and they give us a perspective from which to measure our own expectations about what the future may hold.

Another large category is "Law." Not only have new technologies brought changes in the way law is practiced, but works under this subject heading touch many other topics covered in this bibliography including censorship and ratings, copyright, privacy, and libraries. More than 770 entries consider legal issues.

At present, this volume reflects the interests of its primary author, editor, and compiler and thus concentrates primarily on nineteenth- and twentieth-century North America. This work seeks not only to expand its coverage of that terrain but it hopes to include scholarship on other parts of the world. This volume has added a category, "Non-USA," which deals with developments relating to communication technology outside the United States. More than 650 entries in the second edition touch in some way on media in other countries.

Using an electronic format for this reference work has several advantages. Users of this annotated bibliography are not limited to the large categories discussed above. Many topics – e.g., transistors, microprocessors, miniaturization, optical fibers, lasers, electronic mail – cut across several categories. There are numerous other subjects that do not obviously fall under one of the broad categories and they may be found by using the "Search by Keyword" function. An advantage of the electronic format is that scholarship on different, and often seemingly unrelated themes, can be located quickly by using key words. An effort has been made to link the material in this volume in a way that allows the user to search the content of each entry using key words that often go beyond what appear in titles and abstracts. The terms relevant to each entry appear at the bottom of each citation.

The electronic format also provides an opportunity to incorporate nonprint sources. This work now links to several "Websites" but it is only at the early stages of exploring the multimedia possibilities for this bibliography. This dimension will be expanded in future editions of this work.

As mentioned, a long-term goal of this work is to be comprehensive. The electronic format makes it much easier for a work of this kind to continue to grow and improve, to become, in effect, a living document. Of course, covering the entire history of new communication technologies is a vast territory, and this edition has not yet achieved its objective.

I would like to thank several graduate students who together have contributed 276 annotations to this work. They include: Michael Boyle (32), Amy Chu (22), Karen Faster (2), Linda Friend (1), Catharine Gartelos (5), Jean Geurink (1), Phil Glende (64), Wayne Hayes (4), David Henning (9), Gordon Jackson (31), Kevin Kiley (1), Michele Kroll (6), James Landers (12), Matt Lavine (5), Amanda Novak (7), Robert Pondillo (8), Rob Rabe (34), Michael Shefky (9), Doobo Shim (2), Mark Tremayne (23), Mark Van Pelt (4), and Nicholas Wolf (29).

This work seeks to encourage others to study the history and social influence of new media. It is hoped that students interested in this field will continue to contribute to this work as they develop their own areas of expertise. With the help of other scholars, this bibliography should continue to progress toward comprehensiveness. Many avenues remain yet to be explored.

Finally, I owe a special thank you to several people in the University of Wisconsin Library System. Sue Dentinger has been the person most closely involved in helping me translate this manuscript into it electronic format and I wish to express my gratitude for her good efforts. Peter Gorman was helpful in getting th work ready to go online when it first appeared in 2000. Kenneth Frazier, the UW System's director, has been unflagging in his support, and I am grateful for his help, enthusiasm, and friendship.

Stephen Vaughn
University of Wisconsin, Madison
May, 2006


Citing the entire site: Stephen Vaughn, comp. and ed., New Communication Technologies, Their History and Social Influence: An Annotated Bibliography. (Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, revised May 2006).

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