Media (Communication's) Revolution from 1830-1890

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Decade: Neil Postman's examples: collateral events


photograph and telegraph

Railroads in UK and US.

"American System" of manufactures


rotary power printing presses (newspapers) British reform movement in Parliament
machine tool industry is standardized. Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
typewriter U.S. Civil War


transatlantic cable laid US to UK Unification of Germany, Italy, & Japan.


telephone forestry protection movements in UK, France & US


Daimler and Benz perfect gasoline engines
wireless (radio) and moving pictures discovery of the electron by J. J. Thompson
Russian - Japanese War


Postman argues that the communication's revolution is just one example of a trend in the 19th Century (1801-1899). This trend was the discovery of a "method of invention" to quote Alfred North Whitehead about how distinct the period really was. For Postman the point is not any one invention but the convergence of new means with an extraordinary --if not unprecedented-- goal: industrial mechanization of all facets of life.

He is influenced enormously by Sigfreid Giedeon's Mechanization Takes Command, an important and impressive book that argues the sheer number, mass and scope of industrial technology from factory organization, to communications, and to mechanical production transformed people into markets of consumers, workers into "interchangeable parts," and landscape into needed raw materals of a new social order, indeed: a new world order pased on power, control and inventive momentum.

Postman's argument is not easy to summarize, but these nine elements reveal how culture surrendered to technological change in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, with World War One being the icon, or image that conveys most powerfully the threads of a new technologically advance tool complex that swept away, having crushed, older customs traditions and values.

stories | time line for technology | terms | complexity of technological change