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About this book

Since media is omnipresent in our lives, it is crucial to understand the complex means and dimensions of media in history, and how we have arrived at the current digital culture. Media in History addresses the increasing multidisciplinary need to comprehend the meanings and significances of media development through a variety of different approaches. Providing a concise, accessible and analytical synthesis of the history of communications, from the evolution of language to the growth of social media, this book also stresses the importance of understanding wider social and cultural contexts. Although technological innovations have created and shaped media, Kortti examines how politics and the economy are central to the development of communication.

Media in History will benefit undergraduate and graduate history and media studies students who want to understand the complex structures of media as a historical continuum and to reflect on their own experiences with that development.

Table of Contents

The Development of Media

Frontmatter

1. From Speech to Print

Abstract
The beginning of the history of media may be placed at the invention of the alphabet around the year 2000 BCE, as early as the development of writing around 5,000 years ago, or the development of language before that. Media was already important in ancient cultures. Many materials were used in communication, such as parchment, clay and stone, and later papyrus and paper. In the later modern era, elements that similarly influenced communication included steam, electricity and plastic. As materials became lighter, communication grew more efficient. Often those who used ancient ‘media’ also had a monopoly on knowledge.
Jukka Kortti

2. The Birth of New Media

Abstract
Perhaps the best-known long-term upheaval in world history that is described by the metaphor of revolution is the Industrial Revolution that began in Great Britain in the late eighteenth century. It was primarily an economic, but also a societal and cultural change. For a long time, until around the 1930s, the general view was that the combined effects of technological innovation, industrial development, population growth, urbanization and proletarization significantly changed standards of living and social and political relationships. After World War II, the Marxist approach emphasized class conflict, and observations were made concerning the continuities of the upheaval. Since the 1980s, macroeconomist analyses have diluted views of the Industrial Revolution as a sudden radical economic and technological shift. New views have been introduced with stronger emphases on social and cultural history, such as the role of women in the Industrial Revolution. Old attitudes toward the family, childhood, work, leisure time, entertainment and information changed during the nineteenth century. The latter part of the century in particular emerged as a watershed in the evolution of the way of living. For the first time, domestic industrial production was largely replaced by industrial production targeted at domestic consumption, and new electric media technologies played a crucial part in the process.
Jukka Kortti

3. Media for the Masses

Abstract
Modernization and globalization are often associated with mass culture. None of the electric media we looked at in the previous chapter became a mass medium before the First World War, however, except for the gramophone in a few developed countries. Yet even in the 1920s, when the term mass media was introduced, communication theorists did not make a clear distinction between face-to-face communication and communication to the masses. This was because electric mass media did not yet exist as a discursive and institutional activity.
Jukka Kortti

4. In the Global Village

Abstract
After the Second World War, the media increased their integral role in the functioning and nature of societies and cultures. In modern post-World War I societies, different tools of communication had developed their own roles. The telegraph and telephone remained tools of communication in business, but the telephone also spread to personal communication as it domesticated into a home media technology. Photography also became a medium for families and individuals as cameras became cheaper and simpler to use. The role of the press varied from country to country. Although it was a significant entertainment medium, particularly in the Anglo-American countries, the press was above all a key forum for the political and financial public sphere. The cinema had become not only a key tool of mass entertainment, but also an important artform before the Second World War. It dominated audio-visual communication until the 1950s.
Jukka Kortti

Themes

Frontmatter

5. Media, Democracy and the Public Sphere

Abstract
The politicization of the press had an undeniable effect on the development of democracy. This development has been commonly associated with the rise of the bourgeoisie that began in the eighteenth century, when a new system emphasizing individual liberty and a new kind of market economy replaced the class society-based system. The bourgeoisie supported several things the nobility shunned and even feared: freedom of trade, representative democracy with parliamentary institutions and religious freedom. The bourgeoisie also emphasized reason, science and culture in the spirit of the Enlightenment.
Jukka Kortti

6. Media, Commerce and Globalization

Abstract
‘In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking: the here and now of the work of art – its unique existence in a particular place. It is this unique existence – and nothing else – that bears the mark of the history to which the work has been subject.’ So wrote Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) in his famous essay The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility’, which is considered to be one of the key texts of modernist film theory. The essay looks at cinema as a modern art for the masses – as a form of art that does not have the same ‘aura’ as more traditional art, because it is constantly ‘renewed’. The same can be said to apply to media in a broader sense. Media are an integral part of the being of a modern human, of our wilful construction of the world.
Jukka Kortti

7. Control and Power: Censorship and Propaganda

Abstract
The possibility of controlling the media has been an important objective of sovereigns for centuries. The official medium of Ancient Rome, a primitive form of newspaper, Acta Diurna (Daily Acts), was the information channel for the outcomes of trials and other public notices and announcements. Julius Caesar also used Acta when he wanted to weaken the power of the senate by exposing his own populistic views. In addition, money was involved in this early news media, since a few Romans noticed that, by copying, spreading and selling it onwards, they could make a profit.
Jukka Kortti

8. Media and Everyday Life

Abstract
Social and mobile media are an essential part of the everyday life of the 2010s, especially among young people. Mobile phones and tablet computers, which have become integral, are used for maintaining social relationships, but also for entertainment and finding information. Reading has become more social. On the other hand, there have also been concerns that the internet harms reading, because it promotes short-sighted, meandering reading that is often limited to glancing. Although personal computer (PC) and mobile media are private in their actual use, unlike cinema or television their use in families also involves non-virtual social dimensions when parents seek to limit the use of mobile devices, or to use them as a tool of punishment by prohibiting their use. In any case, media in the twenty-first century are an essential part of a person’s everyday life. This phenomenon is not entirely new, of course, as media have shaped everyday life since the late nineteenth century at the latest. Academic interest in the subject is relatively new, however.
Jukka Kortti

9. The Cultural History Meanings of Media

Abstract
Before summing up the meanings and transformations of media in history as argued in this book, let us discuss the meanings of media particularly from the point of view of historical culture, as well as more broadly as a part of cultural history. After that, we will discuss the meanings of media as the shaper of worldviews. In addition, we will discuss how media have often been loaded with the ideals of a future society and culture, on one hand, and with the fears and concerns about where this development will lead us, on the other.
Jukka Kortti
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