Sunday, August 07, 2005

"When new technologies come along, they provoke a political question."

Source: Paul Starr, author of The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications, On the Media Interview with Brooke Gladstone, 30 April 2004, rebroadcast 7 August 2005.

Context from the transcript:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, in your book, over and over again you demonstrate that, contrary to what I think is the popular opinion today, it wasn't the technology that pushed forward how we have our national conversation -- that the ground was already tilled for that kind of communication before the technology came along.

PAUL STARR: Well, what I suggest in this book is that when new technologies come along, they provoke a political question -- how is this new medium going to be handled? Is it going to be private? Is it going to be public? Is it going to be a military technology? What will be the basic purposes that it serves? And so Europe and America often dealt with the same technology in very different ways. When the electric telegraph first appeared, the Europeans treated it as a military technology. We treated it as a commercial technology. The telephone, same thing. There was a period in the 1890s, early 1900s when there were hundreds of little mutual telephone companies, independent telephone cooperatives that were established, and telephones spread much more widely, much faster in America than elsewhere.