This book is a reworking and updating of material originally published in 1986 (Misunderstanding Media). I then essayed a polemic against the rhetoric of the Information Revolution grounded in a history, necessarily both synthetic and revisionist, of the central technologies of that supposed event. This current work is the other way round in that it again offers that history, mainly of electronic communications from telegraphy to holography, but now does so centrally with the anti-technicist polemic in the supporting role.
From the 1970s on I was increasingly aware of a gap between the rhetoric of runaway technological change and the reality of my professional life as a media worker and teacher. Working with film and teaching film-making when videotape was supposed to have wiped out that technology spurred a central thought that change was occurring more slowly than was (and is) commonly believed.
In synthesising the histories of these technologies I have obviously relied extensively on the work of others but my understanding owes more than can be adequately footnoted to colleagues and friends at New York University a decade and more ago—especially William Boddy, Michelle Hilmes, Aaron Nmugwen, Mitchell Moss and Martin Elton. Svein Bergum and Jimmy Weaver, members of my seminar group on technology and ideology at that time, were especially supportive as were others both at NYU and elsewhere including Daniel Zwanziger, Bernard Abramson, Robert Horwitz, Herb Schiller, Janet Staeger, Michael Wreen, Steve Scheuer and Nick Hart-Williams. The Interactive Telecommunications Programme at NYU was a crucial forum, especially for testing the validity of early versions of the model proposed in the Introduction and applied throughout this book.
My two commuter friends on the AMTRACK Hudson Valley line, Wayne Barden and Frederick Houston, helped me refine the legal points I wanted to make. (I am still grateful to ‘Mo’ Fink and the other AMTRACK conductors for making that period of commuting when I was doing much of my early reading for