Radio: Essays in Bad Reception

Radio: Essays in Bad Reception

Radio: Essays in Bad Reception

Radio: Essays in Bad Reception

Synopsis

In a wide-ranging, cross-cultural, and transhistorical assessment, John Mowitt examines radio's central place in the history of twentieth-century critical theory. A communication apparatus that was a founding technology of twentieth-century mass culture, radio drew the attention of theoretical and philosophical writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, and Frantz Fanon, who used it as a means to disseminate their ideas. For others, such as Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, and Raymond Williams, radio served as an object of urgent reflection. Mowitt considers how the radio came to matter, especially politically, to phenomenology, existentialism, Hegelian Marxism, anticolonialism, psychoanalysis, and cultural studies. The first systematic examination of the relationship between philosophy and radio, this provocative work also offers a fresh perspective on the role this technology plays today.

Excerpt

The object in question has two aspects, and it will help if I begin by distinguishing them. At one level, “the object” designates the cultural technology of radio itself. At issue is not exactly the thing called a radio, for a radio can be reduced to the status of a thing only if regarded as an appliance, a component of a home entertainment system, however modest. As has been argued by others, radio is composed of certain techniques of listening, a diffused network of social interaction, an industrialized medium of entertainment, a corporate or state system of public communication, in short an unwieldy array of cultural institutions and practices. in this it bears striking resemblance to what film scholars sought to capture in the term apparatus when applied, not to film as such, but to the institution of the cinema. Thus an important aspect of what I am doing bears on radio as a cultural technology, an apparatus, with a social and political history. in this I am channeling an intellectual tradition that reaches back to Bertolt Brecht, Hadley Cantril, Gordon Allport, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno, all of whom in the 1930s and 1940s attempted to theorize the distinctive sociopolitical history of radio.

At another level, “the object” also designates the aim or purpose of a field of scholarly inquiry called radio studies by its partisans. At stake here is not the question of why one might study radio but rather the question of what this new disciplinary project hopes to gain by studying radio in the way that it does. Thus an equally important aspect of what . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.