In the Company of Media: Cultural Constructions of Communication, 1920s-1930s

In the Company of Media: Cultural Constructions of Communication, 1920s-1930s

In the Company of Media: Cultural Constructions of Communication, 1920s-1930s

In the Company of Media: Cultural Constructions of Communication, 1920s-1930s

Synopsis

In the Company of Media advances the idea of a new media history that has its roots in the cultural discourse of society where it privileges the articulation of media uses and practices. It contains a number of essays that address the rise of new technologies- such as radio and photography- and the transformation of old ones- such as newspapers- during the 1920s and 1930s, a period of social and political change in the United States, Germany, and the Soviet Union. How do artists, writers, and journalists articulate a new media culture? What happens when media are separated from their institutional definitions and reconstructed in ways that reflect the specific needs or purposes of their users? And what are the images of media that appear in the respective public narratives of a culture?The book offers examples of cultural constructions of communication in a modern world. They range from the place of newspapers in urban America, the transformation of news work in the Soviet Union, and the conditions of photojournalism in Germany, to explanations of radio, both in the United States and Germany. The resulting texts- informed by artistic expressions and social commentaries- constitute surface phenomena of a culture in the margins of dominant explanations of media uses and practices. Their appearance constitutes the articulated consciousness of an increasing media presence in the discourse of society and is a response to the rise of new means of communication. By proffering the potential of a decentered media history, the book suggests a turn from institutional explanations to cultural expressions of media uses and practices at specific historical moments of a societal discourse.

Excerpt

This collection of essays focuses on the cultural constructions of public modes of communication in the United States, Germany, and the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, decades of expansion and transformation of the public sphere in those countries. It was a time when capitalist reconstructions of the media -- or socialist transformations, for that matter -- combined with literary, artistic, and professional innovations to reshape post-World War I realities.

Knowledge about communication in society arises from the lived experience of individuals, whose encounter with the means of communication defines their uses, and in ways that enhance our understanding of particular cultures. There are several ways of locating media in the course of an epoch. Constitutive texts -- such as institutional histories -- about the role and function of media in various cultures reveal a good deal about their uses, practices, and ideological foundations. If we move beyond the dominant forms of historical narrative about the institutional media, the focus shifts to issues such as the position of media workers, the idea of work, and class. Visiting ordinary sites of cultural discourse discloses public perceptions and definitions of the uses and practices of media in the routines of everyday life, the media's social, political, and economic context as manifested in individual desires and collective needs. These structures of feeling, as Raymond Williams has called them, provide the framework for the examination of cultural phenomena in this collection of essays.

The rise of modern media institutions is a cultural consequence of technological innovations that reverberate in the social, economic, and political environments.

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