The following three chapters will focus on the historical emergence and development of three major technologies of culture, defined by the processes of mechanical, electronic and micro-electronic reproduction. Together, these technologies comprise the principal institutions and techniques by which specialised groups disseminate symbolic content to large, heterogeneous and geographically dispersed audiences in contemporary societies. The three chapters are ordered chronologically in terms of the moment of appearance of the technology upon which they focus in order to chart the productive history of the means of cultural production.
In general, this history will be presented in terms of the development of the organisation of the means of communication and the social relations of their cycles of production, distribution and reception, that is, their modes of reproduction. More particularly, each means of production will be investigated in terms of the relationship between the two more specific meanings of reproduction identified earlier, that is, between the technical potential of copying that they employ, and the relations between producers and audiences that they make possible.
This task is initially approached through a discussion of the impact of technologies of culture on reproducibility in the first sense, that is, ease of technical copying, but cannot be reduced to this level: technical invention does not itself lead to new cultural and social institutions and practices. Indeed, a technical invention as such has comparatively little social significance; it is only when it is selected for investment towards production, and when it is consciously developed for particular uses that it moves from being a technical invention to an available technology and