September 18, 2020

The Creation of the Media

I just finished reading “The Creation of the Media,” by Paul Starr, a sociology professor here at Princeton. This is an important book and I recommend it highly.

Starr traces the history of communications and the media in the U.S., from the 1700s until 1940. The major theme of the book is that the unique features of U.S. media derive from political choices made in the early days of each technology. These choices, once made, can be very difficult to unmake later – witness the challenges now in reconsidering the use of the radio spectrum. After reading Starr’s book, there can be little doubt that the choices we make now will shape the development of the Internet for a very long time.

For a concise summary of the book, it’s hard to beat the review in Sunday’s New York Times, by James Fallows.

In his limited space, Fallows leaves out one pattern noted by Starr that carries obvious lessons for us. When U.S. policy was at its best, it refused to give the titans of one technology control over the next technology that came along. For example, the Post Office was not given control of the telegraph; Western Union did not control the telephone; and AT&T was locked out of radio. The lessons for us now, when the masters of old technologies, such as the movies and recorded music, want to control Internet technologies, should be obvious.

Comments

  1. Milton Mueller’s Ruling the Rootis another (older, less panoramic) work in this genre.

    Gotta love the interdisciplinary work going on amongst specialists in legal theory/law/jurisprudence, sociology, institutional and microeconomics, CS and engineering.

  2. Chris Tunnell says:

    Amazon link

    [Note: I do not gain revenue, this link is straight from the site]

  3. The Creation of the Media

    Just ordered The Creation of the Media. Found it on Freedom to Tinker along with this pithy observation: In his limited space, Fallows leaves out one pattern noted by Starr that carries obvious lessons for us. When U.S. policy was…

  4. Peer-to-peer pressure

    Peer-to-peer networks could be banned by a forthcoming copyright bill in the Senate. Any company that makes technology that can be used for both legitimate and infringing sharing, and knows…