A Social History of American Technology Ruth Schwartz Cowan Oxford University Press 1997 The Communications revolution raises numerous troubling questions about issues of social control. Who should be in charge of all of the various technologies of the communications industry? Industry? Government? Individuals?
And who gets to control the broadcasting of information over the airwaves? After all, the air belongs to everyone!
The first issues of control had to do with patents
Wireless telephony Why limit the communications opportunities to people who knew Morse code? The Titanic sinking, and reports of the dead and missing by numerous operators prompted the newspapers to demand government regulation of wireless communication.
Wireless broadcasting: Radio The Radio Licensing act of 1912 was passed as a means of allocating the frequency spectrum. But! “ a plan of development which would make radio a household utility in the same sense as the piano or phonograph.”
Radio began to escalate in popularity, and so did the problems of control: actors and singers wanted to get paid record companies thought their record sales would fall composers wanted their share of the royalties Station employees wanted to get paid too How to monetize all this?
Sell air time of course! in 1922 WEAF in New York City played the first income producing message – a 10 Minute message describing the advantages of co-op apartments in Queens
Censorship – another form of control? Wolfman Jack
And then came television And cable And satellite dish And mobile And internet convergence What are the implications for control today? What will they be in the future?