CRD701: History and Theory of Communication Technology

Department: Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Ph.D. Program
Institution: NC State University
Terms: Fall 2008

Historical and theoretical perspectives on technological change and its social implications provide a foundation for intensive study and critical analysis of new communication technologies. A grasp of the social, political and economic contexts in which technologies emerge allows the student to discern the way culture both shapes and is shaped by information and communication technologies. Course topics are thus chosen to broadly acquaint students with key historical moments in the history of technology. They provide a framework in which early theorizations of media and technology are studied to enrich current understanding of the Internet, mobile and wireless technologies as new media. The course also provides grounding in a range of theorizations to give the student a broad overview of the multiplicity of approaches and methods that can aid investigations of technological change in social contexts. These include concepts such as mobility, hybridity of spaces, interfaces, database, information and materiality.

This graduate seminar explores new media as agents of change in cultural, social, and spatial infrastructures. By remembering that every media was once new, and that we need new theory to conceptualize new media, students will investigate how the emergence of new interfaces change communication relationships, information dissemination, reading practices, and consequently the way we think about the world and ourselves. Having in mind that each media reflects old media, but also brings up the new, one must learn how to critically think about each new medium by taking into consideration its specific characteristics.

In the first part of the course, we will study from a philosophical and historical perspective some main concepts necessary to understand new media, such as mobility, space, interface and information. A global understanding of these concepts will help us to theorize new media in the contemporary society. The second part of the course is dedicated to exploring old forms of media as new media, such as the printing press, 19th century technologies, and mass media. We will look at how every media causes and reflects social, spatial, and cultural shifts. Lastly, we will address current and emerging forms of new media, such as the web, electronic texts, gaming, and mobile technologies.