Book Title: Speaking into the Air : A History of the Idea of Communication
Author: Gregory J. Shepherd
Format: Paperback | 304 pages
Publication Date: 01 Dec 2001
In contemporary debates, communication is variously invoked as a panacea for the problems of both democracy and love, as a dream of a new information society brought about by new technologies, and as a wistful ideal of human relations. How, and why, did communication come to shoulder the load it carries? In John Durham Peters's work, the teachings of Socrates and Jesus, the theology of Saint Augustine, the political philosophy of Locke, and the American tradition from Emerson through William James all become relevant for understanding communication in our age. Peters finds that thinkers across the centuries have struggled with the same questions - how we can hope for contact with others, what has become of human beings in increasingly technological times, how new modes of communication have altered the ways the world is imagined and how we relate to others - and he weaves intellectual history and communications history together. The book traces the yearning for contact not only through philosophy and literature but also by exploring the cultural reception of communication technologies from the telegraph to the radio.
The history of communication, Peters shows, is not a triumphant progress toward global harmony but rather a collection of uncanny devices that conjure angels, spirits and alien intelligences. His is an account of a complex concept that has both shaped us and been shaped by us.