[Humanist] 26.1000 imagining the new

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Apr 29 06:56:19 CEST 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 1000.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Prescott, Andrew" <andrew.prescott at kcl.ac.uk>            (87)
        Subject: Re:  26.999 imagining the new?

  [2]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (15)
        Subject: Re:  26.999 imagining the new?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 12:26:55 +0000
        From: "Prescott, Andrew" <andrew.prescott at kcl.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  26.999 imagining the new?
        In-Reply-To: <20130428104902.647C32CF8 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Willard,

Your account of the possibilities imagined for television bring to mind the similar speculations about the use of the telephone quoted by Charles Henry in his 1995 paper 'Dancing to the Telephone: Network Demands and Opportunities' (available at: http://www.uky.edu/~kiernan/DL/chuck.html)

'In 1876, in the journal Nature, a new technology called the telephone was described, with some predictions of its future use. Mr. Bell's invention could "at a distance, repeat on one or more pianos the air played by a similar instrument at the point of departure. There is a possibility here...of a curious use of electricity. When we are going to have a dancing party, there will be no need to provide a musician. By paying a subscription to an enterprising individual who will, no doubt, come forward to work this vein, we can have from him a waltz, a quadrille, or a gallop, just as we desire. Simply turn a bell handle, as we do the cock of a water or gas pipe and we shall be supplied with what we want. Perhaps our children may find the thing simple enough" (Aronson, 23)'.

Which seems very exotic - but isn't Spotify in essence precisely what is described here?

Andrew

Professor Andrew Prescott FRHistS 
Head of Department 
Department of Digital Humanities 
King's College London 
26-29 Drury Lane 
London WC2B 5RL 
@ajprescott 
www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/ddh 
digitalriffs.blogspot.com 
+44 (0)20 7848 2651 

On 28 Apr 2013, at 11:49, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 999.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 09:16:42 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: imagining the new
> 
> In the Introduction to Electronic Television (Chicago: 
> Goodheart-Willcox, 1936) George H. Eckhardt wrote as follows:
> 
>> Here is something new. A new science and a new art is springing up,
>> offering opportunity in many fields. A new form of entertainment in
>> the home, a new field of study for the radio amateur, and a new field
>> for the technician and engineer is also born. The veil has been
>> lifted, and electronic television makes its bow to the public and the
>> engineer.... (p. v)
> 
>> It seems best to look upon electronic television as a new art, an art
>> calling for a new technic all around -- new actors, new directors,
>> new technical men -- and everything else new. It must not be looked
>> upon as something that will take the place of anything now extant --
>> it is new. New engineers, new research men, a new type of trained
>> technical men, will be needed. Opportunities of many kinds will come
>> to the fore. Therefore, instead of thinking that electronic
>> television will displace this and that, and instead of comparing it
>> with radio and motion pictures, it is to be regarded as the beginning
>> of a new, and added, means of education, diversion, and
>> entertainment; and it is to be looked upon as a wide new field for
>> employment both in industry and the arts.  (p. xiii)
> 
> Eckhardt refers to "electronic television" to distinguish it from 
> electro-mechanical devices under that name commercially available 
> several years earlier. A survey of the covers of the magazine Radio 
> News, under the editorship of Hugo Gernsback (who coined the term 
> "scientifiction", which became "science fiction", and started the 
> magazine Amazing Stories) shows that a number of new things were being 
> imagined, some of which were later realised, some not. (See 
> www.magazineart.org for these covers.) In particular television was 
> imagined as a one-to-one medium (e.g. April 1924, May 1926), in one case 
> (September 1928) with a mouse-like device to select exhibited goods, in 
> another (June 1927) as something capable of projecting images from a 
> "phonograph record", like a DVD.
> 
> I find Eckhardt's insistence on the new especially worth thinking about. 
> What would you say is new in his radical sense for the digital machine? 
> And what about the things that didn't happen which were imagined?
> 
> Comments?
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> 
> -- 
> Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
> the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Professor, School of Humanities and Communication Arts,
> University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist (dhhumanist.org);
> www.mccarty.org.uk/



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 14:42:25 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.999 imagining the new?
        In-Reply-To: <20130428104902.647C32CF8 at digitalhumanities.org>


What's interesting to me about Eckhardt's definition of the new is that it
even occupies a new space -- it doesn't replace anything that came before
it; rather, it exists alongside them. He's thinking specifically of
television and its relationship to radio and film, and he is absolutely
right. Television didn't replace radio and film, and neither have gone
away, not even in forms recognizable to Eckhardt in the 1930s (though new
forms have arisen alongside them, such as watching films and listening to
radio on our phones and iPads, and being truly new, they don't replace what
came before).

I think what's most beneficial here is that it might give us ways to think
about digital humanities -- we shouldn't think of distant reading as
replacing close reading, for example, but as existing alongside it. Distant
reading isn't necessarily "new," but it's certainly a more readily
accessible practice now.

Jim R





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