[Humanist] 26.999 imagining the new?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Apr 28 12:49:02 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 999.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                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?



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);

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