Susan Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting,
Introduction and Chapters 1 & 2
1. In the intro., Douglas states that "inventors. . . and institutions seeking to profit from wireless telegraphy had to succeed in three. . . arenas" (p. xix). What were these arenas, according to Douglas? How do you think they might be related?
2. Douglas states that her book is about "social construction of radio" (p. xvii). What do you think means by the quoted phrase?
3. What qualities characterized "the inventor-hero" (p. xxiv) as presented in the popular press, according to Douglas?
4. What, according to Douglas, was the socio-economic context for the development of radio at the turn of the century? (hint: she discusses this in terms of " the dominant institutional trends" of the era [p.xxi]).
5. Most of Douglas's book deals with what she sees as tensions between three groups: "independent inventors, the amateur operators and interested corporations" (xxiii). Based on what she tells us in this intro, what do you think the nature of those tensions might be?
6. What is the significance of the change of name from "wireless telegraphy" to "radio" for the technology Douglas studies (p. xxviii-xxix)?
1. This book is about the invention of radio. Why do you think Douglas basically opens the first chapter by describing the1899 celebration of Dewey's victory?
2. Who was Dewey, where was his victory, and who was it over?
3. What, according to Douglas, were the characteristics that the press of this era celebrated as heroic?
4. Do any of the themes/ideas Douglas touches on in this chapter strike you as similar to ones Marvin presented? Explain which ones, if any, and how they are similar.
5. Douglas discusses a "journalistic bias toward technological display" (p.22). What does she mean?
6. What was Marconi's family background? What were his educational credentials?
7. Why were members of the press so interested in wireless telegraphy, according to Douglas?
8. Much of Marconi's "invention" was derived from other people's discoveries. What aspects of it did Marconi himself actually develop"
9. How was Marconi's company organized?
10. How was wireless telegraphy characterized?
11. What were the characteristics of Marconi the hero in the popular press?
12. How extensively had Marconi's wireless telegraphy been used prior to the 1899 yacht races?
1. Again for this chapter, do any of the themes/ideas Douglas touches on strike you as similar to ones Marvin presented?
2. What were the weaknesses of Marconi's system in 1899, according to Douglas?
3. What, according to Douglas, were Marconi's personal sterngths and weaknesses as an inventor & entrepreneur, and how did he deal with them?
4. What is the significance of Marconi's "English patent number 7777" (p. 38)?
5. What were the problems with Marconi's "coherer" and how did he address them?
6. Who, according to Douglas, were Marconi's American competitors?
7. What was the background & personality of each of these competitors, according to Douglas, and in what ways were their backgrounds and personalities relevant to development of the technology?
8. What did each of these competitors work on/develop, and how did the approach of each differ from Marconi's?
9. What, according to Douglas, was Thomas "Edison's most far reaching invention" (p. 41)?
10. What new breakthrough was reported n newspapers on December 15, 1901? What were the difficulties leading up to the event? What was the reaction in the technological/expert press?