Communication & Technology
Exam #1 (Take-Home)
Instructions: Answer only two of the questions below. Read the questions carefully, and answer all parts of the two you select.
• Exam is open-book, but you are not to discuss answers with classmates or anyone else. Each answer is (potentially) worth 50 pts. Expect to devote between 3 to 5 pages (typed, double spaced) to each answer. Spelling & grammar count. Be sure to indicate which questions you are answering. Put your name on each page, number the pages, and attach them with a paper clip or staple.
• Exams are to be turned in no later than noon, Friday March 30, in my mailbox in the entryway to Pleasants Hall. If you are late, your grade will be reduced.
1. Near the beginning of chapter 4 of her book When Old Technologies Were New, Marvin discusses
"the tendency of every age to read history backward from the present. We often see it as the process by which our ancestors looked for and gradually discovered us, rather than as a succession of distinct social visions. . . . We have banished from collective memory the variety of options a previous age saw spread before it. . . . " (p. 154).
At the end of the same chapter she states that technological
"apparatus intended to streamline, simplify, or otherwise enhance the conduct of familiar social routines may so reorganize them that they become new events" (190).
(a) First, explain what she means by each of these statements, using examples from the text (Marvin's assertions and/or original, primary sources as quoted by her). (b) Next, address whether you think these two views of historical change are consistent with one another. Either explore how they are related to each other, or present an argument to the effect that they aren't clearly related to one another, in either case supporting your views with evidence from the text.
2. Marvin entitles her last chapter "Annihilating Space, Time, and Difference" (p. 191). It is not unusual among communication experts to discuss electrical communication technologies in terms of the annihilation--or bridging--of time and space. But the annihilation of difference is quite another matter. (a) What are the differences Marvin is talking about? (b) How, according to her, were they "annihilated" in late nineteenth century expert and popular press discourses? (c) Does Marvin present evidence anywhere in the book that differences were sometimes emphasized rather than annihilated in the expert and popular press? Give detailed examples from the text to support all your answers.
3. In the first chapter of her book Marvin argues that electrical experts in the late-nineteenth century
"distinguished themselves from. . . an enthusiastic but electrically unlettered public by elevating the theoretical over the practical, the textual over the manual, and science over craft" (p. 61).
In a later chapter, she argues that a related way that these electrical experts distinguished themselves from laymen or popular science enthusiasts had to do with the way each group viewed the relationship between the body, nature and electricity:
"In popular science, or science as laymen understood it, the body was the reference point against which the whole world could be measured to make it comprehensible. . . . Popular electrical literature of the late nineteenth century attempted to anchor knowledge of electricity in sense perception and in nature experienced as a personal ally or enemy, a partner in a special and even magical. . . dialogue. [In contrast to this], expert culture. . . created its familiar electrical world out of formal theories and other print based techniques of disembodied reasoning with specialized literate formulas and procedures. In scientific and technical literature, expert authority rejected immediate sensory judgement, or direct experience of nature, as naïve empiricism" (p. 110-111)
(a) First, carefully explain exactly what you think Marvin means in the first quote, supporting your argument with quotes/paraphrases from the text.
(b) Next, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Marvin's argument in the second quote, again being careful to support your critique with evidence from the text.
4. In discussing social effects of new communication technologies, Marvin argues that "since communicative practices always express social patterning, any perceived shift in communication strikes the social nerve by strengthening or weakening familiar structures of association" (p. 233). In class we discussed these issues in terms of ways that people felt they had gained or lost control over their own lives and over other people because of the technologies, as expressed in some of the stories Marvin has collected. a) Discuss specific ways that people felt the technologies both enhanced and endangered existing social patterns/control in at least two areas (choose from domestic life, romance, class norms, business, government, or crime control, etc.). Support your answer with quotes/paraphrases from Marvin, giving page numbers. b) Give at least two examples of ways that specific modern or new technologies are currently a focus for concerns about control or loss of control, citing sources from your modern tech scrapbook to support your point.