READING QUESTIONSMarvin, Carolyn. 1988. When Old Technologies Were New.
(Intro, Chap. 1 & 2)
- Marvin states that her study will focus especially on two communication technologies. What are the two?
- What do you think of her choice? For example, do you think these are important technologies? Why or why not? Does the classification of either of them as communication technology seem problematic?
- Marvin contrasts her perspective in examining the history of technologies to ones which frame their arguments in terms of "the evolution of technical efficiencies in communication" (p.4). What kinds of issues does she state she will focus on instead?
- Closely related to the issues of question 3, above, Marvin also argues against approaches that "derive social practice from media artifact" (p. 7). What do you think she means by this, and how does Marvin herself characterize the relationship between "new media" and "new practices" (p.5)?
- What does Marvin mean by "cultural codes?" (p. 8).
Chapter 1: "Inventing the Expert"
- Who are the "experts" of the chapter title?
- What was the nature of the "retooling of American industry" at the end of the 19th century, according to Marvin?
- What are the social status issues the electrical experts grappled with, according to Marvin?
- What does Marvin mean by "technological literacy," as mentioned in the chapter sub-title, and dealt with throughout the chapter? Who stressed technological literacy, and why?
- In this vein, what are the "four communities' whom the electricians of "the late nineteenth century" saw themselves as addressing, according to Marvin?
- Who characterized one of these communities as "public library electricians," and what did they mean by this term, according to Marvin?
- How did the experts frame their social status concerns in terms of insiders and outsiders? That is, who were the insiders, and who was likely to be stigmatized as outsider, and why did the experts focus on these particular groups?
- Find examples in the chapter of at least three different groups who were mocked by the insiders to advance their own authority claims. That is, find quotes Marvin has included from primary sources to support her argument that this group was stigmatized as "outsiders".
- How did issues of language enter into electrical experts' quest for social authority, according to Marvin?
- According to Marvin, the electrical experts displayed some ambivalence to feats of "electrical magic." In what ways, and why?
Chapter 2: "Community and Class Order"
- What promises and fears about the social order does Marvin find in her primary source literature? Find examples of several different types.
- What are the dynamics of the ‘new’ electrical technologies as presented in the literature with regard to: a) family life; b) social class & ethnic groups; c) crime and criminals; d) politics?
- How would you explain the material in this chapter in terms of issues of power and control?