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35.1 - Global Communication

Special Issue
Mixed Issue.
HSR Vol. 35 (2010) No. 1: Special Issue: Global Communication

Roland Wenzlhuemer (Hrsg.): Global Communication: Telecommunication and Global Flows of Information in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

In the middle of the nineteenth century, electric telegraphy emerged as the first fully-fledged system of telecommunication. The global flow of dematerialized information carried by a network of submarine and overland telegraph lines challenged the established relationship between time and space (or at least so it seemed) and detached human interaction from co-locality or proximity. By bringing geographically distant and socio-culturally diverse places in touch, telecommunication technologies helped to manifest a placeless global sphere and co-shaped globalization processes. They can do so because they directly affect the very constituents of globalization: global exchanges, movements, transfers, flows. For instance, the telegraph changed the nature of news reporting; it impacted on business and administrative language (and via this detour ultimately on language in general); it separated the global flow of short and decisive information from that of more profound background information; and, of course, it created new asymmetries and divides due to the uneven structure of its network and other access barriers.

In short, the telegraph and later the telephone transformed the nature of many forms of global interaction and introduced a new logic, new actors, new places and new practices to this realm. This volume seeks to highlight the complex role of telecommunication and its networks in nineteenth-century globalization processes—a role that has often been reduced to furthering imperial control and international business. The contributions in this special issue do not ignore these two traditional perspectives but primarily seek to illuminate new and previously understudied aspects of the relation between telecommunication and globalization.