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History of Media

Ubiquitous Media

Such macroscopic accounts of media history must be balanced against the increasing amount of scholarship devoted to unearthing and revaluing the histories of specific moments in the history of media. Many textbooks and most popular print, online, and televisual accounts of media history share the linear model of progress (for example, color is an advance on black and white, sound an advance on silent cinema) and a focus on individual contributions. Historians engaged in revaluing the evolution of specific technologies like cinema sound (Crafton) and widescreen technologies (Belton) have made clear the nonlinear evolution of media technologies and techniques, while individual careers have been revalued in the context of publicity campaigns and the emergence of research and development as a core activity of communications industries since the late nineteenth century.

Increasingly, major corporations have been seen as agents of historical change (see, for example, Sanjek and Sanjek), and companies like the BBC and Disney have both official and unofficial historians publishing on them. The digital media have spawned a publishing industry devoted to histories of companies, sectors, software, infrastructure, components, and research institutes. The United Kingdom was the first country to produce a multivolume history of its cinema industry, begun by Rachel Low in 1948. Similar projects now exist or are in progress for many other countries, including France, Germany, and the United States, while loose groupings of researchers are advancing parallel projects on print and electronic media in a number of countries around the world.

The history of print media has been revolutionized by the work of Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, Roger Chartier, and Elizabeth Eisenstein, among others, and the role of print in the colonizing and decolorizing processes has attracted especially significant work. Less obvious media formations such as news agencies have also attracted both company and sector histories. Much work has been done to refocus the broad-brush approach to the transition from oral to literary cultures in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Polynesia, and major work has been undertaken on the links between media, the relations between media and transport technologies, and shared infrastructures like libraries. Such patient and passionate archival research has made it far more difficult to generalize or to repeat unexamined truisms. This has been particularly important to activists and scholars of the globalization process and the transitions from state-run to commercial models of print and broadcasting.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mathematics to Methanal trimerHistory of Media - Periodization, Technology And The "general Accident", Historical And Technological Media, Ubiquitous Media, Current Studies In Media History