The Creation of the Media

by Eszter Hargittai on June 11, 2004

I have been meaning to blog about this forever, but have not found the kind of time a post about this deserves. Since there will be a CSPAN2 airing of a related talk tomorrow, I thought I would pass on the longer serious post and just mention the book and speech so people have the opportunity to take advantage of the broadcast.

A new book that should be of interest to many readers of CT is Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications. I should say up front that Paul was one of my advisors in graduate school so I am not a completely objective observer here. In fact, Paul has influenced my thinking about IT quite a bit. First, he is great at conveying the idea that studying communication media without a historical context is extremely problematic. Ignoring history is the best way to make unrealistically optimistic or pessimistic assumptions about the potential implications of a new technology. Second, he convincingly argues – as he lays out in great detail in his book – that ignoring the role of political decisions in the evolution of a communication medium misses a major part of the picture. There was a review of the book in The New York Times Book Review last weekend and the New Yorker had a piece a few weeks ago as well.

Paul Starr gave this year’s Van Zelst Lecture at the School of Communication at Northwestern last month. His talk will be aired on CPAN2 tomorrow, June 12th at 10:59am (EST). Paul is a great speaker and extremely careful and engaged scholar so viewers are in for a treat. I highly recommend catching the broadcast and reading the book!



brayden 06.12.04 at 5:26 pm

It is a great book – historically interesting and theoretically insightful. I think one of Starr’s most convincing arguments is that the “market” for information could not have flourished as well as it did in the U.S. without the government subsidization of communication mediums and promotion of voice plurality. The best way to create a free and engaging press was to ensure that the little guys didn’t get eaten up by the big guys. The current FCC leadership should read this book and learn a lesson or two.


eszter 06.12.04 at 10:58 pm

The book doesn’t get into this as it stops with the late 30s, but in the Q&A after the talk Paul did mention the relevance of this work for questions about FCC deregulation. I agree, people in the telecom/media policy world today should definitely read this book.

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