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Like McLuhan, Benjamin was positive about new technologies, emphasizing their liberating, democratizing influences. This put him at odds with the dominant elitist strain of modernism of the early 20th century. Like Baudrillard (who does admit he owes a debt to him), Benjamin saw that the new media of his day were fundamentally altering the relations between signifying systems in society and reality, and were doing so by a process of simulation. Benjamin's work remains the bedrock for a cohort of cultural and critical theorists, from Georges Bataille to Paul Virilio. -- http://www.geneseo.edu/~bicket/panop/benjamin.htm [2003]


The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives. --The American Heritage® Dictionary

History of technology

The history of technology is as old as the history of humanity, since humans have nearly always used tools to feed and protect themselves. The history of technology, therefore, is the history of natural resources, because our tools come from the earth. The history of technology follows a progression from simple tools and simple energy sources to complex tools and complex energy sources. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology#History_of_technology [Nov 2005]

Culture and technology

The history of culture has been shaped by the history of technology. More on the relationship between technology and culture here.

Effects of movable type printing on culture

The discovery and establishment of the printing of books with moveable type marks a paradigm shift in the way information was transferred in Europe. The impact of printing is comparable to the development of language, the invention of the alphabet, and the invention of the computer as far as its effects on the society. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press#Effects_of_printing_on_culture [Jan 2005]

Gutenberg's findings not only allowed a much broader audience to read Martin Luther's German translation of Bible, it also helped spread Luther's other writings, greatly accelerating the pace of Protestant Reformation. They also led to the establishment of a community of scientists (previously scientists were mostly isolated) that could easily communicate their discoveries, bringing on the scientific revolution. Also, although early texts were printed in Latin, books were soon produced in common European vernacular, leading to the decline of the Latin language. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press#Effects_of_printing_on_culture [Jan 2005]

Music and technology

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, he accidentally invented the music industry. The last thing on the inventor's mind was using his new device to record music. He figured there was a better market in dictation equipment that could record contracts and business letters. Recordings don't lie, he said.

In fact, he resisted music as the "killer app" for the new technology, until competitors proved there was a market for it -- a big one.

So big, in fact, that nobody who made or listened to music could ignore the phonograph and the industry it created. Songwriters shortened their compositions so they'd fit on one side of a 78 rpm record. Singers worked on their projection and enunciation so that the primitive recording technology would render their voices at least halfway decently. And fans got into more kinds of music than many had ever known even existed. --Rick Karr, TechnoPop The Secret History of Technology and Pop Music, http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2002/technopop/


  1. Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century (2002) - Hans-Joachim Braun (Editor) [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    From the Publisher
    "A surprisingly good read, with a depth and coherence . . . Pays attention to both sound production and sound recording, as well as economic and social factors that have shaped the 20th century music industry . . . This is a very strong collection written by leading researchers in the field."—Mark Clark, ICON, Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology

    About the Author: Hans-Joachim Braun is a professor of modern social, economic, and technological history at the Universität der Bundeswehr in Hamburg, Germany.

    Technology has always been inseparable from the development of music. But in the twentieth century a rapid acceleration took place: a new "machine music" came into existence, electronic musical instruments appeared, and composers sometimes seemed more like sound technicians than musicians. In this book Hans-Joachim Braun and his co-authors offer a wide-ranging and fascinating look at the relationship of technology and modern music. Topics range from the role of Yamaha in Japan's musical development to the social construction of the synthesizer; from the player piano as precursor of computer music to the musical role of airplanes and locomotives; from the growth of one independent recording studio (from "Polka to Punk") to the origins of the 45–RPM record. Other chapters consider violin vibrato and the phonograph, Jimi Hendrix, and the aesthetic challenge of soundsampling. The book concludes with a look at the current situation, and perspectives for its future in! electronic music. Contributors: Barbara Barthelmes, Karin Bijsterveld, Hans-Joachim Braun, Martha Brech, Hugh Davies, Bernd Enders, Geoffrey Hindley, Jüergen Hocker, Mark Katz, Tatsuya Kobayashi, James P. Kraft, Alexander B. Magoun, Rebecca McSwain, Andre Millard, Helga de la Motte-Haber, Trevor Pinch, Susan Schmidt-Horning, and Frank Trocco. --Book Description via amazon.com

  2. The Machine Age in America 1918-1941 - Richard Guy Wilson, Dianne H. Pilgrim, Dickran Tashjian, Dickaran Tashjian [Amazon.com]
    The Brooklyn Museum of Art presents a reprint of the catalogue to its benchmark 1986 exhibit The Machine Age in America: 1918-1941 by scholars Richard Guy Wilson, Dianne H. Pilgrim and Dickran Tashjian. Following on the culture-crit assertion that "the machine in all its many manifestations was the defining force in America during the years between the two great wars," the authors trace the era's aesthetic qualities in Buicks, Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Oskar J. Hansen's Ayn Randian sculpture Winged Figures of the Republic on the Hoover Dam, Berenice Abbott's photographs of steamships, Electrolux vacuum cleaners, Russell Wright's seminal flatware and furniture designs, Joseph Stella's vivid abstractions of the Brooklyn Bridge, and a host of other art works and utilitarian objects. Pop and material culture lovers will swoon over the 410 illustrations (55 in full color) and the erudite essays.

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