Welcome to Communication Studies 302: Communication in History. This course is meant to help you situate the history of communication technology in Western society; it does this by focusing separately on specific technologies at particular moments, and then revisiting those technologies at other moments. In this way, the course highlights important and recurring themes in the invention, introduction, and establishment of such technologies as writing, the printing press, photography, the telegraph, the telephone, film, radio, television, and the computer. The course also suggests the interplay among these technologies. Finally, Communication in History introduces some of the debates about the relations between communication technologies and the people who use them.
Communication Studies 302 is based on several assumptions. The first is that communication technologies result from the complex needs of humans to create meaning and symbolic interaction. The second is that the technologies we develop are closely linked to our patterns of thinking and acting—that we invent technologies because of the way we are as human beings, and that the technologies, in turn, affect the way we are. Third, the course assumes that these patterns of innovation, adoption, renewal, and change both affect and are affected by socio-political structures. Included in this third assumption is the idea that we seldom abandon one technology for another, but tend to re-situate them in relation to one another according to our needs. As one technology is invented, it seldom replaces previous technology, but coexists with it, subsumes it, causes it (or its uses) to alter. Finally, the course assumes that, if these connections between human communication technology and human patterns of thought and action hold, then studying the history of communication is central to the study of human history.