Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication

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9780226662763: Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication
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In contemporary debates, communication is variously invoked as a panacea for the problems of both democracy and love, as a dream of a new information society brought about by new technologies, and as a wistful ideal of human relations. How, and why, did communication come to shoulder the load it carries? In John Durham Peters's work, the teachings of Socrates and Jesus, the theology of Saint Augustine, the political philosophy of Locke, and the American tradition from Emerson through William James all become relevant for understanding communication in our age. Peters finds that thinkers across the centuries have struggled with the same questions - how we can hope for contact with others, what has become of human beings in increasingly technological times, how new modes of communication have altered the ways the world is imagined and how we relate to others - and he weaves intellectual history and communications history together. The book traces the yearning for contact not only through philosophy and literature but also by exploring the cultural reception of communication technologies from the telegraph to the radio. The history of communication, Peters shows, is not a triumphant progress toward global harmony but rather a collection of uncanny devices that conjure angels, spirits and alien intelligences. His is an account of a complex concept that has both shaped us and been shaped by us.

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About the Author:

John Durham Peters is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa.

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Communication plays a vital and unique role in society-often blamed for problems when it breaks down and at the same time heralded as a panacea for human relations. A sweeping history of communication, "Speaking Into the Air" illuminates our expectations of communication as both historically specific and a fundamental knot in Western thought.

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ISBN 10:  0226662772 ISBN 13:  9780226662770
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, 2001
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