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[liberationtech] Suggestions for a course

Ben Peters bjpeters at
Thu Mar 10 00:21:37 PST 2011

Interesting question... here's a scatter shot of examples:

Anna Akhmatova once characterized Soviet samizdat as "extra-Gutenberg" and
there's work suggesting underground peer-to-peer
self-publication/circulation in the early Soviet Union could be read as a
cultural practice of gift-giving--an idea with contested revolutionary
potential taken up in other contexts by people like Lewis
Hyde<>on gifts,creativity,
the commons <>.

Tom Standage documents the press fever surrounding the telegraph in The
Victorian Internet<>:
e.g., interstate wedding vows sent and made by Morse code may give Second
Life matrimony a run for its money.

Or there's James Carey's argument that the electric telegraph brought upon a
revolution by affording the "effective separation of communication from
transportation." For example, he argues that instantaneous electric
telegraph affords the rise of East Coast arbitrage markets, and sped
abstract monopoly capitalism--a point that may connect with concerns about
the global spread of corporate info tech, e-bay's effect on local markets,
the efficient market hypothesis and foreign policy, etc.

In the Railway Journey<>,
Wolfgang Schivelbusch interprets the press' pathological predictions of the
railway, which some thought would bring about (if I remember correctly)
brain defects, premature birth, and sterility, on the one hand, and
transnational freedoms of interaction and trade on the other.

Etc., etc.... (Plato's *Phaedrus *as an anachronistic comment on recording
technologies (like writing); cf. Nicholas Carr, who laments the loss of
literacy, not orality.)

I hope others keep sending more pertinent examples around, which I'm really
enjoying. Meanwhile, some other examples can be found in my bibliographic
case for new media



On Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 4:44 AM, A. Ross Johnson <arjohnson at>wrote:

> As one case, “jamming”  was widely used during the Cold War, and before
> and after,  by repressive regimes to block international radio broadcasts.
> A good overview is George Woodard’s chapter,  “Cold War Jamming” in
> Johnson and Parta, eds., Cold War Broadcasting; Impact on the Soviet Union
> and Eastern Europe.  A Collection of Studies and Documents (CEU Press,
> 2010), pp. 51-66.
> Audio samples of  different kinds of jamming, along with other
> information,  may be found at, a site created by
> Rimantas Pleikys of Lithuania, perhaps the leading authority on radio
> jamming.  Hoover Archives has a 1976 recording made in Prague of jamming
> of the RFE Czechoslovak Service.
> Best regards,
> A Ross Johnson
> Hoover Institution and Woodrow Wilson Center
> *From:* liberationtech-bounces at [mailto:
> liberationtech-bounces at] *On Behalf Of *S Vivek
> *Sent:* Wednesday, March 09, 2011 6:15 PM
> *To:* liberationtech at
> *Subject:* [liberationtech] Suggestions for a course
> Hello all,
> I recently joined Stanford University and I will be teaching a course with
> Prof. Larry Diamond here shortly.  My course is entitled "Internet, public
> action and development" and I will be dealing with a variety of ways in
> which the Net can potentially enable/curtail/influence public action.  In
> order to put things in perspective, I wish to provide students with
> interesting news articles on radio, telephone an other communication
> technologies at a time they were being developed.  The idea is to reflect
> today's themes such as the internet being open, various forms of struggle to
> control communication systems, etc.  I wanted to ask you all if there are
> pieces that you found striking that I should recommend to my students.  It
> would be a great pedagogical tool, and I would appreciate any suggestions
> that you may have.
> Thank you,
> Warm regards
> S Vivek
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