Call for Abstracts Special Issue of History and Technology
A New History of the Telephone: Inter-medial/Inter-technological and Transnational Perspectives
Guest editors: Gabriele Balbi and Christiane Berth
The history of the telephone has often been written from a single-medium and national perspective. Histories of the telephone are mainly based on national case studies and do not connect this device with other technologies. Consequently, it is time to advance the historiography of the telephone in two directions. This special issue aims to reconsider the history of the landline and mobile telephone by placing it in an inter-medial/inter-technological and transnational perspective. This means that contributions should (re)read the history of this medium considering first its relationship to other fields of technology, for example, the area of communication or transportation. Second, we invite contributions that examine how the telephone has included, excluded, or even fought contemporary technologies in different times and across different geographical spaces. Thus, we are seeking pieces that explore the telephone’s interactions with different technologies and different cultures from the late 19th through the early 21st century, welcoming also a longue durée perspective.
This special issue addresses different theoretical aims: first, it aims to merge media and telecommunications studies, two branches that have frequently been kept separated. Media history has often been interpreted as mass media history, focusing on the press and broadcasting, while adopting mainly institutional and cultural studies perspectives. Telecommunications history, on the other side, is a field mainly explored by historians of technology and business so it has often focused on the technical or economical dimensions of networks. This special issue would like to offer a convergence of the history of mass media with the history of the telephone. In general, media convergence is considered a late 20th-century phenomenon and an effect of digitization. On the contrary, we aim to demonstrate that forms of convergences among different technologies were already happening in the late 19th and early 20th century thanks to the telephone.
Second, media convergence is linked with inter-mediality or inter-technology. Media scholars agree on the fact that different media are all interrelated and analyze this phenomenon as inter-medial or media system logic. This inter-medial and inter-technological element is the dominant theme of this special issue. For example, the history of mobile telecommunications needs to consider interactions with the history of landline telephones, wireless telegraphs, computers, and the web as well as photography and phonography in terms of sound storing. Thus, communication media cannot be studied in isolation. By contrast, their economic, technical, sociocultural, and even anthropological dimensions can only be understood in the context of the media systems in which they play an integral role. At the same time, the history of the telephone needs to be studied in the context of the non-communication technologies that shape it. Indeed, technologies, apparently unrelated and far from telephony, can shape governmental policies, business strategies, technological networks, and users’ experiences. Keeping the example of the history of mobile phone, we need to consider it in connection with trains, cars, planes, and electrical networks.
Finally, this special issue will introduce telephone history as a transnational, “entangled” history. This means analyzing historical interactions in the context of capitalism, colonialism, and decolonialism, multinational enterprise, development cooperation, (neo)liberalism, and privatization of everyday life. Especially in the second half of the twentieth century, political interventions were aimed at reducing inequalities in access to telecommunication. Again, inter-technological interactions were important, as the satellite provided new opportunities for rural telephony. However, the mobile phone closed the gap in many world regions in the late twentieth century.
Contributors can come from a wide range of disciplines, such as media and communication studies, telecommunications, political economy, political sciences, cultural studies, history, or geography. We are especially interested in papers that combine a broad theoretical analysis with historical case studies. We also invite authors to reflect from an interdisciplinary perspective on transnational perspectives and inter-technological methodology.
- Abstracts of 250 words can be submitted to guest editors until December 31, 2017 and the selected ones will be notified by January 15, 2018.
- Accepted authors will have to submit a full paper of no more than 7,500 words by May 2018. All papers will undergo a double-blind peer-review process.
- The issue is scheduled for publication in Spring 2019.