Telecommunication and Globalization: Information Flows in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

Telecommunication and Globalization: Information Flows in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

Junior Research Group “Asymmetries in Cultural Information Flows: Europe and South Asia in the Global Information Network since the Nineteenth Century” (headed by Dr Roland Wenzlhuemer) at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, University of Heidelberg
From - Until
24.09.2009 - 25.09.2009
Roland Wenzlhuemer

Globalization challenges the established relationship between time and space and detaches human interaction from co-locality or proximity. By bringing geographically distant and socio-culturally diverse places in touch, it creates a placeless global sphere. When its constituting transregional connections and transfers become numerous and significant enough, this sphere develops a rationale of its own and starts to interact with the local. Globalization becomes a historically relevant process that has a formative impact on local life and culture.

By enabling ever-increasing flows of information and knowledge which connect people over great geographic and cultural distances, telecommunication technologies have played and continue to play a key role in processes of globalization. The emergence during the nineteenth and early twentieth century of a global telecommunication network significantly altered the nature of human communication and represented a vital phase in the history of global connections. For the first time in history, long-distance communication became “dematerialized”, i.e. it became detached from the physical medium which enabled its transmission.

This workshop invites scholars and students in the humanities and social sciences to explore the complex interrelations between telecommunication technologies and globalization in a historical and socio-cultural perspective. The focus of the workshop rests on the emergence of a global network of telegraph and telephone lines during the nineteenth and early twentieth century and its impact on various domains of human activity, such as government, administration, trade, transport, commerce, labour, news, language, and knowledge production.

The workshop organizers seek to provide an interdisciplinary forum for debating how this significant historical development impacted on the rationale of the global sphere and translated into economic, political, social and cultural changes at the local level. It is hoped that this forum will allow for new and fascinating perspectives on the interplay of telecommunication technologies and globalization. Potential questions to be explored include:

- Which socio-economic and cultural factors contributed to the emergence of particular global network patterns?

- What was the role of telecommunication in linking the global and the local? How did it change the rationale of the global sphere?

- How did new telecommunication technologies transform existing perceptions of time and space?

- How were the global and the local negotiated through telecommunication technologies? In what ways did agents in non-information societies adopt and adapt foreign (i.e. European/North American) information technologies to their own ends? How did such developments in the field of technology and colonial enterprise impact upon European societies?

- Did technologies shape their own networks? And how did emerging communication patterns impact upon the development of the technology itself?

- Can we find asymmetries in global network patterns and information flows? Did less-connected regions automatically find themselves at the receiving end of information flows?

- Can we find evidence for processes of political and cultural centralization? If so, have there been counterstrategies in order to preserve the influence and leeway of agents in the periphery?

- How did these new technologies impact upon news collection and distribution? How did they change pre-existing ideas and practices of networking?

- What was the impact of these new communication technologies on language and cultural perceptions of language? How did they contribute to processes of language standardization and language globalization?


Contact (announcement)

Proposals of not more than 500 words may be submitted electronically (Word or PDF) to the organizing committee (Amelia Bonea, and Paul Fletcher, by 30 April 2009. For further inquiries, please contact the organizing committee.

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