Lisa Gitelman, “Imagining Language Machines” from Scripts, Groves, and Writing Machines (Blackboard)
Lisa Gitelman discusses the invention of the phonograph, and the thoughts and visions associated with it. The opening of the paper is full of interesting information about the phonograph. It captures the thoughts of a population introduced to a new technology. Upon the invention of the phonograph Edison boasted that “The dead would be able to speak, the blind to read.”
Gitelman discusses how during the next decade the phonograph would come to exist as a language machine. Here I wondered was this really the first glimpse of a “paperless world” as the paper suggests? Did people really had any clue what was to come in the future?
Later, Gitelman presents the thoughts of Edward Bellamy who was said to bring up the suggestion of a “paperless world.” Bellamy also felt that reading and listening to the phonograph are both processes of “absorption” but he felt that real reading makes the reader less responsive to the matter being absorbed. This is an interesting observation that I never thought of.
There were many benefits of the phonograph listed by those who supported it. Bellamy also observed that posture is better and eyesight improved when listening to a phonograph. This reminded me of the start of the Books on tape/CD that we have today. It is so simple to listen to a CD of a book, but it is such a different experience than actually reading a book.
Bellamy also thought that written English will become a dead language, and writing a lost art. This highly bothers me, and I am glad that his prediction didn’t seem to have come true.
It is interesting that the phonograph was thought by many to make writing more problematic. I can see a similar situation arising in the younger generations with all the new technologies out there. It is particularly interesting to see people write things such as “Gr8” for great or “TTYL” instead of talk to you later. While these new acronyms are handy, I can’t help but think that they hurt the writing skills of youth and future youth. It seems that new technologies make things very convenient, but at the same time they have their downfalls. The most interesting thing to me was to see the many similarities between the inventions of technologies of old and technologies of today.