November 20, 2010

Dematerialization of telecommunication

How does "being connected globally" affect local development?

Appearance and spread of telegraph coincided with:
*growing global trade links [connections]
*increasing volume of trade [quantity, volume]

A close link exists between:
*development of telegraph in a region
*the region's position in world trade
            Global spread of telegraphy has positive effects on world trade.

When communications and transport are separated a new virtual space is created.
In this new virtual space, relations between time and space are changed.

A new technology will spread and be adopted only when:
*there is a demand for it
*the new tech. offers clear advantages over the other alternatives
Public demand must be balanced against the effects of "technological inertia" (Mokyr).

Railway expansion created need for telegraph in order to co-ordinate trains.

per Castells
A network has no centre and therefore no periphery.
No single node is essential to the network.
If a node fails, the network reconfigures and works around the failed node.
Some nodes are more important than other nodes.

Telegraphy spreads quickly:
*Railway companies see the benefits and (no longer put off by high costs) erect lines along railway tracks [---> cumulative action of technologies; ---> mutual benefits for both telegraph and railway companies]
*Newspapers exploit telegraphy for obtaining news more quickly
*Law enforcement forces use telegraphy to fight crime -- a telegram is quicker than a murderer!

Parallels can be seen between social networks [connections among people] and telecommunications networks.  In both networks, some nodes are:
*more important than other nodes;

*closer to the flow of information than other nodes.  
A word of caution re. the analogy of social networks for comm. networks.  The connections in social networks only register when interaction/communication between two nodes occurs.  A similar connection between two nodes in a comm. network registers the potential for communication, i.e. the nodes exist but a flow of information may not be present during our examination.  The infrastructure is in place but the information flow is not necessarily present or continuous.

In order to describe a country as a communications centre, it needs:
*an advanced domestic telegraph system
*good connections to other foreign networks

Roland Wenzlhuemer.  "The dematerialization of telecommunication: communication centres and peripheries in Europe and the world, 1850-1920."  Journal of Global History (2007) 2, 345-372.

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