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Feeling Mediated

Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America

Brenton J. Malin
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 317
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  • Book Info
    Feeling Mediated
    Book Description:

    New technologies, whether text message or telegraph, inevitably raise questions about emotion. New forms of communication bring with them both fear and hope, on one hand allowing us deeper emotional connections and the ability to forge global communities, while on the other prompting anxieties about isolation and over-stimulation.Feeling Mediatedinvestigates the larger context of such concerns, considering both how media technologies intersect with our emotional lives and how our ideas about these intersections influence how we think about and experience emotion and technology themselves.Drawing on extensive archival research, Brenton J. Malin explores the historical roots of much of our recent understanding of mediated feelings, showing how earlier ideas about the telegraph, phonograph, radio, motion pictures, and other once-new technologies continue to inform our contemporary thinking. With insightful analysis,Feeling Mediatedexplores a series of fascinating arguments about technology and emotion that became especially heated during the early 20th century.These debates, which carried forward and transformed earlier discussions of technology and emotion, culminated in a set of ideas that became institutionalized in the structures of American media production, advertising, social research, and policy, leaving a lasting impact on our everyday lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7015-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)

    If punctuation can capture the spirit of a time, then none has done so as clearly for the digital age as the emoticon. The idea that users communicating through high-tech screens would need a hieroglyphic to represent their moods or facial expressions suggests a series of tensions at work in our digital connections to each other. According to Marvin Minsky, author ofThe Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind, “it is still widely believed that minds are made of ingredients that can only exist in living things, that no machine could feel or...

  5. 1 Conflicting Feelings: Technology and Emotions from Colonial America to the New Age of Communication
    (pp. 33-70)

    Benjamin Franklin was one of the first American media theorists. A printer, newspaper publisher, and postmaster, Franklin produced and thought about a range of media forms. In his frequent discussions of “communication,” however, he primarily had something else in mind. In explaining an experiment with electricity, Franklin instructed his readers to “place a thick piece of glass under the rubbing cushion to cut off the communication of electrical fire from the floor to the cushion.” ¹ Similarly, in an explanation of a rudimentary battery made from a bottle, Franklin wrote that “the Equilibrium cannot be restored in the Bottle by...

  6. 2 Touching Images: Stereoscopy, Technocracy, and Popular Photographic Physicalism
    (pp. 71-106)

    In a mid-nineteenth-century essay, the English writer Lady Elizabeth Eastlake celebrated photography’s ability to unite the populace and stimulate public sentiment:

    Where not half a generation ago the existence of such a vocation was not dreamt of, tens of thousands (especially if we reckon the purveyors of photographic materials) are now following a new business, practising a new pleasure, speaking a new language, and bound together by a new sympathy. For it is one of the pleasant characteristics of this pursuit that it unites men of the most diverse lives, habits, and stations, so that whoever enters its ranks finds...

  7. 3 Electrifying Voices: Recording, Radio, and the New Friendly but Formal Speech
    (pp. 107-156)

    Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, practitioners of elocution had sought to both entertain and educate listeners regarding the emotional possibilities of the human voice. Virgil Pinkley’s 1897 bookEssentials of Elocution and Oratorypromised readers “vocal and physical equipment for the purpose of speech, the greatest gift of God to man.” As Pinkley explained,

    When breath, body, and voice are made subservient to the mind; when the mind is made to know what are the demands of thought; when the emotions are in keeping with the character of the thought; when all these forces act in harmony...

  8. 4 Projecting Emotions: Motion Pictures, Social Science, and Emotional Self-Control
    (pp. 157-196)

    William Marston, one of the pioneers in the development of the polygraph, explicitly celebrated the scientific, cultural, and commercial possibilities of its emotional measurements. In a 1936 letter to a fellow polygraph innovator, John Larson, Marston wrote, “I am in touch with several different fields here where this type of emotion-measurement can be used—and paid for highly—commercially.”

    Am also in touch with some big backers of a gorgeous and complicated idea I have for doing this work in many lines on a big scale—I call it THE TRUTH FOUNDATION. My thought is to emphasize the sociological importance...

  9. 5 Connecting Centuries: The Legacies of Media Physicalism
    (pp. 197-238)

    An April 2010New York Timesarticle entitled “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime” reported that

    at the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.¹

    The research the article mentions is that of Loren Frank, a UCSF scientist who had studied processes in the hippocampus of rats as they “replayed”...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 239-248)

    In February 2011, IBM unveiled Watson, a computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, in three television episodes of the quiz showJeopardy!Watson competed against two of the program’s most successful contestants, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. As part of the opening broadcast, IBM included a short video about Watson’s abilities and design. In discussing the computer’s “stage presence,” a voice-over explains the ideas behind Watson’s avatar—a black screen depicting Watson’s “face” as it answers questions:

    Based on IBM’s smarter planet icon, the threads and thought rays that make up the avatar change colors and...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 249-294)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 295-308)
    (pp. 309-309)