Colligan and Linley 2011

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Colligan, Colette and Margaret Linley, eds. Media, Technology, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century: Image, Sound, Touch. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Pub. Company, 2011.


… media machines, but in tandem with unprecedented increases in literacy rates, enlargement of urban spaces and imperial networks, and expansion of industrialization and commodity exchange, the nineteenth century experienced the emergence of media ubiquity.

after a century of innovative encounters between industrial technology and the communicative imperative, media emerged in the early twentieth century as a modern myth.

More than an umbrella under which to huddle the aggregate means of mass communication, media has come to describe an industry and an ideology.

The moment of consolidation of the nineteenth-century multiplicity of media into a totality of unique singularity in the early twentieth century thus marks the simultaneous appropriation and disavowal of media history, the spatial incorporation of the historical many into the one true media now understood as the first sign of a media matrix. The significance of this double move of spatial appropriation and temporal erasure cannot be understated. When the word that had been used in the particular to refer to specific means of mass communication evolved into the singular term for the heterogeneous plurality of media, history would seem to begin out of nowhere anew.

any recovery of the history of media must therefore also historicize media logic: temporal rupture signifies the renunciation that is a precondition for copying on a different register.

The introduction of the electric telegraph in the middle of the century not only revolutionized communications, it also retuned the ear and retooled the sense of touch. Similarly the introduction of the solo piano recital trained audiences to listen for the sound of the musician’s touch.

This incorporation of the body into the period’s mediating structures reveals not only the expansion of the human sensorium, but also shows how the two were enmeshed, creating the possibility for understanding the seeing, hearing, and touching body as a multi-media machine.

The science of perception and the study of physiology grew alongside the marvelously unstable triumvirate of object, organ, and medium.

Seeing, hearing, and touching were mediated through the instruments of science, measured and objectified for the larger purpose of knowing, educating, and modernizing the senses.

if the book had ordered cognition literally since the renaissance through a spectrum of bibliographical practices from title pages and chapter divisions right down to the spacing of paragraphs and typesetting, the mass produced multi-media art book of the mid-Victorian parlor permeated domestic space with the touch and smell of the physical artifact, the music of the words on the page, and the dual perspective of reading and gazing at images.

attending a piano recital, playing a player piano, operating telegraph networks, even reading Braille—these too were unique media events of the nineteenth century that generated new tactile-acoustic models of social experience. While suggesting music’s renewed centrality to art and society, they also participated in a

developing early digital revolution that converted data into discrete units for storage, transmission, and expression and altered psychic and social consciousness.

Media became a practice in the nineteenth century, a device, process, and artform that could be practiced as one might practice piano, writing, or politics.

13We are interested in the meanings of touch that developed alongside digital technologies and experiments with electricity, 14especially its repeated figuration as an escape from visual hegemony and alternative forms of media.

…ins and david Thorburn’s Rethinking Media Change does similar historical mapping while James lyons and John Plunkett’s Multimedia Histories from the Magic Lantern to the Internet applies a dialectical approach to the study of past and present visual media.

transportation lay important groundwork for thinking further about new haptic and kinetic encounters with time and space: See Jay clayton, richard Menke, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, and Michael Freeman.

8. Piano, Telegraph, Typewriter: Listening to the Language of Touch, by Ivan Raykoff

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the piano keyboard provided a practical and conceptual model for new technologies such as the typewriter and the telegraph. Some early models of these writing machines utilized a stretch of piano keys as their keyboard, offering users a familiar tactile interface for the transmission of textual information. like the piano, the telegraph also communicated through sound, as operators learned to transcribe messages by listening to the tapping of the apparatus. Placed in historical context alongside the nineteenth-century piano, these writing instruments can be seen as comparable technologies of the fingers: by physically touching their keys, one produced expressive messages that could also “touch” a reader or listener through something like the “language” of music.

This musical/mechanical interface that the piano, typewriter, and telegraph briefly shared suggests a fundamental connection between the act of tactile impression and the ideal of evocative expression.

digital instruments have been in use since antiquit (the abacus, for example), but the nineteenth century witnessed a proliferation of such systems (the invention of Braille writing in 1821, for example) as well as the revolutionary transition between these two modes of technology.

in this sense, the nineteenth century can be seen as the highpoint and culmination of an earlier “digital revolution.” as hugh davies notes,

The printing telegraph had an obvious investment in musical practice, as many models utilized a piano-style keyboard of alternating black and white keys.

This technological borrowing is not surprising: the piano keyboard was already well-established as a template for the musical alphabet, so the telegraph’s lettered and numbered keys offered a recognizable language interface for anyone with even slight musical knowledge.

Multiple telegraphs on a particular line were synchronized by the use of tuned springs set to an identical pitch, a further musical feature of this model.

a another telegraph entrepreneur, daniel h. craig, explained in 1883, “This is girl’s labor, and is accomplished by a piano-shaped keyboard, which is operated with as much ease and rapidity as a piano keyboard. it taxes the mind scarcely more than reading, at a speed of 35 to 50 words per minute, and the proper handling of the perforating machine can be acquired in one or two months” (qtd. in gabler 52).

The piano keyboard interface was radically simplified in 1874, when Jean- Maurice-Émile Baudot patented a printing telegraph based on the hughes model that used a new five-bit code instead of the dots and dashes of Morse Code.

In this system, single keys as well as two- to five-note “chords” are played on the keyboard to produce characters, a much more pianistic approach to data input than the separate note-by-note relays of the earlier systems. Baudot code eventually replaced Morse code as the standard international telegraph language, but the chord-keyset interface of this device was soon abandoned in favor of a standard typewriter keyboard which automatically encoded the specific five-unit sequences for each letter, and thus did not require specialized training.

Sound and the sense of hearing took on an expanded role in written communication when the electric telegraph introduced an acoustic dimension to the transmission of text.

To a large extent, the telegraph shares its history with the typewriter, which was “invented” numerous times and in many different countries since at least the beginning of the eighteenth century. 10The main impetus for the typewriter’s

commercial development during the second half of the nineteenth century was the exponential growth of the telegraph industry; a mechanical writing machine was needed to transcribe incoming messages more rapidly and efficiently than by handwriting.

Pianos and harpsichords also provided the basic apparatus for a number of early music-notating devices designed to transcribe onto paper the music played on their keyboard.

11already by 1823 the piano was considered a model for type- setting machines, whereby “the various types fall into place [through a touch of the keys] almost as quickly as one speaks” (qtd.

…this concept in naming their new contraptions: in 1851 Pierre Foucault received a prize at the great exhibition in london for his clavier imprimeur (imprinting keyboard) and in 1855 the italian giuseppe ravizza patented a cembalo scrivano (writing harpsichord…

Despite its early influence, the piano keyboard interface was abandoned shortly before mass production of the typewriter began.

…ord-hume 221–2, 229–32, and adler 48–9, 212–13. Linley, Margaret. Media, Technology, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century : Image, Sound, Touch, edited by Colette Colligan, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,…

during the 1880s debate raged over the question of whether all or only certain fingers should be used in typing.

Advocates of the “all-finger method” noted that typing speed could be increased by keeping one’s eyes on the text to be copied, not on one’s fingers roaming the keyboard in search of specific letters. This ten-finger (later called “touch-typing”) method is credited to M.V. longley of cincinnati, who published her textbook Remington Typewriter Lessons in 1882. longley acknowledged her own piano- playing experience as inspiration for applying all 10 fingers to the task of typing.

The piano was invented in the eighteenth century and further developed during the nineteenth century to enable, through the infinite varieties of a performer’s touch, a wide range of dynamic contrasts and tonal shadings for the sake of greater musical expression. The typewriter, on the other hand, provided a mechanical—even a disembodied and “impersonal”— alternative to the expressive flow of individual penmanship.

alongside the early telegraphs and typewriters that were being developed around the same time, the recital can be theorized as another new practice or “technology” of keyboard transmission mediating the expressive language of musical touch. in london in 1840, Franz liszt—welcomed as “the Poet of the Pianoforte” by a leading critic of the day (Allsobrook 22)—gave the first public piano recitals, establishing a tradition of solo performance that persists to the present day.

In effect, the potential for music’s mechanical reproduction through the phonograph and the player piano was preceded by the convention of re-playing masterworks of the piano repertoire in this new solo performance format. repetition is literally implied by “recital”—to recite a text is to repeat it before an audience, typically from memory.

representation is a prerequisite for the network of repetition, since what the pianist plays “by heart” is most often a notated musical text, a symbolic encoding of the composer’s creative work.

The player piano can be considered a modern extension of the recital, which involves transmission of the composer’s work; to this capacity the player piano (especially the “reproducing pianos” of the early 1900s) added storage and transmission of the performer’s “touch” and musical interpretation as well.

With the development of the telephone and sound recording, the first “digital revolution” drew to a close as finger-transmitting technologies of impression/expression gave way to the analog era in which speech and sound could be represented and reproduced more directly through electronic means.