America's leading role in today's information revolution may seem simply to reflect its position as the world's dominant economy and most powerful state. But by the early nineteenth century, when the United States was neither a world power nor a primary center of scientific discovery, it was already a leader in communications-in postal service and newspaper publishing, then in development of the telegraph and telephone networks, later in the whole repertoire of mass communications.In this wide-ranging social history of American media, from the first printing press to the early days of radio, Paul Starr shows that the creation of modern communications was as much the result of political choices as of technological invention. With his original historical analysis, Starr examines how the decisions that led to a state-run post office and private monopolies on the telegraph and telephone systems affected a developing society. He illuminates contemporary controversies over freedom of information by exploring such crucial formative issues as freedom of the press, intellectual property, privacy, public access to information, and the shaping of specific technologies and institutions. America's critical choices in these areas, Starr argues, affect the long-run path of development in a society and have had wide social, economic, and even military ramifications. The Creation of the Media not only tells the history of the media in a new way; it puts America and its global influence into a new perspective.
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Paul Starr is Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University and its Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Social Transformation of American Medicine and The Creation of the Media. Starr is the co-founder and editor of The American Prospect. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.From Publishers Weekly:
In this engrossing, panoramic history of the development of American media, Pulitzer winner Starr (The Social Transformation of American Medicine) ranges from our nation's founding, when the Constitution made the postal service the one nationalized industry and the Bill of Rights denied the federal government any role in regulating the press, to the eve of WWII, when commercial radio broadcasting flourished under very different cultural, political and economic conditions. Throughout, Starr shows that our country's original impulse to promote the postal service and press as part of its vision of nation building established a pattern of support for an open, continent-wide market that would assume different forms and policies as new waves of media were introduced. Starr brilliantly argues, however, that the government preference for keeping things decentralized was finally challenged by the advent of the telegraph, as its technology and associated economies of scale centralized the communications industry. Confronting thorny new issues of monopoly and threats to the guaranteed rights of free expression and individual privacy, the country then had no choice but to take on a regulatory role. Starr vividly demonstrates how complicated that role became with media like motion pictures and broadcasting, as the nation experienced immigration, urbanization and major cultural shifts: suddenly, counter forces in favor of moral regulation were petitioning the government to use all of its power to restrain mass media. The culture wars had begun.
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