Running Time

We recently *cough*sort of*cough* completed our timeline project, where in we traced the development of information technologies from cave paintings to telegraphs to Youtube. We used the program simile and an accompanying wordpress plugin to display the time line on our course blog . While initially I expected this project to be little more than listing events and corresponding dates, I quickly found myself diging more into secondary sources for further events and more dates. Once you find one patent battle, you start to ponder…what happened after that? What was the immediate consequence/result of x event. Timelines can grow out of control without the right trimming and before you know it you are in a jungle of events that are not equally important. Some events are simply more important than others. If you want to keep your project manageable, you have to know where to make the cuts.

I worked with the Broadcasting group. You will notice our red points and lines on the timeline as anything relating to radios and televisions, or at certain turns the rise of organizations related to such technologies. My specific task was to dig up the time line of television, throw it up on the time line, and not go crazy. For those who are not familiar with the history of television…let me tell you something. Television has a rather convoluted history with many inventors, some of who were unaware of each other, and rapid changes, as well as an international battle over who transmitted what type of broadcast for the first time. Often, according to Fishers’ book Tube: A History of the Television, newspapers would call a transmission the first one, but they would omit in the United States as an important qualifier.

Having reviewed my peers’ work, I have considered my own shortcomings. I posted a huge swath of events, but they lack images and video. If one covers the history of television, a visual medium, there should be plenty of visual aids…it’s television. In considering improvements to my section, the addition of significant celebrity appearances or particularly popular programs would make a welcome upgrade to my work. With regards to the gaps of my time line, I pondered over how one could track the history of television. There are two distinct, but obviously related, categories, namely technological developments and pop culture. Researching a communication technology should also include its uses and contents. My time line primarily tracks the physical development of the technology without a strong emphasis for what the technology conveys. You will notice that I follow Farnsworth and Zworykins quite closely as they invent new technologies, smaller pieces of the television, yet the first television show or the rise of television celebrities is hardly a footnote. The two histories weave together, yet the historian uses vastly different materials to research each one. I have a nagging suspicion that leaving out the message and only speaking to the development of the medium dismembers the history of the television. Only knowing that the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the creation of books takes away what books were being printed? Who read them, and what was the impact of that book being circulated so widely? The Fishers’ book,does well in dividing the technology from the content, and in the form of a monograph, the division feels natural. Trying to absorb both the television show and the television technology would give anyone a headache, yet for the purpose of a time line, the division creates a lackluster product. Why? A time line should give the viewer a snapshot of what was going on at the time. Sure, there is an argument somewhere in a time line, such as what does one include in it. But, to me, the time line remains a fairly wide scoped method of viewing a history. Talking about the internet without mentioning the content of Youtube would be a gross oversight. So, what about television? The pop culture that evolved around the device is as significant, if not more so, than the device itself.

Now that I have had a few days to separate myself from the project I feel more comfortable to point out the potential flaws and consider revisions and at the end of the semester improvements for the time line. What might be most helpful now would be a survey that I can pass out to site visitors in order to find best avenues for improving the project.

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