Where were the Media before the Media?

Knut Ove Eliassen and Yngve Sandhei Jacobsen

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
Where were the Media before the Media?

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This chapter cautions against the anachronism of applying the modern concept of “the media” to Enlightenment. It suggests that the cleavage between Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment media arrives when new early nineteenth-century technologies—the telegraph, the photograph, and Babbage's analytical engine—separate information processing from the eye, the hand, and the interiority of the individual, which during the Enlightenment still sustained the vital middle position in the transmission of information. For example, in order to fashion Carl Linnaeus's traveling body into a medium through which data about the natural history of Lapland can flow back to the Royal Society of Sweden, the young naturalist prepared for his journey by assembling his instruments: the notebook, the magnifying glass, the measuring rod, and so on. The present account of Enlightenment epistemology shows that these tools are presumed to function in the same way as the human senses that they extend.

Keywords: media; Enlightenment; post-Enlightenment; nineteenth-century technologies; telegraph; photograph; Linnaeus; analytical engine; epistemology

Chapter.  10455 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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