The gramophone, the world wide web and the recording systems

The history of media and the listening of time

On March 2008, at the annual conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., it has been presented the first audio recording of human history. The news is that 10-second song was recorded on April the 9th of 1860 by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter. The Frenchman would have anticipated  Thomas Alva Edison, well-known as the first inventor of gramophone, recording “Au clair de la lune” 17 years before Edison received a patent for the phonograph and 28 years before an Edison associate captured a snippet of a Handel oratorio on a wax cylinder. To be clear, American researchers have captured the labile signs of song, impressed onto sheets of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp, and reversed them by a sophisticated techniques on a new support.

au-clair-de-la-lune-450First audio recording (1860)


Although  the discovery seems to start a dispute like that on telephone between Meucci and Bell – in effect, Scott died convinced that Edison has rubbed his idea and, as sometime Frenchmen used to do against Anglo-American people,   claimed with nationalistic accents  his reasons – in this case there is a wide agreement about the strong differences of the singular projects. While Edison put his attention on sound recording to produce its dynamic play, freeing again the sound in time domain spreading its phenomenal physicality, also as aid and empowerment of human aural performance – remembering Edison was quite deaf -, Scott’s aim was to translate and recording voice in a visual form, re-caging it under other forms in the traditional visual strategies of writing. In effect, there are no proofs that Edison knew Scott’s phonautogram while we can certainly affirm that he already worked on telegraph and telephone (1877), the media forming creative contest for elaboration of his gramophone, a device that, as himself wrote, had to “gathering up and retaining of sounds hitherto fugitive, and their [later] reproduction at will” (Edison 1878, p. 527). Despite differences, the story of French typesetter evidences many other interesting aspects. First of all, the changes in terms of human perceptions and of symbolic representation and expression when a new medium emerges in society. Discussing on topic, Jonathan Sterne – scholar of communication and media at McGill University – said that our actual period is very similar to that of 1860s because “with computers, there is an unprecedented visualization of sound (Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison 2008). I think Sterne intended to underline as, thanks to digital techniques and for the short time that precede habit, we can re-appreciate the novelties of trans-codes among diverse symbolic domains – this time that of sound captured and represented in lively and dynamical images of computer graphics. Even considering distance that separates us in terms of mechanical listening and technical knowledge, we can re-live in a “small scale” one of the moments in which media technologies produce different sensibilities, in which they propose new cultural forms of inscription and so of documentation, archiving and representation of reality.  The translations between sound and written form, and their reciprocal reversibility, begin to enter massively in ordinary life; software languages and chips are mature to facilitate a such applications in web environment.   Voicemail services translating in reversal ways voice and written word are already offered, as well as cell phone software to write sms messages by voice, or, on the contrary, vocalizing them starting from text. Or services writting in “real time” on web spaces the comments and thoughts that your voice express via phone (see twitterFone and twitter).
Perhaps, the more plastic image of this move is represented by “smart-pen”, a pen that can write,  record and reproduce image of text and its word sound, putting all into a digital file ready to be transferred to pc  (Mentre scrivi registra chi parla 2008). Yet, if we enlarge the horizon, the more complete reflection that we can do about media and innovation with reference to society and culture is to investigate the matrix of meaning that, in terms of continuity and difference, ties French typesetter and American technologist. Indeed, Scott’s title of typesetter reminds us the world that both of them had to face, that of written text, the main inscriptive form of their age. From this point of view there are no doubts that Edison proposes an innovative challenge while Scott appears a very conservative. Nevertheless, we know that the first commercial version proposed by Edison for his gramophone was a “dictaphone” – a device that reads and records voice for listening it again, allowing to report it on paper. He was convinced to make money introducing it in office work.
Doing media history is not a simple thing. The use of gramophone as domestic entertainment is a fascinating and meaningful story  of difficulty to individuate and appreciate the components and  vitality of its processes , often hidden by the logic of ineluctability –we already know how it ends. But a society that adopts in a pervasive way information and communication technologies needs to reopen a problematic look on their origins to discovery complexity that has always distinguished them. This is extremely important when a paradigmatic shift involves our inscriptive systems and the “material” circularity of their traces, when the present and its history, normally analysed through produced documentation, became a problematic operation because of the instability and uncertain preservation of our actual electronic papers.
We could not have asked a better opportunity to recall  the interesting and articulating work of Lisa Gitelman, a media historian at  Catholic University of Washington. In Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture she goes through  history of gramophone and web, the two media that, between ‘800 and ‘900 and ‘900 and 2000, have questioned, challenged and innovated the techniques of inscription and representation, as well as their material and documental products, the so-called “data of culture”. The author focalizes the cultural and social lifeblood that creates and sustains media, paralleling them despite (and thanks to) their historical differences. In effect, her definition of media is that of “socially realized structures of communication, where structures include both technological forms and their associated protocols, and where communication is a cultural practice, a ritualized collocation of different people on the same  mental map, sharing or engaged with popular ontologies of representation”. Media are a such complex historical subjects because have a social and cultural life, so that any account that can boast a certain reliability has to embrace “multiplicity, complexity and even contradiction if sense is to be made of such pervasive and dynamic cultural phenomena”.
Gitelman doesn’t hide the opacity of definition, that makes media as a technological nucleus surrounded from a nebula of conditions and norms that makes them so unstable given that their meaning and operations change with the change of surrounding conditions. In effect, a medium has one’s own life of meaning that changes according to its operating historical context, and this is very useful to interpret its genesis weighting in a more critical way the “intrinsic technological logic”. From this point of view the emphasis on adjective “new” referred to media is for the author an opportunity. It is an implicit fact that media represent a content giving it a peculiar trait. Consequently, every new medium proposes  two terms in “new modalities”. As human beings we are inclined to focus on “represented content”, forgetting the material ways and techniques (procedures, protocols, etc.)  producing it. This is true since we are obliged, for some reason, to notice them, for examples during a failure or, indeed, when medium is “new”.

The parallel between the introduction of gramophone/musical   discs and web rests on a cultural and economic substratum  that has many analogies: the sense to be in a period of strong technological advancements, the rising of global connections, a feeling of wonder, the inclusion in a changing public sphere of subjects diverse and normally kept in the “periphery”, a growing competition in increasingly open and extended market  Of course, there are also big historical differences, but what testifies the validity to penetrate in  their cultural and economical interaction for understanding and gaining an orientation in this kind of media developments  is  an unexpected sense regarding what mostly people expected, a result of a multidimensional play that opposites the simple technological determinism. At the same time, the presence of gramophone and musical discs in the parallel evidences how media material aspects help to give a form to meaning and communication, expressing a certain kind of culture.  With this choice the author also tries  to compensate the intuitive interest about media of dematerialising communication (telegraph, telephone), so studied because closer to the sense of actual network developments, tending to privilege “virtual” aspect instead of that of physicality, an important factor for every medium – we often forget that internet works through a complex and “solid” infrastructure, and that the peculiar physicality of its contents is already a challenge to our traditional trust to be able to document the reality.
Between gramophone/discs and computers we might advance many comparisons. They were born for business but finished to supply domestic and personal consumption (mainframe-pc, dictaphone-musical gramophone), and the very core of the relative technologies tends to pass on the hand of users, software with open source versions and music with mp3. Yet, going beyond these suggestions, the social experience of meaning that rise on the base of new forms of material inscription is a key comparison. Gramophone writes in a new, mysterious way. Inscription was tangible, portable, immutable but unreadable. Only a machine could do it – something in common with digital media, whose inscriptions remain mostly mysterious, at least since they are stabilized on screens or paper. Then, it is interesting  to known how this kind of inscription was accepted, how it became less mysterious and more transparent,  finally affirming itself as help for cultural memory and its data. From this point of view, all inscriptive forms become a meaningful historical subjects because they relate themselves with the past, offering themselves to a successive investigation, putting themselves at the centre of a recovery operation that cannot transcend ways and materiality with which medium has represented that age.

The public and its relations
A new medium defines itself  within the social and cultural context and, for Gitelman, the better way to discover its logics is to investigate how first public exhibitions showed the rudimental gramophone. The demonstrations were organized in many cities where people paid to attend (1878). They were much documented and commented by newspapers that, on the other hand, had an important role in defining  the identity of new recording medium. The demos lived a double phases. In the first one, the poor functional devices showed severe limits to record rumours and voices, that were listened to with great difficulties.  In the period between 1889 and 1893 there were better devices, adapted to listen to musical sounds. Of course, neither the state of art of technology neither the functional protocols made the device ready for a commercial launch. In effect, the real charming of this story is the affirmation of new genres of consumption and, finally, the creation of a new genre of public. Regarding this aspect, Gitelman notes that the new device initially has not been  intended out of the logics and dynamics of existing media. Then, it was the press that, according to Habermas, creates, defines and legitimates the public sphere. At the same time, Edison and its device were part and expression of a more wide process of industrialization of communication including also telegraph, telephone and the same press that, hit by strong changes, suffered a deep diversification. New economical and social structures were operated to jeopardize the common sense and intelligibility about publications, as well as the boundaries and operations that could be referred to politics.  Moreover, gramophone introduced contrasting experiences in the reshuffling public sphere.
The gramophone helps to update and stabilize an own abstract public, a group of people for which recording and listening were intelligible and the logic of gramophone/musical discs implicit. These new social and economical structures included the modern corporations and “new visible” of managerial classes emerging in the modern markets based on centralized commands in terms of scientific knowledge and finance. Moreover, even if less cited but equally pertinent, there were the economical and financial reality of emerging classes of waged workers, the rising demographic phenomenon of immigration, American expansionism and a new urban mass ready to consume printed publishing, entertainments and public spectacles. Then, gramophone had to respond to protocols that expressed these relations; its intelligibility had to count on dialectics between control and differentiation, traditional public sphere and its new potential constituents; among these, a role is conquered by “others”, the people considered “aliens”. In the gramophone case, they were the women, generally those of middle-classes, to help defining new medium as devise of domestic entertainment. The down of  gramophone as office machine and its re-orientation toward domestic environment happened between 1895 and 1900 and often were explained in various ways, attributing them to the accidental genius of Edison or intuit of Berliner (killer application) – he worked since beginning on musical option.  Somebody talks about the triumph of design (power supply, less expensive devices and discs mass-production) or underlines the strong demand oriented toward entertainment consumption, involving even films, magazines, comics, etc..
But the simple logic of production and consumption, even if important, could not explain this domestic conversion involving also other media as telephone and magazines, neither could evidence the role of women on the constitution of a new kind of public shaped by their social, economical and cultural experiences.  Women helped to develop a new and reciprocal logic between media and public life. The protocols and the primary musical function emerged partly in relation with a context involving diverse practices as mimicry performance inciting from vaudeville, the amateur piano or the gender models in the  work and entertainment. But even technical aspects had a role given that female voice was the qualitative standard for recording, to cover reference public and maintain a wide artistic and repertoire choice. The new medium creates a peculiar public involving women, immigrates and workers, so, with reference to the notion of traditional public, it worked both as destabilizing factor and inclusive one.  It was based not only on “old” concept of citizenship, but also on cultural inclination and affinity. In this sense, it is a typical product of media that can balance “centrifugal forces of social differentiation” establishing a dialectic between control and differentiation, traditional publics and new potential constituents, a well-known dynamic in the present age of globalisation and digital media.
In effect, gramophone and musical discs have much to say around globalisation, and, thinking about some recent Italian recipes that propose selective duties and cultural/economical closings  against it – declaring and showing, at the same time, our essential rootedness in Western culture – it is impossible to hold back a smile. The problem of globalisation is in historical accounts, Gitelman says, because they do not give an appropriate explanation of global and local effects, of their relations with fluxes of people – migrations, diasporas, deportations. The result is an exaggeration of novelty. At the beginning of XX century musical discs were part of a rising economy characterized by a fluxes of increasingly capitals and goods. They depended on German chemistry, Indian lac as well as artists, laboratories, producers and merchants operating worldwide.  Musical industry was new, profitable and deeply trans-national. British Grammophon Company established subsidiaries in India (1901), Russia (1902) and Iran (1906); National Phonograph of Edison was present in Europe, Australia, Argentina e Mexico. Musical discs were available in Budapest, Sydney, Santiago, Beijing, Johannesburg. It was possible to find industries in USA, England, France, Germany, India (1908), China (1914), Austria (1907), Japan (1911). The result was the negotiation and circularity of cultural differences, but even homogenisation of culture and consumption.
The success of discs generated new genres of popular urban music, adoptions of indigenous expressions flourishing cultural policies, at the same time local and global. The production of America Columbia Label between 1908 and 1923 was constituted mostly of “foreign” titles to satisfy the public of immigrates and niche markets in USA. In India, Grammophon Company produced catalogs in Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam, while hired artists recording in English, Arab, Kutch, Turk, Sanskrite and Pushtu. As Gitelman says, all this is very different from a process of homogenisation and, more generally, of one-way effects. Media help to “organize and reorganize popular perceptions of difference within a global economic order” and, finally, “one’s place is not so much a matter of authentic location or rootedness but one’s relationship to economic, political, technological, and cultural flows”(Curtin 2001, p. 338). Moreover, global media create a world in which people don’t feel rooted only based on the reason of place, but even on their relations with media representations of it.

The gramophone as “listening” of time
All media emerge from the practices of old media. The matrix of meaning in which gramophone operates had to referee to unique inscriptive medium of its age, writing on paper, and all newspaper accounts of period explain gramophone with the practice of writing voice – there are no traces about a musical option. New medium was understood in terms of inscription and personification, typical of writing and reading. For example, there was explanation on how gramophone could contain a book that, consequently, could be read automatically for us. Seen the poor quality of the first records realized on a tinfoil, even Edison advertises these functions and only between 1889 and 1893, thanks to  wax cylinders, musical exhibitions can diffuse.
Although many studies on topic, Gitelman notes as  there are few investigations on relationship between press and public discourse beyond XX century, when the notion of “physicality”  and “stability” assured by printed papers was weakening thanks to industrial revolution of news, rising of publications, ibridations and  reciprocal exploitations among diverse editions, often out of copyright because “exchanges” interested  worldwide press.  The basilar, logical link between facts and press derived from Enlightenment was eroded in practice. In the age of low-cost publications literature had problems as such lack of referentiality – identity of source – and unpredictability of reception. The stability of press was shattering and its social meanings was beginning to arrange in a logic of flux. Socially, the structure of public was based on press that helped to build and communicate common idea (nation, etc.). New media emergence helps to create new public, affecting the public sphere, its memory and its constructive modality. From this point of view, the history of emerging media is partly “the history of history, of what (and who)  gets preserved – written down, printed up, recorded, filmed, taped, or scanner – and why”. According to Gitelman, gramophone exhibitions fall in the circuit of questions regarding the inevitable transformation of printed publishing during the XIX century. In this sense, Edison’s gramophone is less a cause than a symptom of the change of inscriptive ways in that period, showing as new technologies ideation and  emersion depend on the deep links establishing with public memory, knowledge and life.
On this regard, Edison’s exhibitions are very indicative. Their structures were based on self-evidence opening to public engagement, and were completely immersed  in the familiar rhetoric of formative merit. They outlined the scientific value of invention explaining its technical working, even with examples of recording and listening  of voice and various rumors. The exhibitions fall in the more general research of cultural order in a period marked by a great uncertainty and deep  economic depression, encouraging a renewed optimism about American future. Although they were local events, demonstrationsconnected diverse and extended publics thanks to the emphasis of newspapers, opening people to technology pushed from the wonders of the “wizard of Menlo Park” or the “modern magician”, as press defined Edison.
In particular, exhibitions were a sort of negotiation of tastes, where there were attempts to build cultural hierarchies sorting preferences on recording tests, between “noble” examples and the simpler and prosaic ones generally preferred by public (jokes, unusual noises, etc.). They also started true challenges; new machine was very capable to repeat words, then public proposed the linguistic compositions normally repeated as such prayers, lyric, quotation, citation or refrains – this denotes both the exoneration of work and memory competition. A common action was to take away the tinfoil of recording as proof but even trace of event and, finally, physic object that can, like the souvenir, granting an experience that otherwise could remain only a narrative.

Later demonstrations could present a device with musical option, elaborated by Edison even using Berliner’s intuitions. But some exhibitions had a more anonymous form with the development of an automatic model, a primordial jukebox (nickel-in-the-slot). It consented the more casual entertainment of a heterogeneous public, but could be used only as musical playback . It was elaborated by Louis Glass starting from the machine of Edison
that, personally, preferred to insist  on dictaphone for commercial purpose. Public gramophone of Glass had an enormous success and  was installed in everyplace (saloons, hotels, drugstores, etc.). The listening was through earphones both to preserve the few songs available utilizing recordings on wax cylinders and to exploit the poor sound power. Glass’ machine was a original example of  an intimate experience in public space.

The rising of consumption and users
In the gramophone case question of use and users is central given it has been created for a purpose that changed completely. This is a clear invite to overcome analysis limited to production, its place, business models or market share to capture wider cultural and social changes. Users began to concept gramophone as an entertainment tool in 1890 and it succeed as the fist mass-medium, not considering press, in 1910. The rise of consumption (and then of users) affected directly the notion of what people understanding as “public”, traditionally routed on the principle of citizenship, a common participation to public life often mediated in complex society through the legitimate circuits of politics and press. Consumption creates forms of expressivities that give life to a public expressesing effectively individual identities and individual reasons. In this sense, new media helped to build a new kind of public memory and public life through consumers, even if they reflected affirmative dynamics more passively and successively, while actual users  are inserted in practices producing direct transformative effects.
Among many aspects regarding the rising of “cultural” consumption noted by Gitelman, there are two of  them very interesting and mutual connected: “reproducibility of experience” and intertextuality amid diverse genres and good of consumption. A good place to follow their dynamics is advertising. The very gradual shift toward the domestic use of gramophone parallels the contemporary rise of advertising in the printed publishing, above all on monthly magazines that increase  in USA from 18 millions of copies in 1890 to 64 millions in 1905. The selling of advertising space became the primary economic source of press and the different kinds of gramophone (for office or music) were much present in it (Victor, National, Columbia). We known that usage of musical discs is highly idiosyncratic (collection, aesthetics, DJ practices, etc.) but the simple listening repetition assumes a big role in it. In USA monthly magazines were one of the first “repeated” forms of cultural experience and musical discs represented a phenomena even more accentuated. It is no casual that one of the most famous song of period, “Ben Bolt”, recalled the famous novel Trilby of George de Maurier, presented under a serialized form by Harper’s in 1894 – Trilby sang it before  being hypnotized by Svengali. In that period there were 24 diverse theatral versions of novel, and there was a big operation of merchandising (hats, dolls, shoes, etc.) in the wake of her figure. This phenomenon has interested many cultural historians investigating the cross-relation between vulnerability and mutability of female personality and the bigger question of emerging industrial  society, that seemed to induce a hypnotic suggestibility – many people were convinced about intrinsic psychological weakness of masses. However, for us the phenomenon testifies how “reproducibility of experience” worked through a strong intertextuality among magazines, books, musical scores, comedies, commercial goods, musical discs.

The web and the bibliographic context
Gitelman dedicates the last section of her work to world wide web and, even in this case, tries to indicate some keys to understand it according to changes in inscriptive systems, in primis that of printed publishing.
The differences between gramophone and web are evident and undeniable: analogical versus digital, mechanics versus electronics, material good versus medium of communication. But, arguing in terms of inscriptive systems, they share some similarities. As acoustic recording put in question press and public sphere, the electronic documents of web not only mine paper publishing but also, through new logic of production, reception and distribution, the entire world built around modern media – broadcasting, Hollywood, discography industry, etc. On the other hand, the inscriptive systems always matters material and symbolic question, and internet, despite appears in a “virtualized” dress, is a sum of hardware and software stuff.  In effect, Gitelman shows us that, as inscriptive system of gramophone has been understood in relationship with press, web was ideated comparing the “social life of paper” and, partly, film and magnetic recording systems.
J. C. Licklider was one of the chief project managers of Arpanet (years 60s) and had just leaded a project group on future library for the Ford Foundation, obviously a project elaborated in digital form (1962).  It was a period in which scientific efforts increased, above all as answer to the nuclear and space challenge of Russia, and the achievement of the greatest sharing among scientific operators was a primary objective.  This idea of accumulation and sharing has already been the base of another famous work,  “As we may think” of Vennevar Bush (1945). The project is often referred as first example of hypertext, and Bush thought it as public “memex”, a memory technologically organized through schemas and microfilms. Even Licklider  thought of texts and computers in a public scenery, dedicating to Bush his project. Gitelman indicates their ideas as a sort of prerequisites  for internet development.
Among the other cues of this “bibliographic” scenery Gitelman describes the very organization of internet development tools, namely modalities and means to formulate and discussing open network standards, “the protocol of protocols”.  The circulation of documents such RFCs (Reference For Comment)  is an important part of democratisation process and of success of this technology. The discussion on how  formulating them had to link with the material and technical reality of actual information and network tools.  The decision to utilize a simple and diffuse documentation format as ascii code reflects an input/output domain based on the “banal” alphanumeric keyboards, printers and screens. It was important projecting a model that helped a wide participation, so documental production, distribution and representation could not be hindered by input/output problems, avoiding more impressive but uncommon formats manageable only in restricted circles.
But even out of the specific project, as Gitelman shows, is possible to discover, between 60s and 70s years in USA, other discussions on how documenting reality. On research of intermediation between the academic/specialist systems  and new forms, even but not only in electronic format, she reminds the discussion raised by  Lewis Mumford (1968) on “New York Review of Books”. He criticized a recent edition of  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s manuscripts because il was so precise to report all accidents found in the text (cancellations, hesitations, notes, relocations), marked them with special characters so that words printed on pages were continually interrupted by  spurious typographic characters making difficult the reading.
The review was negative but, at the same time, indulgent toward an innovative effort that wanted documenting a work even under “photographic” view. At the end, Mumford thought, both manuscript and printed pages are limited related the mental work of author, and representation always pays a tribute to the utilizing technologies. Finally, reader has to “read” author’s thought. There were many comments on the case and relationship between academic culture and the documental circulation within the different public stratums of society. The examples of RFCs and Emerson’s manuscripts evidence how the discussion regarded the need of a new “text” materiality, the affirmation of a new “bibliographic body” that was more representative of contents and its modalities of production, a question temporary resolved adding new series of characters – now, we can speak of meta-tag techniques -, some special signs that sided and explained text in a more meaningful way, preparing the field to internet hypertext .
After some decades, we are missing traces of that bibliographic original contest, while electronic representations insert themselves in an information system where documents are understood as “record” of a data base readable exclusively with hardware and software means.  “Text” is only a part of what is available to our interpretation, and our operations needs peculiar hardware and software, often needless because of the increasingly rate of technological obsolescence. Moreover, making history through this kind of documentation enriched with audio, images, interrelations, applet and links, that can address also “private” pages, becomes increasingly complicated.  Not only the weight of implicit and tacit intermediation mechanisms assumes a more relevant role, but the same web is becoming one of the many declinations of documentation – of a generalized form of inscription –  within the internet. Documents are missing much of their temporal characterization, parallel with the promotion of “new nonchronological and nontemporal pattern” of web-surfing and cell phones. But, as in gramophone case, web documentation is an agent and expression of a period in which reigns the present and short horizons, when people wonder on “the end of history” and “liquidity” of life, and it is difficult to distinguish between “the true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral”.
If media history is a privilege place to understand socio-cultural transformations, it is paradoxical that just now that ICT acquires a central and vital position in society we risk to find ourselves in a condition  in which  their investigation become troubled. Not only because digital techniques is founding in its magma all forms of traditional media and new media are becoming “the disappearing subjects of the very history they motivate”, but even for the rate of innovation and production of documental and material formats they supported.  To understand completely the underlying assumptions, Gitelman invites us to follow advices of a great Italian historian. For Carlo Ginsburg a historical research is strategically more productive considering the smaller details, for example the more opaque failures. In effect, a norm has to forecast the whole range of transgressions while an anomaly always involves a norm so counting on a more favourable asymmetry.
Take web documentation. One of the more common error we meet –  error 404, file not found – generally is activated by expired links or missing resources.  In effect, there are many reasons (hundreds) but anodyne explanations of “file not found” is the answer that satisfies because “hides” a detail that could challenge  the competence or time availability  of a good technophile. The normality and banality with which the error is justified is the inevitable consequence of an architectural complexity and dynamics that are presumed well-known or, worst, unknowable. Of course, a such fluidity creates many worries in users, and certainly problems of documental confusion.  From this point of view, we would thank media historians because sometime they success to illuminate the present so well, a work that would become problematic whether limited  only to the last novelties. In effect, actual new media live in a narrow window where it is soon to do their history and perhaps too late to recover their traces.
As gramophone emerged from the chaos of industrialized communication, actual new media emerge from comparable chaos of post-industrialism. As Gitelman affirms, new media go out from a chaos that they help contemporary to rebuild as order, that of so-called post-modern logic.  The history of media will never have the pretensions to answer all inquires about new developments, but certainly it demonstrates to be able testifying “the always emerging ‘order’  (with a lowercase o) of public life and public memory”.

Edison, T., 1878, “The Phonograph and its future”, North American Review 126 (June), pp. 527-536.

Curtin, M., 2001, “Organizing Difference on Global TV Television History and Cultural Geography”,  (ed.) Edgerton, G. R., Rollins, P., C., Television histories: shaping collective memory in the media age, Lexington, Ky., University Press of Kentucky

“Mentre scrivi registra chi parla. Arriva Pulse la penna intelligente”, La, 5/8/2008.

“Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison”, in New York Times, 03/27/2008.

Gitelman, L., 2006, Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture, Boston, Mit press.