But where are the funny cats?
"The research problem of yesterday is the radio marvel of today. Another milestone of scientific progress and has been passed and science has made a reality of the age-old dream of pictures from the sky."
Footage from 1939 announcing the advent of television:
The clip is about television at a particular moment. The narrator notes that the technology was developed ten years previous, and what is newsworthy is the advent of broadcast networks that can now offer regular programming. Yet the newness of the medium is underscored by the choice of an "orchestral program" as the sample segment. While a purpose of this segment is to demonstrate the difference between medium shots and long shots, generally the people in the orchestra looked kinda blurry and the segment was probably better for listening than watching. While television had exciting possibilities, radio still had a hold on people's imaginations and televisual conventions were yet to be developed.
In other words, this was a myth-making moment for television. In his book The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power and Cyberspace, Vincent Mosco describes the myth and hype that we find in discourse about emerging media and technologies; those myths are at work in this video, in contemporary discussions about digital technology, and served to romanticize radio. Although the narrator characterizes television as a "modern miracle," I think it's worth noting that the technology itself is not the miracle and the power of this miracle does not lie in mystery. The narrator turns to an explanation of the mechanics of television (developed by and demonstrated in the RCA laboratories). The video continues with a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a television broadcast, which involves the coordinated efforts of people behind the camera and a engineers and a director working in a specially equipped studio. In the case of television, what was newsworthy was the advent of a new industry, driven by ingenuity and hard work, that made possible regular television broadcasts. The marvel was not only television itself, but the relationship between science, progress and industry.
Although we tend to greet new technologies with the same kind of myth and hype, the specific elements of the stories change. Television is no longer miraculous and the I think it's no longer possible to tell the same kinds of stories about newer technologies and media. Consider all the hype surrounding the iPod (and more recently, the iPhone). I have yet to see the iPod linked to narratives about science, progress and industry, but I do see the iPod as a fetish object connected to youth and consumer culture. (I'm not immune, either--I've been sighing over the new iPod touch, trying to come up for a really good reason to buy it and chuck my perfectly good iPod, which is now "classic.") What the implications are I haven't worked out yet, but I think a starting point might be to re-read Thomas Franks' Conquest of Cool.
I found the video in PonderAbout.
Now this is what you create for a new medium: cartoon cats explain "defending globalization"! (Actually this is pretty good):