The Case for the Technological Comparison in Communication History

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This article makes the case for a comparative approach to communication technologies throughout history, arguing that various types of comparisons could enrich both historical research and technology theorization. The article proposes a critical typology of five categories of comparison: The deterministic category compares the supposedly direct effects of major changes in communication technology; the all-encompassing category integrates technologies into wider evolving complexes where various technologies interact; the discursive category examines the utopian and dystopian discourses accompanying technological changes, and their power to shape technology; the deconstructing categpry contrasts distinct phases in the history of a supposedly singular technology; and the one-dimensional category focusses on a single social domain to see how it has been transformed by different technological changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-109
Number of pages21
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Communication History
  • Comparative Approach
  • Internet
  • Printing Press
  • Technological Change
  • Technological Determinism
  • Technological Revolution


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