Positioning Guglielmo Marconi's wireless : a rhetorical analysis of an early twentieth-century technology.

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Toscano, Aaron Antonio, 1976-
University of Louisville
Wireless; Rhetorical analysis; Technology; Marconi; Guglielmo; Twentieth century; Wireless; Rhetorical analysis; Technology; Marconi; Guglielmo; Twentieth century
thesis / dissertation description
This dissertation is a rhetorical analysis of Guglielmo Marconi's wireless. Texts surrounding the invention reveal intersections between technology and society and communicate information about the wireless through tropes of progress. The wireless was seen as a monumental early twentieth-century technology that would change the world by extending communication potential. This dissertation demonstrates that the wireless was created rhetorically before it existed as a black-box technology. Marconi's technical texts, popular press articles, and F. T. Marinetti's reinscriptions are discourses where the wireless existed rhetorically. To borrow Charles Bazerman's definition, the rhetoric of technology deals with the ideology surrounding "objects of the built environment"; a culture's attitudes and values help shape the technologies produced by a society. Technologies do not become realized without adhering to a society's values, attitudes, and practices. A system of mass communication existed in the early twentieth century (telegraph and telephone wires), but, almost more importantly, the public was conditioned to embrace new technologies for the sake of human advancement. Texts surrounding the wireless's creation show that certain conditions of modernity—speed, efficiency, evolution, and ahistoricity—appear as tropes of progress in wireless rhetoric. The non-mechanical factors that create or allow a technology to become realized are found in (re)presentations that show the wireless as a product in according with prevailing cultural values. This dissertation is divided into four chapters. Chapter I reviews literature on Science, Technology, and Society studies that offers a theoretical framework for analyzing the wireless as a product of modernity. Chapter II examines three important presentations (reprinted in technical journals) Marconi gave to the technical community that demonstrate four topoi in Marconi's rhetoric of the wireless—cultural pride associated with advancement/evolution, expectations and current successes, economic viability, and patents showing Marconi's ownership. Chapter III analyzes the rhetoric used by pro-Marconi journalists in American periodicals that construct the wireless in the popular press. Chapter IV explains how "progress" was embedded into Western industrial cultures. Specifically, the chapter demonstrates how the wireless and other technologies fit F.T. Marinetti's love of "progressive" technologies, which was an exaggeration of industrial cultures' fascination with new advancements.