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Grounded: Communications and the Nature of Canada
Ken Cruikshank, History, McMaster University
Room 130, Geography Building
February 29 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis and their followers have emphasized the materiality of media over its messages. Other historians explore the ways in which new technologies of communication and transportation transformed the human experience of space and time.

This talk takes a different approach to understanding the materiality of the medium. Transportation and communications companies needed wires, cables, pipes, towers, rails, roads, bridges, runways, and other built structures to transform the flow of peoples, goods, and information in Canada. We are used to thinking of those structures in terms of the large and ambitious communications networks of which they were a part. We are also used to thinking of them as monuments to the human capacity to transform the landscape, erasing topography, and distance.

In this talk, Ken Cruikshank will urge that we also take seriously the ways in which local human and non-human processes interacted with these structures and the new flows of people, goods and information, and incorporate those into our understanding of the development of a networked society. The talk will explore several luminous moments that illustrate both the fragility and resilience of local natural and human networks in the face of new communications and transportation systems. No matter how much they seemed to annihilate the bounds of time and space, those networks—yes, even cell phone networks—were grounded.

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2012
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