New Media, Old Story

What can new forms of media (like podcasting!) learn from the evolution of radio in the early 20th century?

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About the Show

Journey into the past and you’ll discover the secret history of the future. From the world’s first cyberattack in 1834, to 19th-century virtual reality, the Economist’s Tom Standage and Slate’s Seth Stevenson examine the historical precedents that can transform our understanding of modern technology, predicting how it might evolve and highlighting pitfalls to avoid. Discovering how people reacted to past innovations can also teach us about ourselves.

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Radio was originally a social medium, as early radio sets (each of which could transmit as well as receive) turned cities into giant chatrooms, populated by Morse code–tapping enthusiasts. But the excitement of this democratic, digital platform did not last, and radio was tamed by corporate interests in the 1920s. The utopian dream of platforms that are open and meritocratic has been reborn in the internet era in the form of blogging, and more recently, podcasting. But can it ever come true?

Podcast production by Bart Warshaw and Kate Holland.