Sublime Communication Technologies by Rod Giblett

By Rod Giblett

This vigorous new study is a severe cultural historical past of verbal exchange applied sciences, from railways and telegraphy to pcs and the web, in which Rod Giblett argues that those technologies play a pivotal position within the cultural historical past of modernity and its undertaking of the elegant.

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Similar sentiments were voiced in a poem penned to celebrate the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 when a poet described, 'splashes of smoke and shining steel/On the face of nature scrawled' (cited in Burke, 1991, p. xiii). The railway wrote lines on the face of the earth just as Cropsey drew lines on canvas in his painting. Cropsey's painting is a perfect illustration of the fact that the railroad is, in Slotkin's (1994, p. 214; see also Smith, 1950) terms, 'an enterprise that represented 'the industrial revolution incarnate, but which at the same time appeared to offer a benign and productive association Railways 21 between the order of industrialism and the ambitions of the yeoman farmer'.

The train is a magical machine (the sublime is modern magic) for transforming solid matter (including organic matter) into steam. Railways are sublime (see Nye, 1994, pp. 45, 56). The industrial machine is a sublime (and sublimated) animal. , 1964, pp. 195, 202, 207 and 252; Kirby, 1997, p. 1). The 'iron horse', for Leo Marx (1988b, p. 191), as depicted in the more nationalistic celebrations of the technological sublime, became a divinely ordained instrument for penetrating the wilderness, driving out the Native Americans, subduing the earth, and taking dominion over the vast trans-Mississippi West.

The train window, for Foster (2003, p. ISS), 'framed the national terrain primarily as something "seen," ... as landscape. ' Sternberger (cited by Schivelbusch, 1986, p. 61) argues that 'the views from the windows of Europe have entirely lost their dimension of depth and have become ... merely a painted surface'. The windows of Europe in the form of the railway and the car have been exported to the rest of the world. They have also created the form of panoramic perception in which the world is now seen, including the window of the cinema and television screen and of the computer monitor and its software.

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