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In Session: Remaking the History of News in East Asia
1: Reading the Radio: The Intermedial Experience of News in Twentieth Century China
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
John N. Alekna
Peking University, United States
No media exists in isolation and the paths of information flow are rarely ever linear. Instead, they exist in a complex matrix of technological, material, cultural and political contexts across multiple media. In this paper, I coin the word newsscape to refer to this intermedial information environment. Drawing on theory of soundscape in the works of Alain Corbin and Emily Thompson, newsscape encompasses the technologies and practices of news. As both infrastructure and practice, newsscape acknowledges the materiality of news—the paper, the walls, the wires, roads, and rails through which it travelled—as well as its social context—the habits and places of conversation, methods of transcriptions, levels of literacy, and political impetuses that shaped it.
Taking the events of May 4th, 1919 as a case study, this paper aims to illustrate that how the news of these events travelled mattered just as much as the events themselves. What information was transferred, and through what media? How did the forms of technology, the dictates of geography, the configurations of the built environment, and the social rhythms of ‘traditional’ society shape what was heard and read? What can this event tell us about the history of news? More importantly, what can the history of news tell us about the society in which the event occurred?