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Marie Thébaud-Sorger

In the history of aeronautics, the balloon has long been regarded as relatively unimportant—or even excluded from the field; “lighter-than-air” technology (to use the expression coined by Nadar) was considered a dead-end which may have delayed the arrival of airplanes at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in the early years of aviation, both technologies were deeply interrelated on numerous levels, sharing the same milieu of entrepreneurs, pilots (for instance the remarkable Santos Dumont) and public enthusiasm. But the disappearance of dirigibles accompanies the construction of a heroic history of powered flight by the airplane as a symbol of modernity. However, the focus has recently shifted, through the work of eminent aviation historians such as Tom Crouch,1 and also because dirigible history has returned to the scene—for instance through the excellent studies of Guillaume de Syon who has stressed the popular and political mobilization that sustained the impressive development of this technology from the last decade of the nineteenth century until the 1930s. From the point of view of the aeronautics community (lobbies, technicians and publicists), 1880s dirigibles were a technology of the future that inherited a longstanding culture originating in the first aerostatic experiments at the end of the eighteenth century. If balloons could not yet be steered, aerial displacement was indeed a practical technique applied in races and experiments, and associated with learned societies, conferences and shows. Such endeavors nourished public expectations, political investments and, with the introduction of the dirigible, even fostered an institutional regulatory framework in the first international aerial law, as in the international conference at La Haye in 1899.

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Transfers between Media and Mobility

Automobilism, Early Cinema, and Literature, 1900-1920

Dorit Müller

The essay analyzes the interrelationship between media technologies and the development of mobility based on a concrete historical constellation—the emergence of automobilism and its representation in literature and film between 1900 and 1920. The focus lies on Western European countries and most notably on Italian and German literature as well as British, German, and French films. During that period, the portrayal of the automobile in these countries shows a dominant pattern: due to their speed, cars seem to embody a destructive power per se. This is expressed by numerous violence-related scenarios. However, the accentuation of destructive tendencies cannot only be described as a response to increased risks. Rather, they are a product of media technologies and media-specific aesthetics, too: film, establishing itself as a new media form experimenting with “dynamization“ and destruction; and literature, responding to the new visual media using dynamic language and the demolition of traditional poetic forms. Consequently, the noticeable surge in technology around 1900 created new and different types of mobility in the areas of transportation and media, influencing each other.

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Georgine Clarsen Gijs Mom

The title of this journal, Transfers, merits explication, as it attempts to engage a multitude of scholarly fields, applications, practices and conceptual frameworks. For us, Transfers invokes the movement of people, things, and information through time and space, but it also applies to the transit of concepts between fields of scholarship. The practices of technology transfer are an example of the former, while the latter can be seen at work when the concept of mobility is used to refer to both social (or “vertical”) mobility and physical (or “horizontal”) mobility. Social mobility, for instance, comes into play when the possession of a car leads to higher status, or when the train compartment becomes a medium of social exchange or the display of social hierarchies rather than simply a vehicle of physical transport. Interdisciplinarity, the key scholarly mode of this journal, always involves the movement of ideas across disciplinary borders, unsettling them in (we think) productive ways. Transfers, in other words, connects adjacent fields of scholarship as much as it connects geographical areas between which technologies move. It is crucial to understand that during this process, people, technologies, concepts, and goods in movement are transformed and transform their environments in turn. This is not an automatic or passive process: as people move, people translate.

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Labmovel

Media Arts on Wheels

Gisela Domschke and Lucas Bambozzi

Labmovel/Mobile Lab is a joint initiative developed in Amsterdam by the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk) and in Brazil by Vivo arte.mov, an International Mobile Media Art Festival, with the support of Telefonica’s Program of Art and Technology (BR) and Th e Mondriaan Foundation (NL). It consists of specially designed street vehicles equipped with features of digital media developed in the cities of Amsterdam and São Paulo. In 2012, artists from both countries submitted residency proposals that integrated the development of art projects, workshops, and cultural events as the Mobile Labs went on tour in the Netherlands and Brazil.

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Mimi Sheller and Gijs Mom

Th is issue sheds new light on one of the classic concerns of mobility studies: transitions in forms of personal transportation. Mobility transitions are arguably one of the key issues of the twenty-first century, as societies around the world face the pressing questions of climate change mitigation and adaptation. A better understanding of recent and historical transitions not only in vehicle technologies but also in urban forms could be crucial to guiding future transition dynamics. At the same time, a deeper appreciation of historical transitions in transportation can also inform how we think about the present: what methods we use, what factors we take into consideration, and what theoretical perspectives we employ.

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The Mule Caravans of Western Yunnan

An Oral History of the Muleteers of Zhaozhou

Ma Jianxiong and Ma Cunzhao

Mule caravans established a network across physical, political, and ethnic boundaries that integrated Southwest China, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. This article is a first exploration of this little-known mobile network. Based mainly on oral history, it focuses on the mule caravans based in Zhaozhou in western Yunnan from the late Qing to the 1940s, when the first motor roads were constructed. The investigation assembles horse and mule technologies and trade organization in detail in order to reconstruct the role and standing of transporters and their networks in local society, in the regional setting, in a volatile political environment, and in the face of challenging natural conditions.

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Fuels and Flows

Rethinking Histories of Transport and Mobility through Energy

Victor Seow

Despite obvious links, the relationship between transport and energy remains generally understudied among historians of transport. By briefly examining the ways in which energy resources and energy flows have intersected with transport patterns, transport costs, and transport technology, this thought piece makes a case for bringing considerations of energy into our writing of transport histories. It goes on to argue that a focus on energy and its movement also offers new insights and objects of study to those with broader interests in questions of mobility, for in tracing energy's pathways, we can better see how social, political, and environmental phenomena of varying scales have been constituted and connected in motion.

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Making Place for the Modern Road

The Road Exhibitions in Brussels (1910) and Liège (1930)

David Peleman

This article describes how two temporary road exhibitions before World War II functioned as tools to frame the Belgian road project as a rich cultural venture. In the absence of a comprehensive policy and any diverse cultural engagement by the government, a particular relationship between culture, technology, and society crystallized in the museological arrangement of these exhibitions. The article argues that, while these exhibitions relate the road project to a broad cultural field, they simultaneously instill a rigid way of reasoning about the modern road.

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Cycling

Image and Imaginary in the Cultural Turn: Review Essay

Peter Cox

The mechanized mobility practices that came to dominate road use in the twentieth century—using cars, motorbikes, and bicycles—have been notable for the concurrent development of accompanying print literatures in the form of magazines and newspapers. The developmental history of each mode can be told through a number of distinct lenses, each revealing a part of the story of the mobility technology in use. In the context of a renaissance in cycling, there is an emergence of a new style of bicycle magazine that breaks the mould of previous journals.

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Michael Jackson

Globalism makes news every day, yet world trade is hardly greater today than 30 years ago; it is the movement of capital that is far greater now, thanks to technology. The irresistible force for one world is not the United Nations, ever an arena for the contest of national interests, but money, particularly the United States dollar, which is an unofficial world currency, often with more influence than U.S. foreign policy. One of the results of monetary globalism is to make national reserve and international banks all the more important.