filizefe's blog

Discussion: Controlling the Communication

Posted in Uncategorized by filizefe on February 3, 2009

Click for my Presentation on slideshare…

Throughout history, the issue of controlling the communication has always been a controversial one. Controlling the media and the message is one of the most powerful tools. The three actors of this competition are the government, the business sector, and the individual users of the communication technologies. These three forces also determine the evolution of the communication. The government can put regulations related to the functions, ownership, distribution, usage of the media but at the same time, the government itself uses the media, which creates a conflict. The business sector can develop the media with the economic power, but the same risque of monopoly destroys the objectivity of the media. The individual users can create chaos on the communication patterns when there is no system at all. Moreover, electronic communication is one of the most important national security issues since World War I. Therefore, communication technologies change over the centuries but the question remains the same: Do we need a controlling system over the media? If so, who should be in charge managing this extremely important responsibility?

Electronic communication devices sector -from wireless telegraphy to personal computers- is one of the technological systems that have dominated twentieth-century history. Even at the end of the nineteenth century, telegraphy had become a feature of modern industrial life requiring government regulation. Therefore, controlling the power of communication was an important issue. Cowan, in her book “A Social History of American Technology” provides a comprehensive history of American technology. In the chapter 12 “Communications Technologies and Social Control” the author argues the same question “Who should be in charge of all the various technologies of communication?” (Cowan, 1997)

A historical approach lends itself to a clearer understanding of the evolution of the media. Twentieth century staged big social events in the United States. The Titanic Disaster was one of the big incidents in the history of wireless communication technologies, which made a turning point from a free-for-all industry to a government-regulated system. The Titanic disaster led a chaos of wireless communication. Journalists began demanding government regulation of wireless communication and Congress began taking testimony. Such as the Titanic Disaster, World War I and II made great impact on the development of communication technologies due to their military usage. The Godfather of the Internet Vannevar Bush had also a leading role in the development of the atomic bomb.(Vannevar Bush, 2009)

The final radiotelegraph transmissions from the Titanic. This recording is in all likelihood a simulation, but its exact origin is not known. Source:

Even though many individuals and organizations tried to dominate the media in the twentieth century, none of them could remain long in control of the business of communication. According to Cowan, there were three main reasons of this lack of control: Amateurs innovating; government weakening monopolies; and free market economy. The technologies change but these actors remain the same. The names change; ham operators in the past, hackers in the present. (Cowan, 1997)

The issue of controlling the communication was controversial in the past, and it will be in the future, too. The charm of the ‘controlling the minds’ will never get old. The three main forces of this competition are the government, the business sector, and the individual users of the communication technologies. While they are competing to get in charge of the communication, they also determine the evolution of the new technologies. There is an incredible balance of this system in the United States, where the influence and interaction among these actors make the system sustainable and somehow independent from the absolute control of one. Therefore, there is no one straight answer to the question of controlling the communication. The mechanism works by keeping the questioning attitude. According to Cowan “Every technological change has profound social and ethical consequences, and we cannot rely on experts to make wise decisions about those consequences for us.” (Katzman, 1999)  



Bush, V. (July 1945). As We May Think. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from

Cowan, R. S. (1997)A Social History of American Technology. (pp. 273-300) New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 30, 2009, from

Czitrom, D. (1982). Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan. (pp. 3-29) Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Retrieved January 30, 2009, from

Hargittai, E. (1998). Reinventing Universal Broadcasting: Parallels Between Radio’s Early Years and the Internet’s Emergence. All About Internet Society. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from

Howeth, L.S. (1963). History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy. (pp 153-165) . Retrieved February 2, 2009, from

Katzman, S. (August, 1999). Slippery Technic: Beyond Control. H-USA, Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Retrieved January 31, 2009, from

Thompson, P.B. (2000). Book review. Agriculture and Human Values 17: (pp 409–410). Retrieved January 31, 2009, from

Vannevar Bush. (2009, January 5).In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from


12 Responses

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  1. pmottola said, on February 3, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Great presentation. The graphics in your PowerPoint rocked! I like your question about government controlling communications and appreciate your perspective for talking about how other governments are controlling certain Web sites like YouTube.

  2. sunagurol said, on February 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Your graphics and layout in your PowerPoint presentation were compelling and very clearly told the story of the history of American technology. I think you really nailed the idea of what a presentation really is – it’s own animal. I’m glad you poised the question of which one should be in charge – the government, corporations or consumers. I was particularly interested in your story about YouTube in Turkey and censorship. I’d be interested in hearing more.

  3. Pei-chieh said, on February 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I like your presentation. Nice design for the slide, good summarize and discussion. It is a dilemma to decide who will control the communication. However, there is one thing we can believe in, users have more power than before.

  4. jeffhora said, on February 4, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    You presentation flowed well. It’s a pity you didn’t have more time for discussion. We were headed into an interesting area of which pillar (Gov’t, business, individuals) controls media. I think it’s more about who has influence in which areas at a given time, but you helped spur the discussion. The inclusion of the Titanic SOS is powerful. Nice work!

  5. jenhuss said, on February 4, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    You did a great job last night of presenting the information very clearly. Your powerpoint was a helpful aid that contained relevant information, without overtaking what you were saying. Nice work!

  6. Michael Bean said, on February 8, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Excellent job! Really coold how you incorporated the Titanic frequency clip. Also how you used colors to differentiate what was important. Just very clever and well done.

  7. filizefe said, on February 9, 2009 at 7:56 pm


    – Actual wave links are owned by people and managed by the government, things can be disastrous if there is no regulation.
    – One of the freedoms of the internet is its freedom,
    – Microsoft blog is anonymous so it is safe. This blog turns the corporation to a human. It also makes you appreciate the pain and anger,
    – Not one actor, every actor should contribute to controlling the communication.

  8. Mattso said, on February 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Filiz, how would you compare the way communications technology was influenced by gov’t policy post-Titanic disaster to the way it was impacted by gov’t response to 9/11 (e.g. warrantless wiretapping, etc)?

    • filizefe said, on February 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm

      @Matt: Thanks for the question Matt.
      Titanic was an accident where 9/11 was a planned attack. So the reasoning of the government reaction was different in each case. In the Titanic case, government regulation was required by the public (public opinion represented by the journalists) for two main reasons. First, wireless communication could save more lives if used properly. Second, free-for-all use of wireless communication led a chaos after the disaster, where people were seeking true news.

  9. Mattso said, on February 25, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Thanks, Filiz! You have all the answers!

  10. Mattso said, on February 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I mean, you have all the answers 🙂 (so you know I wasn’t being sarcastic! haha)

  11. Filiz Efe said, on February 25, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I am glad you asked 🙂

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