Sage: The Sisyphean Cycle of Technology Panics

Academic of course, but interesting:

To truly understand these claims, one needs to consider Preston’s work in the context of her time. The decade preceding her work saw both broad social and technological changes; the explosive growth in popularity of the household radio during this period, however, is especially striking. In 1922, 6,000 radios were owned by the American public; this number grew to 1.5 million by 1923, 17 million by 1932, and 44 million by 1940 (Dennis, 1998). In 1936, about nine in 10 New York households owned a household radio, and children in these homes spent between 1 and 3 hr a day listening to these devices (Dennis, 1998). This rapid rise in popularity sparked concerns not limited to Mary Preston’s article. A New York Times piece considered whether listening to the radio too much would harm children and lead to illnesses because the body needed “repose” and could not “be kept up at the jazz rate forever” (Ferrari, as cited in Dennis, 1998). Concerns voiced by the Director of the Child Study Association of America noted how radio was worse than any media that came before because “no locks will keep this intruder out, nor can parents shift their children away from it” (Gruenberg, 1935).

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