The Ever Evolving Technology in Media and Politics

By Yarleen Hernandez

It’s safe to say that 100 years ago, 40 years ago or even a decade ago a holographic image was just a mere fantasy in movies or books, one that can be seen in the movies like Star Wars or Star Trek.

Today, with technology’s rapid and profound advances,  this mere fantasy has become a reality which was seen during the 2008 presidential election when Jessica Yellin, an American Journalist, appeared in the New York CNN Election Center through a hologram while she was physically in Chicago. This is just one example of how technology has transformed since the beginning of time and how it has been able to play a huge part in mass media and politics.

Dr. Ira Chinoy, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, held a presentation titled From Telegraph to Hologram: Election-Night Experiments in New Technologies for News at the Fifth Annual Media and History Conference at St. Peter’s College Thursday morning. An avid twitter fan, Dr. Chinoy enlightened the audience with his lecture on how technology has advanced from the telegraph to the unimaginable creation of the hologram and the début of new technology to cover election nights in the media.

“Why were machines and new technology tried on election night,” Dr. Chinoy rhetorically asked the audience during his presentation. “Election night is something we are reminded of every four years and it is an essential event in American culture. The role of election night has always been a showcase for technology and it has been this way for 160 years.”

The use of technology during election nights began in the mid-1800s with the telegraph. According to Dr. Chinoy, the telegraph allowed returns from long distances to be calculated as well as a basis for comparisons of the previous elections.  However, the returns were not always accurate.

“The telegraph was a wonderful thing,” said Dr. Chinoy. “But not everyone thought the telegraph was a great idea. In fact, Henry David Thoreau famously lampooned it.”

Dr. Chinoy took the audience through life post-telegraph to when big data journalism became popular in the 1850s and early 1860s. Newspapers began selling data books with detailed elections. After the inventions of ‘the magic lantern’, a slide-show transparency and stereo optic devices that could be projected from the sides of newspaper buildings to exert crowds,  and the ‘frames of fire’, flashing electric signs, the coverage of presidential election continued to expand through all media outlets every four years.

In 1916, American inventor, Lee De Forest, decided to convey the elections through wireless transmission. This was launched as the first event to be wirelessly transmitted through radio.

“The technology became vastly covered through hundreds of miles and newspaper headlines were more about the invention rather than who had won the election,” stated Dr. Chinoy.

Throughout the following decades, technology advanced even further and continuously provided great exposure to election nights.

In 1952, the computer UNIVAC proved that computers could possibly outsmart human beings. UNIVAC had predicted that Eisenhower would win the election against Adlai Stevenson by a landslide and its predictions were shockingly precise. However, many people continued to doubt machines and computers. In 1954, NBC avoided any type of computer usage.

“In 1952, no one could possibly know that computers would become a defining technology,” Dr. Chinoy said. “Computers were now being used for one thing and one thing only: election night.”

Seemingly, media, technology and politics will always have a connection to each other. The mass media’s desire to quickly release information relates well with technology’s ever progressive nature as well as society’s need to be in the know.  Dr. Chinoy says there will always be “the next big thing” and technology will continue to progress, though it is wiser not to predict.

“I am now smart enough to know not to make predictions,” he said. “The continued evolution of tools will help us find the information we want and help us get to what we want to see with just enough that we might have some serendipitous discovery.”


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