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Outline of the Essay

James Carey was a communication theorist of America, an instructor of the journalism field and a famous media critic. Carey in 1989 wrote a book analysing the telegraph as a communication process and discussed the social and commercial changes of the telegraph system.

This essay deals with the emergence of communication with freeing the transportation. It will gain an understanding of how this idea of communication can be reflected in today’s media environment.

According to James Carey, the origin of telegraph stands as an emblem for all other derivation that resolute in the modern stage of history and settled many strings in the development of communications. According to him, the changes in everything from nationalism to the desire of the electric commodities are the strength of keeping a communicative modern life. Carey also said that studying about technology is studying those complex systems and not complicated things.

James Carey believed that communication is not only the way of transmission of messages but also the link between the people and communication. Carey had two basic theories about communication; one is of featured communication as a mode of transport between sender and receiver. The other one is featured communication as an occasion and an experience that is shared.

From Carey's book of 1989, it was found that, the telegraph was left behind due to some reasons; The Western Union, the first empire of prototype communication dominated the telegraph. The telegraph provided the framework in which the modern style for the management of the complex activity, in association with the emergence of railways turned the circumstances of the telegraph into monopolistic consequences.

According to Carey, The telegraph did not provide the slot for the struggle of the titanic in the nineteenth century and that led to one of their specialization in rewriting of the law of America. The telegraph war between Vanderbilt and Gould controlled the place of activity of the telegraph system and this innovation got the name of “the industry’s nerve” by Gould. The telegraph was the first foundation of the electrical engineering technology and focused on the main problem of the modern aspects of engineering with a signal of economy.

The telegraph was the first to bring the changes in the ways of language, knowledge and the other structures of consciousness (Thompson 2012). In the initial stages, telegraph was not so popular due to less recognition and its uncertain implications to the common people. Telegraph was marked as an inferior device that depleted the history and worked as an agent of talking. A few larger groups claimed telegraph to be the agency of moral, spiritual, economic and official improvement. This gave birth to the thought that now the message would travel in a new form of knowledge and reporting that would replace the old literature form into a technically advanced form of knowledge (Carey 1989).

Thoughts of James Carey

Carey said that at the time of the telegraph reaching the west coast before the railroad of transcontinental, the identity of transportation and communication ended in case of both the symbols and facts. The telegraph acted as a catalyst in the never-ending ocean of communication. The telegraph segregates varieties of communication process and acted as a foundation stone based on which, revolution of modern media happen. The invention of the telegraph stands as a metaphor in the modern history in the development of the communications (Van Loon 2007).

Carey believed that the most important factor of the telegraph is that it allowed the useful separation of transportation from communication. The telegraph allowed the separation of messages from the movements of substances. Before the innovation of the telegraph, the use of the term communication was used to describe the transportation factor. Transmission of messages depended on either rail or horseback or by persons.

 The telegraph allowed messages to move simultaneously and independently, having not depended solely on transportation. The telegraph eventually revolutionized the concept of transportation and communication and changed the angle of communication. This process opened the door to accept new aspects of communication. Telegraph proved to be the new agency of altering ideas and not only a new form of commerce or business. The relationship between society and media is subject to both of will and fear, in the recent times or the future. Media is the artefact of communication (Scannell 2007).

The first idea of using the electricity as a mode of communication process came into being in 1753 by the Scots Magazine (Winston 1998). The importance of telegraph came to a halt with the emergence of fax, internet and telephone though it laid the base work of the communication process.

According to Carey, the communication is not just a process of spreading the information but also sharing of the communal beliefs and experiences. The concept of communication derives from the origins of religion and experiences. Communication is a way of transmission and a ritual of communal. Industrial view of communication depicts the term as sending or informing. Communication is a two way process since its innovation; one is the sender and the other one is the receiver. Thus, it can be said that the definition of communication has two aspects, one is that reading of newspaper, which will help to develop the knowledge power over some issue that occurred globally and the other is the medium used for distributing news over long distances. 

History of the Telegraph System

The current trend of communication and the environment of media can well be understood by critically analyze the concept of Carey. After the development of telegraph, the recent trend on the transformation has evolved a lot and the people became accustomed to the media that relates them to the global news and makes the technologies a part of daily life. These are the main reasons that separates this present form of world with that of the old form of world. From the perspective of James Carey, modern media can be defined as a base or foundation for the technological means of communications. The growth of the new media has created a technical world where interactions and communication is global and the acceleration in the changing society increases with the flow of information (Packer 2006). The flow of information and growing of communicative channels contributes a lot to the complications and uncertainty of the world media. The communication process as a medium has a great impact on the diffusion of innovative knowledge and it is very important to study the characteristics of the medium and appreciate the impact of it in the cultural setting of the society. 

Communication provides the readers an opportunity to explore the assorted meaning that made up the connections of the attempts of the past years. The history frames the circuit of conversion of the circulation of messages of people since the construction of railways to the emergence of internet. The influence of The Telegraph in this modern society and its role in development of communications in the future is exploring with time. The impact of the telegraph in the invention of the electromagnetism initiated the technical and rapid transfer of the knowledge into the world. The newspaper came into being because the railway made the transferring of news possible and because the telegraph allowed the news to diffuse (Mattelart 1996). The authentic news and propaganda now reaches to worldwide people, in fraction of seconds and this brought an alteration in history. 

After the approval of telegraph for the transmission of news and influencing communication, the radio came into being. The radio was very important because it was the medium struggling for the communicative space. Radio was the primary medium of media emergence at that time (McLuhan 1964). The radio became an authentic source and was more communicative in manner. The radio was used mainly for sharing propagandas.


The rise of the internet and the other modern forms of media has changed the meaning of telegraph in recent times. To narrate the importance of telegraph, Innis quoted that telegraph gave an opportunity to people a chance to communicate with another person at a distant level for the first time (Innis 1951). 

The people of today’s world have a thought that telegraph was both a product and a service. The technologies that the telegraph used for communication, has changed in the course of time (Lax 2008). The most basic change in the emergence of the new media is that the both technology and the implications of technology for the structure of industry has influenced the architecture of the telegraph. The word architecture denotes the description of functional and general structure of the telegraph system.

Having the analytical study of Carey, it can be observed that the main distinction between telegraph and new media is the later one communicates through a single network. By this integration, the new media has variety of scopes in expenditures and costs allowing the new media to merge with various applications. The suppliers of the technology and the service providers of the new media are earning profit by providing communications in various mediums within a single network and not by a particular type of medium (McLuhan 1962). The networks of the new media have many layers according to its function and process of managing the communication.  

Telegraph has a lot of impact in the emergence of new media and the present state of media. Telegraph plays an important role in today’s mass media. Newspapers became modern and global with the help of telegraph. 

Having discussed Carey's thoughts and the present state of the environment of media it can be said that the innovation in the process of communication often is in a cycling manner. It has three dimensions. The first stage deals with the development of the new media and the experimentation on its development and the second deals with the closing of the technologies by the associates regarding the activities that will increase the profit. The third stage promotes the concept of monopolization where the service providers will charge more money due to the absence of the competitors. This concept of monopolization brings the necessities of promoting new alternatives to induce more competition in the market.

The new media created an emergence for the people by abusing the convicts and portraying the severe conditions of the society. The new media provides opportunities for diversity and independence (Barlow and Mills 2008). The communication process is nothing more than the rectified meaning of an uncertified end. Although people still have wider and positive visions for the role of the technology of mass media, which is in great need of articulation.

The Telegraph System


Therefore, it can be concluded that the media in today’s world is one of the most necessary element. It is being considered as the fourth pillar of democratic structure. The media plays an influential role in improving the strength of the society. The media is also the mirror of the society that reflects the lives of the common people. Telegraph has a large impact on the role that media has on our lives now. Without the telegraph, media may not operate in the extent it is operating today. Media now deals with providing information, education and its impact on society, the entertainment factor of the society, the advertising of the products and services necessary for livelihood and the relation among various parts of the society. Media keeps the world updated by providing the global information to the people with the help of latest and innovative mediums. The media also has a huge control over the perspectives of people and acts as the watchdog in the world’s democracy. Certain people sometimes camouflage the role of media but still media is developing and growing every single day and reducing, the communication gaps among the people and countries as well (Appadurai, Bachelard, Barr and Baumer 2013). The media is also turning into a commercialized sector with the passing days and paves the way of success by influencing and supporting different channels. Media is the soul entity that can serve as a great force in ranking the nation in a top most level and keeping the contribution of telegraph in the communication process.


Adams, P.C., 2014. Communication in Virtual Worlds. The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality, p.239.. Briggs, A. and Burke, P. (2002) A social history of the media: from Gutenberg to the Internet, Cambridge: Polity Press – Chapter 2

Appadurai, A., Bachelard, G., Barr, R. and Baumer, F.L., 2013. Adorno, Theodor. Minima Moralia. London: Verso, 1997. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. New York: Verso, 1991. Andrews, Elmer. The Art ofBrian Friel: Neither Reality nor Dreams. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995. Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel's Drama, 13(1992-93), p.279.

Barlow, D. and Mills, B. (2008) Reading media theory: thinkers, approaches, contexts, London: Longman – Chapters 10-12 and 16 

Carey,1989  handbook of communication as culture.

Innis, H. (1951) The bias of communication, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Jeon, M., Landry, S., Ryan, J.D. and Walker, J.W., 2014, November. Technologies expand aesthetic dimensions: Visualization and sonification of embodied Penwald drawings. Benjamin, W. (2008) ‘The work of art in an age of mechanical reproduction’ in Illuminations In International Conference on Arts and Technology (pp. 69-76). Springer International Publishing. 

Lax, S. (2008) Media and communication technologies: a critical introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan – Chapter 1

Maddalena, K. and Packer, J. (2015) 'The digital body: telegraphy as discourse network' Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 93-117

Mattelart, A. (1996) The invention of communication, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

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Packer, J. (2006) ‘Rethinking dependency: new relations of transportation and communications’ in Thinking with James Carey: essays on communications, transportation, history, ed. by Packer, J. and Robertson, C., New York: Peter Lang – Chapter 4

Scannell, P. (2007) Media and communication, London: Sage 

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