“Talismans of Print Culture: Tinfoil Scrap and Newsprint Squib”

Analysis of Lisa Gitelman’s “Souvenir Foils: On the Status of Print at the Origin of Recorded Sound” New Media 1740-1915. Accessed originally from Digital Media class pdf. 

Everyone becomes an educator, experimenter, and the original novelty of the democratic populace is readily available when used in technological efforts.

Continuity exists between the purveyors of tinfoil phonograph souvenirs at the outset of sound recording and current digital media. Within the selling techniques of the Lyceum movement are the effects that something new and purportedly or actually scientific have when displayed before an otherwise uninformed audience: edutainment is not a new commodity and is effective.

As part of the “cabinets of curiosity” displayed by pseudo-museums and peddlers of the nineteenth century, similar vaudeville or burlesque[1] shows were akin to the current news media of Jay Leno or David Letterman. The introduction of the phonograph as a new media form needed acceptance for the population to understand it, and for the popularity of the invention or potential technological revolution to catch on. These lyceum showmen were a pre-cursor to the introduction by Ed Sullivan of The Beatles on television, or Ted talks.

The effect of the new medium had a similar or nearly parallel effect to how digital mediums function today. Evolutions in technology continued after initial introduction, and once the medium was useful beyond an initial tinfoil event through use of wax disks, the change to the medium caught mass appeal. The same idea is true of Walkmen to portable CD players to the I-Pod revolution.

Souvenirs are still a matter of object orientation in modern day (ie. Berlin Wall pieces in 1989 and afterwards), but their new media counterpart is the story itself broadcast to the world through a Facebook status update or Tweet. Real-time events and broadcasts featured on YouTube carry weight as documented and unaltered in graphic sincerity with the ability of toppling governments and giving the people an unfiltered voice.


[1] “The term ‘burlesque’ did not then denote striptease, but rather a topical, risqué comedy, full of witticisms pointed at the events of the day.” –From the article


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