Many American intellectuals and business figures between the world wars envisioned modernity as an era of heightened spatial connectivity ushered in by a new array of mass-marketed communication technologies. Consistently paired in public discourse, media and transportation products and services were thought to be mechanizing everyday routines and rendering contact with faraway places a habitual part of modern life. Within this context, key events such as Richard Byrd’s polar expeditions and the New York World’s Fair were taken as metaphoric for a coming era of perpetual connectivity. For industry champions, communication devices offered users agency to live beyond their immediate environments. Critics—framing communicative contact in terms of contamination, imperialism, and escapism—saw the same technologies ensnaring leisure time and spaces within the domain of consumer capitalism. As a new round of communication technologies permeate everyday life, revisiting interwar debates offers historical grounding for contemporary discussions of mobility and connectivity.


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pp. 459-484
Launched on MUSE
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