Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Copyright Protection and Fair Use for Creative Industries and Education

Posted on | May 16, 2015 | No Comments

Disclaimer: The following is a brief overview related to copyright issues and should not be considered legal advice.

Copyright protections for “creative industries” and their cultural, informational and entertainment products are central to economic and educational development. They address crucial issues about the incentives for developing creative works and investing in creative projects. They also determine the flexibility of authored works for education purposes, including distance learning.

The U.S Constitution recognized early the social value of such arrangements in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 when it codified the following:

    “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Known later as the “Copyright Clause” it encoded the recognition that incentives and protections were needed for the country’s development. While the U.S. was mainly an agrarian society, the printing press was in wide use throughout the urban areas of the colonies. The politics of the printing press were a big issue in European countries and crucial to the American Revolution. Copyright legislation had been passed by an act of the Parliament in Great Britain in 1710 with the Statute of Anne to provide for protections regulated by the courts and government rather than trade guilds. These protections have become a priority in a world dominated by codification and commodification of expressive values. Works protected include dramatic, graphic, literary, musical, choreographic, pictorial, sound and video recordings.

In the US, protection of copyright was first granted with the Copyright Act of 1790 and was followed by the Copyright Act of 1909 that allowed for copyrights to be renewed. The Copyright Act of 1976 superseded all previous US copyright law and extended the term of copyright. It was noted for its codification of the doctrine of “fair use.”

The notion of fair use allowed some use of copyrighted materials for criticism, news reporting, research, scholarship and teaching purposes. The factors that went into the determination of fair use had to do with whether the use was for commercial or educational uses, whether the copyrighted work was factual or fictional and the degree of creativity in the original work. Also, how much of the original work was used. Another issue has been how the use would affect the market or potential market for the protected work.

Copyright in the US harmonized with the global system when Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998 and was notable for its incorporation of international copyright law developed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It implemented 1996 WIPO treaties, particularly the WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act and the WIPO Copyright Treaty that focused specifically on digital works.

The DMCA amended the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright protection, criminalized actions and devices that circumvented rights management, as well as limited the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by their users. It also provided protection for computer and digital device repairers so they could make temporary and limited copies of copyrighted materials during maintenance and repair work.

The DCMA also provided some protection for the use of copyrighted materials in distance education although stronger protection in the US was provided on November 2nd, 2002 when The Teach Act was signed into law by President Bush. Officially known as the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act, it was part of the larger Justice Reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2215). It redefined the terms and conditions on which nonprofit educational institutions in the U.S. may use copyright protected materials in distance education. This includes websites like my own, as well as course materials on other digital platforms and technologies.

This video is a good starting point for understanding The Teach Act.

It should be emphasized that the legislation does not give carte blanche for the unlimited use of copyrighted materials.


AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.

YouTube’s Tenth Year Anniversary

Posted on | May 4, 2015 | No Comments

Well, YouTube is 10 years old. Or at least it’s been a decade since the first video was uploaded. On April 23rd, 2005, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded an 18-second clip titled, “Me at the Zoo.” Here it is:

By April 2015, YouTube had over 1 billion users. It was also uploading collectively over 300 hours of video every minute.

Here are some statistics on Youtube usage published in April as well.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.

Emerging Areas of Digital Media Expertise, Part 1

Posted on | April 28, 2015 | No Comments

A couple of years ago I was working with a group of Digital Media MBA students doing an independent study course and it helped me conceptualize some changes going on in the industry and related employment changes. In extensive discussions about their goals and their perspective on the dynamic high-tech sector in Austin, I began to reflect on the trajectory of the digital media field and what types of knowledge, skills, and abilities were becoming increasingly required. I was also getting feedback from media managers and venture capitalists about what they were looking for in new and re-trained employees.

I decided to post six areas of expertise media and information management students were gravitating towards, based on their interests and competencies. I suggested the terminology “digital media archetypes” to refer to the “recognizable character types that emerge from the systemic organization of activities and responsibilities in the modern digital environment.” Individuals look to situate themselves in occupations according to their interests and perceived skill sets and knowledge. Sometimes they specialize and sometimes they incorporate overlapping areas.

The major areas of digital media expertise:

Strategic Communications
Analytics and Data Visualization
Business Management
Global Knowledge

Work environments involving global media and culture environments require and utilize various combinations of design, technical, communications, analytics, global knowledge, and business acumen. Most people may specialize in one or two areas of expertise; others may take on many, particularly in small organizations. Still others may take on leadership roles that require them to establish rapport with, and orchestrate people with different types of competencies to accomplish different types of creative tasks.


Design abilities require the refinement of aesthetic sensibilities creative abilities, and the mastery of media skills. This may involve a number of imaginative activities involving image composition, info-graphic construction, video editing, page layout, typography selection, character drawing, and user interface schemes.
Understanding how human users interact with a design is important, particularly with the proliferation of touchscreen and other “human” interface technologies that provide haptic as well as visual feedback.

Design skills involve aligning informative and iconic content elements, organizing similar types of information, setting up intriguing contrasts, and repeating important elements. A website for example needs a structure with a logo in a predictable place, navigational systems that are quickly decipherable and easy to operate, chromatic texturing and shading, typographies that convey the intention of the site, and meaningful content that is sharply aligned and easy to read.

Visual literacy and skills remain vital to design and media quality. Composing a shot or constructing a grammatical sequence of meaningful images continues to grow as a fundamental media production competency. Capturing authentic or staged moments with digital photography has been given a new impetus by social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and photo sharing sites such as with their ability to distribute widely and encourage commentary, tagging, and feedback.

High definition camera phones, with near broadcast quality, provide extraordinary amounts of content for news programs, DIY social entertainment, and source materials for ads and public relations videos. Youtube, Google+, Facebook and other social media sites like Snapchat, Twitter, and Vine provide outlets for creative camera work. Drones now provide an extraordinary new source of visual content. Even the construction of virtual reality environments for games and other simulations require knowledge of camera perspectives and environmental compositions. Of course, television and film still provide a number of opportunities for camera work.

Design activities often draw on global, regional and local knowledge. They frequently infuse cultural, social and economic contexts and meaning into their work. Lastly, design projects require strong execution skills that may require both working independently as well as with groups or partners.


Technical skills for these areas may include computer coding and networking skills, but primarily involve mastery of specific software applications involved in the production of media content. These might relate to animation, games, photography, television or movies. While being able to code in HTML5, Javascript, node.js or a C language is extremely useful, as is being able to configure a Local Area Network or a Content Delivery Network; technical expertise in the global media will more often involve combining artistic and creative abilities with these new “cultureware” applications. Furthermore, the management of teams of technical media specialists and their creative counterparts requires a unique combination of leadership, accounting, collaboration, and project management skills.

While applications tend to change over time, Adobe’s Audition, Illustrator, and Photoshop are central to creative media production in a wide range of industries such as book, magazine, music, and web publishing. Autodesk’s Maya 3-D software is the current standard in game development, video animation, as well as building and environmental design. Avid’s non-linear editing suites are used to compose musical soundtracks, edit news stories, color correct TV advertisements, and structure the workflow of visual editing for movies, sports and other complex video arrangements such as e-commerce product demos. Avid’s ISIS systems not only store and manage large amounts of HD, 2K, and 4K digital media but allow teams from around the world to add files, collaborate on storylines and edit simultaneously in real-time. Avid’s Media Composer now handles 4K editing.

Strategic Communication

Communication is central to advancing personal and organizational goals. It is central to aligning internal management and employees and connecting with external clients, customers, and vendors. Social networking and other digital media are proliferating and augmenting or replacing traditional media. Social networking, mobile telephony, text messaging, video conferencing, email and virtual reality are some of the new forms of mediated communications that each present new challenges and opportunities for profit and non-profit organizations.

Communication and digital strategists are people who analyze and solve organizational problems with communication skills and digital media tools. They combine a deep understanding of how organizations work with powerful new abilities in design, media production, media analytics, writing, cultural and global sensitivities. They orchestrate the use of media channels and platforms to promote agendas or products.

The dynamism of digital technologies has renewed the validity of Communication and its various sub-disciplines such as organizational communication, rhetoric, dispute resolution, nonverbal behavior, computer-mediated communication, mass communications, semiotics, public relations, advertising, speech, film and television analysis, discourse analysis as well as drama and theatre.

Communication has a rich history of not only studying the communications and media industries but interpersonal and speech processes as well. Furthermore, the area has a strong tradition of developing and using methodologies that are both empirically based and generalizable to lived social situations. Diffusion of innovations and network analysis are two examples of communication research that are extremely applicable to today’s Internet-enhanced social media environment.

The famous Lasswell model above provides a useful conceptualization of the communication process and identifies key roles and components: communicator, message, medium, receivers, and the effect that is produced. This model was turned into the popular saying in the field: “Who? Says what? In which channel? To whom? With what effect?” These generate a Lasswell Modelseries of questions relevant to advertisers, publishers, and others involved in media and cultural production. Understanding the varieties of media firms or the people who are eligible to speak; the types of meaningful messages created; the influence of the medium on the audio, visual and written content that are transmitted through media channels; and also the influence of the messages and processes on audiences and individual receivers that decode and interpret the communication.

In the next section, I will cover the three other areas I mentioned above. These are Analytics and Data Visualization, Business Management, Global Knowledge.


AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.

Lotus Spreadsheets – Part 4 – Symbols and Lists as Administrative Technologies

Posted on | February 14, 2015 | No Comments

Spreadsheets like Lotus 1-2-3 were designed to facilitate organizational coordination and activity by setting up relationships between symbolic and material resources. Using a grid structure, spreadsheets achieve their efficacy by combining the following components:

  1. symbolic representation;
  2. lists;
  3. tables;
  4. cells and;
  5. formulas.

In this post I will examine how the first two components, symbolic representations and lists, have developed as epistemological technologies that organize administrative knowledge and came together to make the spreadsheet useful. In a future post I will examine tables, cells, and formulas.

Writing processes using letters and numbers have been historically potent technologies involved in actively constituting business and other social formations through symbolic representation. Letters representing sounds and ideographic characters representing concepts were crucial inventions for managing bureaucracies and facilitating trade relations. By capturing the sounds of oral language with written marks, conceptual understanding could be represented, stored, and communicated in new ways. Writing came to be a trusted system for registering and categorizing facts and truth.

Historically, this was not always the case. Symbolic representation achieved credibility in the West through a long process that had mercantile writing at its core. Accounting methods originating in the 13th century that turned narratives into written and numerical facts helped create what Mary Poovey called an “epistemological revolution.” This included not only capitalism, but the rise of the modern state and the gradual acceptance of the scientific method and “positive” facts.

This worldview, often called positivism or empiricism, unlike theology, privileged the development of facts and knowledge based on sensory experience that could be verified by logic, mathematics, or science. The spreadsheet requires the ability to symbolically itemize facts in phonographic (sound), ideographic, or numerical form and organize them spatially in columns and rows to create additional significance.

Lists have been an especially potent visualization tool. “List” is both a noun and a verb; a thing as well as a process. The list emerged as a decontextualized, verbless use of words that nevertheless provided a list_expensespowerful technique for historically managing temples, palaces, and eventually the modern corporation. Lists create boundaries that both distinguish individual entries within the list, as well as separate its items from those on the outside. Lists organize meaning in new ways. They establish classifications and relationships between previously disparate items.

Listing encourages an interrogation. This process encourages analysis of the list’s entries, either individually and/or as a group, allowing operations that may reveal new summations and taxonomies. Hobart and Schiffman reinforced this view, “In contrast to the flow of speech, lists create boundaries, which both distinguish the individual entries within the list, and separate all its items from those outside. These internal and external boundaries encourage the scrutiny of its entries, individually and as a group, revealing the possibility of new classifications.”[1]

Jack Goody divided lists into three different categories: retrospective (inventory), prescriptive (shopping), and lexical. The retrospective or inventory list was used mainly for administrative purposes to keep track of things.[2] The property of an estate, for example, would have jewels, cattle and other animals, an itemization of foodstuffs paid or owed taxes. etc. Lists helped keep records for the monarchy: treasury, soldiers, armaments, nobles and their kin. It was also a key technology for the bureaucracies of the emerging system of nation-states that developed a keen interest in tallying the population and its characteristics. Lists were also kept by cleric-scientists who began the recording of natural facts: astronomical events, climate factors, wild animals, etc.

For merchants, the inventory list became an indispensable component of double-entry bookkeeping, an accounting system that helped lay the practical and ideological foundation for modern capitalism. While Luca Pacioli, a mathematician turned Franciscan monk, is credited with popularizing the technique around 1494. It was developed over hundreds of years by merchants in Venice and around the Mediterranean. The first recorded examples date to around 1300. It involves several measures starting with a list of short narratives describing a transaction, a debt, a loan. Several other steps resulted in the reduction to numerical monetary figures under two categories, debits and credits. Finally, at the end of the day (or week) a tally of the two lists needed to be equal.

Goody’s other two list types are the prescriptive lists; basically to-do lists, like a shopping list. This is a series of recorded things to be done or accomplished. They pre-script a future activity. Finally, lexical lists stored related words and meanings like a dictionary. They were important for the formulation of various types of knowledge.[3] List technology is a crucial component of the spreadsheet. Historically, lists have allowed thoughts and speech to be symbolically materialized – to be inspected, reviewed, and rearranged in new and novel ways not available before the development of writing.

Although mainly written vertically in a column, lists can also be contained in the rows of a spreadsheet. In a future post, I will be looking at another important meaning-creating technology that shaped the capabilities of the spreadsheet. The table, a conjunction of vertical lists or “columns” with horizontal lists called “rows”. Tables added new dimensions to a list, creating new relationships, classifications and intersections that point to particular values. The technology of the timetable, for example, has made modern transportation such as the railroad and air travel possible by ordering the time-space location of multiple vehicles in schedules that give passengers choices to select.


[1] Quote on the list from Information Ages: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Computer Revolution by Michael E. Hobart and Zachary S. Schiffman. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. p. 46.
[2] A lot of my thinking emerged from reading Anthony Giddens, particularly his (1981) A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism. Vol. I. p. 94-95. I’m also indebted to a very good paper “un-Black Boxing the List: Knowledge, Materiality, and Form” by Liam Cole Young, Western University Canada for Goody’s different types of lists.
[3] Jack Goody’s (1984) Writing and the Organization of Society is one of the seminal books on the politics of the list.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.

Railroads and Western Union Connect a Continent

Posted on | February 11, 2015 | No Comments

This is a section from my upcoming book Information and Financial Technologies in Early America: Telegraphy, Tabulation, and Time-Space Power..

The geographic expanse and rugged terrain of the American West presented major challenges to overland transportation and the expansion of telegraphic communication. Attempts to conquer these obstacles would shape the American frontier for years. The fate of the railroad was intrinsically intertwined with land-based telegraphy, and with the outbreak of the Civil War, both the railroads and telegraph would be corporately organized, and their diffusion accelerated.

The movie Western Union (1941) by German Director Fritz Lang presents an interesting, although somewhat racist, depiction of the venture to expand the telegraph’s reach towards the Pacific.

Railroads and telegraphic lines developed initially in the Northeast, but the promise of the West lured the Eastern population and required technological solutions. The rough terrain made travel very difficult. One of the first technical successes that made transportation (and thus communication) more practical was the Erie Canal, completed in 1825. It successfully connected New York’s Hudson River to the Great Lakes and made Chicago a focal point for the Midwest’s aspiring commodities markets (thus further isolating the South). Texas was integrated in 1845 and the Oregon Territory the following year. Mexico ceded its territories in the West in 1848, and California became a state in 1850. California’s population quadrupled over the ten years after the discovery of gold.[1] As the US widened its population and Westernized economy, communication and transportation systems became more important.

Moving goods and people to and from California to the East Coast proved tricky. The route by sea necessarily required a ship to steam around the southern tip of South America. Water transportation involving the Midwest relied heavily on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Both trips, however, required traversing the hurricane-prone Caribbean and the southern US coast. For example, the steamship Central America sunk in a storm off the coast of the Carolinas with some 500 passengers and 21 tons of gold. It was on its forty-fourth trip when its demise came on September 12, 1857. Along with the tragic loss of life, the sinking sparked panic among traders on Wall Street, who were desperately anticipating the arrival of the ship’s precious metal cargo to increase the nation’s money supply.

Alternatively, travelers could travel by horseback or wagon some 1,600 miles from Kansas City to the Pacific or through the malaria-plagued Isthmus of Panama. Suitable road development suffered in the West as construction had been left to the individual states after older states sensed little benefit in subsidizing better transportation in the newer states. State support of the railroad development became contentious after the Panic of 1837 hampered state credit and capital flows from Eastern and European investors. Although growth returned in the 1850s, a series of investment problems hindered the expansion of the train system as European investors suffered from stock manipulation. Thus, it was primarily up to the federal government to ensure the western development of the railroads.

In 1855, a Committee on Pacific Railroads was formed by Congress to hasten the completion of transcontinental endeavors. Army Topological Engineers were sent to scout routes for the railroads and telegraph lines to make forays into the West. In anticipation, the Pony Express Pony Express was set up to carry mail across the country. The horses carried commercial and political messages and documents that helped coordinate the telegraph line construction. Although the riders could traverse the two thousand-mile route that stretched between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento in about ten days, they would soon be replaced by the efficiency of the telegraph that carried messages in minutes.

It took the initiative of President Lincoln and Congress to effectuate a more extensive transportation and communications grid for the country. Transportation infrastructure lagged until the Civil War and Lincoln’s resolve to secure the West. Motivation increased after silver was found in Nevada in 1859 and the Gold Rush’s expansion to Colorado’s Pike’s Peak the following year. Lincoln saw the preservation of the Union not only in North-South terms but also in incorporating the vast expanses of the West.

A semaphore telegraph was constructed on San Francisco’s “Telegraph Hill” in 1849 to notify the city’s merchants when ships were sighted entering the Golden Gate. It used raisable pole-and-arm signals that could form various configurations with specific meanings, such as a sailing boat, steamer, etc., as well as their type of cargo. Knowing a ship’s impending arrival and its load could affect local merchants’ prices for those goods and commodities. It was rendered obsolete in 1853, when the California State Telegraph Company began constructing telegraph lines to connect San Francisco with San Jose, Stockton, and Sacramento. Soon, the California Legislature offered a $6,000 a year incentive complete a telegraph line across the continent.

In June of 1860, Congress passed the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860, appropriating $40,000 a year, for ten years, for the construction and maintenance of a line of telegraph connections between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Secretary of the Treasury advertised for contractors, and it went to Western Union due to its high bid and the withdrawal of other contenders. Competing companies in California agreed to work together and fund the upstart Overland Telegraph Company, to build the lines between San Francisco and Salt Lake City in Utah. Western Union, which had already consolidated many telegraph companies in the eastern states, formed the Pacific Telegraph Company and committed to building the telegraph line from Omaha to the connection with the Overland Telegraph Company near Salt Lake City.

Edward Creighton, whose character is featured in the Western Union movies above, surveyed the route of the proposed telegraph line between Omaha and Sacramento and dug the first post hole for the telegraph line on July 2, 1861. Creighton, who had managed construction on the eastern side, was noted for establishing good relationships with many Native American tribes along the route. The California State Telegraph Company, with additional federal funding, extended its lines eastward. The line ran from Omaha through Fort Laramie, along the famous Oregon Trail, until it veered off into Utah.

Provisioning the construction was difficult, especially providing lumber for poles throughout the plains of the Midwest. Confederate spies, Native Indians, and outlaw gangs created additional problems. Mormons were particularly useful in the final stages, especially as fears of the oncoming winter mounted. On October 24, 1861, Western Union Telegraph Company workers linked the eastern and western telegraph networks at Salt Lake City, Utah. Instantaneous telegraphic communication between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco was possible for the first time.[2] Western Union soon absorbed both companies and became the first US corporation to span the nation.

After the Civil War had erupted in April 1861, the North debated and took several measures to encourage the pacification and settling of the West. One, the Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged western development by no longer selling but instead offering ownership to those who settled and cultivated the land. Two, the Railways and Telegraph Act of 1862 nationalized the emerging technological infrastructure and mobilized West Point graduates and other military personnel to propel its development. The Union assigned military units to help protect the construction and, unfortunately, engaged in widespread genocide of Native Americans to eliminate any threat to the Western advance. Three, the U.S. government took an active role in expanding both the reach of the railroads and the telegraph. The Pacific Railroad Act chose two companies to link Omaha, Nebraska, with Sacramento, California, and thus complete the transcontinental railroad.

General Herman Haupt took over the North’s railroads and turned them into a crucial logistical tool. Originally from Philadelphia, he chose railroad engineering after graduating from West Point at the age of eighteen. When the war broke out, he offered to serve the North as a civilian. At first, he was assigned to the Army of Virginia, where he took the position of colonel to expedite his charge to bring order to the chaotic state of the railroads in that area of the country. There, he designed the responsibilities of the Department of Military Railroads: inventory the railroads and their distances, assess their condition, and determine the availability and prices of materials and labor for building and maintaining the lines. Haupt’s railroads were used to quickly move large numbers of troops to the battlefield as well as ammunition, other equipment, and food. It proved crucial at Chattanooga the next year as the North quickly moved nearly 23,000 soldiers, ten batteries of artillery, and 100 cars of supplies from Virginia to the front in Tennessee.

After the war, Haupt and many other officers went to work for various railroad and telegraph companies. These were the vanguard companies of the modern corporation, and the military officers had the best training for running large, technologically complex operations. Leading troops into battle, or coordinating the massive supply lines needed for modern armies, provided the experience necessary to build railroads and telegraph lines. Military regiments were also used to build and protect this rapidly growing infrastructure. However, western expansion, in particular, presented numerous problems for the fast-growing industries that faced contending threats from criminal gangs, Native Americans, weather, and wild animals. .

Several Republican businessmen organized in California California to build a railroad to build a railroad through the rugged mountains of western America. Most prominent of these was Leland Stanford, California’s future governor, and Stanford University’s benefactor. One of the many abolitionists who wanted to stay connected to the Union, he helped raise money for the project and lobby Congress. In 1862, Congress passed the Railroad Act of 1862, and Lincoln signed legislation to help build the Missouri River-California railroad. The Act authorized two companies to build the transatlantic railroad. One was the Central Pacific Railroad, chaired by Stanford. It would go east from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The other company, Union Pacific, would go West from Omaha, Nebraska, over the Great Plains and through the Rocky Mountains. To help the process, the government gave the companies 20 square miles for each mile of track laid.[4]

The work was long and arduous, but the two companies persisted. The Central Pacific had difficulty getting through the Sierra Summit and its 1600 feet of granite. It hired Chinese crews to bore through the summit and several other mountains with gunpowder and nitroglycerin. Sioux and Cheyenne raided the Union Pacific lines and cut telegraph wires, but the company made faster time than their Western counterparts. They only had to cut through four mountains as they traversed the Rocky Mountains. Their real challenges came with the dry desolation of the Nevada desert and persistent financial problems. Droughts of water and cash plagued the western trek, and Dr. Durant, its director, was accused of bribing Congressional members to garner additional support. Persistent labor shortages also hindered progress, but with the end of the Civil War, many soldiers and officers went west to help finish the project.

Despite record snowstorms during the 1867 and 1868 winters, the two companies connected their tracks on May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah. The endeavor took six years, and over 21 million acres of land were awarded to the two companies as well as generous subsidies. The event was highly anticipated nationwide and was one of the first true national media events. Telegraph lines were already connected to Promontory, and telegraphers stood by to signal the event. Leland Stanford of the Central Pacific Railroad was invited to drive the last spike. Crowds eagerly awaited the news as they gathered around telegraph offices in San Francisco and other cities. The final spike was wired to the telegraph to signal the event. Although Leland missed on his first attempt, the telegrapher signaled three dots indicating the spike had been driven into the rail. Celebrations commenced throughout the country, and the Liberty Bell was even struck gently in Philadelphia to mark the occasion.[5]

These two technologies became highly dependent on each other. As the transcontinental railroads became the major mode of transportation for most parts of the United States, it also aided the construction of telegraph lines. The telegraph lines provided for the expansion of business, government, and news operations. The vast expanse of the western US frontier provided ample natural resources for the burgeoning economy and a growing consumer market in the East. As the western states prospered, they also became important markets for industrial goods from the East, such as clothes, linens, plows, rifles, and shovels. A railroad employee, R.W. Sears, started one of the most famous mail-order businesses with the Sears Catalog. Sears, Roebuck, and Company went on to become the world’s largest retailer.

With the westward expansion opened by the military and government for commercial exploitation, railroads and telegraph lines soon crisscrossed the country and conquered the West. The Buffalo was the first victim of the locomotive. In some places, miles of bones and rotting hides could be seen alongside the railway. The end of the Buffalo stirred up the last resistance from the native Indians. Just days before the country celebrated its hundredth centennial, news spread that General Custer had met his demise at Little Big Horn. But his “last stand” on June 25th, 1876, proved to be more of an ending for the Indians as they soon lost their cherished Black Hills and an additional 40 million acres of promised reservation lands. The markets for fresh meat in the East created the era of the cowboy, as steers were herded north from Texas and other MidSouth states to the railroads that were hungry for business. Chicago meatpackers invented the assembly line and other technological processes such as refrigerated cars to streamline the of supply line of fresh meats from ranches to local butchers.


[1] Data on incorporating states from The Permanent Frontier by Haig Babian; Gerald R Rosen; Institute of Economic Affairs, New York University as published in (1961) p. 40.
[2] A major source from the time period is “The making of the U.S. transcontinental telegraph line.” By James Gamble. Harper’s Weekly, November 23, 1861. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
[3] Eicher, D.J. (2002) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. NY: Simon and Schuster. One of the few accounts of the Civil War that addresses the issues of communications and transportation.
[4] Information on Leland Stanford from the history section of the Stanford University website accessed on May 8, 2015. [5] From the PBS website Biography: Leland Stanford (1824-1893) accessed the same day. Leland Stanford went on to become the Governor of California in 1871 and a US Senator in 1885.
[5] Information on the telegraph’s role in the celebration of the transcontinental railroad from The West, a documentary by Ken Burns.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is a professor at the State University of New York, Korea. Previously he was a professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea and he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. For most of his career, he was on the faculty of New York University. His first position was at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Gold, Greenbacks and Invention of Electric Indicators for Financial News

Posted on | January 26, 2015 | No Comments

The “Gold Rush” was a huge boon to the economy and in many ways, it made the US a world economic and technological power. The discovery of gold in 1849 allowed the money supply, and subsequently, the US economy, to grow significantly. Discovered first at Sutter Creek, California, the precious metal introduced a new flow of currency and capital into the US economy. The challenges brought on by the new wealth set in motion technological changes as well. The telegraph was bringing in a new age of electrical innovation, and one of its first offshoots was the gold indicator.

Currency liquidity increased during the 1850s with major Nevada silver claims in 1859 and the Pike’s Peak gold rush the next year in Colorado. These metals strengthened the economy and provided an important source of funds for America’s industrial revolution, which was occurring primarily in the Northern states. Although gold and silver significantly increased the money supply, they were inadequate to meet to challenges of the next decade.

As tensions increased between the industrial northern and agrarian southern states, the demand for currency increased. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, the governments of the North and South started to borrow gold from the banks, further reducing their metal reserves. Both governments needed to raise large amounts of money to pay for their war effort. Borrowing gold from banks weakened the banking and monetary system, which was based on private banks printing money that was redeemable for gold. Subsequently, the North, lead by US Congressman Elbridge Spaulding devised a plan for a new currency, the “greenback,” which was not based on gold. It was nicknamed so because it was said to not be based on anything except the green ink printed on it.

Greenbacks were the creation of the Legal Tender Note Act of 1862, legislated with support from President Lincoln. This fiat money was not backed by gold but only the government’s support and confidence in the system. This Act established a more stable and widespread currency so as to raise money for the Civil War. Green ink was chosen because it could not be duplicated with black and white photography. The Treasury used rags and cotton to make the paper and the currency’s value fluctuated, depending on who was winning the latest battles.

During the war, the currency price fluctuated according to location and to a large extent, who was winning the war. The greenback currency was valued at par in 1862 but by 1864 they were generally worth about 38 cents. Jefferson Davis, the Confederate leader, also printed money and the two currencies were in competition as well. California meanwhile rejected the greenback as well as the South’s money and chose to stay with gold coins. By the end of the war over $400 million in greenbacks had been printed.

After the war, a “Gold Room” was set up on Wall Street to reconcile the price relationship between greenbacks and gold.[1] At first, a simple blackboard was used to notate the prices, but soon mechanical and electro-mechanical devices were concocted to provide a better, more efficient method to track and display prices. Dr. S. S. Laws, the presiding officer of the Gold Exchange, invented an electro-mechanical ‘gold indicator” that displayed prices almost instantaneously. It was set up so one indicator faced inside the Gold Room and another could be viewed from the street where messengers and others could view the prices.

Many firms kept an office near the stock exchange and used young boys and teenagers called “pad shovers” who ran the latest quotes from the exchange floor back to their broker’s office. Consequently, office space nearest the stock exchange was at a premium as it reduced the time needed to move the price information back to the brokers. The gold indicator was the prototype of most of the printing telegraphs or stock “tickers” that distributed financial news over the next several decades, including one developed by Thomas Edison that would fund his inventive endeavors.

Soon, Dr. Laws resigned his position at the Gold Exchange to pursue the commercial opportunities associated with the use of technology for the financial industry. In 1866, Dr. Laws devised a “Gold Reporting Telegraph” that he quickly patented. It could transmit the gold prices to more distant points and by the end of the year had 50 subscribers.

    His indicators were small oblong boxes, in the front of which was a long slot, allowing the dials as they traveled past, inside, to show the numerals constituting the quotation; the dials or wheels being arranged in a row horizontally, overlapping each other, as in modern fare registers which are now seen on most trolley cars.[2]

It was not long before they soon signed up some 300 subscribers. The hundreds of boys who ran quotes from the Gold Exchange to their respective brokerage employers were slowly being put out of work. They were said to be a particular target of Laws, having once been thrown into a muddy street by a group of these boys struggling to place themselves for the latest gold quotes. But it also brought competition as others saw the financial industry as a market ripe for innovations in communications technology.[3]

The tensions between gold and the greenback dollar came to a head in autumn of 1869 when speculators rigged a scheme to corner the market.

A couple of years later, Thomas Edison would arrive in New York and it was the dynamic Wall Street environment and its desire for technology that would turn him from just a fast telegrapher to a famous inventor.


[1] At the end of the war, nearly $500 million in paper dollars were in circulation. The Funding Act of 1866 ordered the Treasury to retire them but Congress rescinded the order after complaints from farmers looking to pay off debts.
[2] This quote about the Laws gold telegraph is from Edison: His Life and Inventions (1929) was written by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin and published in New York by Harper Brothers. It was accessed from
[3] I was lucky enough to find an older biography about Thomas Edison that described in some detail the beginnings of the gold indicator and the stock ticker. Edison: His Life and Inventions (1929) was written by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin and published in New York by Harper Brothers. It was accessed from



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii during the 1990s.

Telegraphic Communications and the Emergence of Wall Street

Posted on | January 19, 2015 | No Comments

This is from an ongoing side project I’m about to publish Telegraphy, Tabulation, and Time-Space Power: Information Technology and Financial News in Early America.

Capital markets have long sold themselves as vehicles for capital movement and liquidity. They aggregate wealth from a wide geographical area and make it available at a fixed locale. They also provide liquidity, the ability to let investors withdraw their money at a reasonable price when they need it. Technological development in the US helped facilitate this powerful combination to create “Wall Street,” a financial cluster of brokers and investment firms in downtown New York City. Over time, Wall Street helped spark innovations in electrical communications and used these inventions to accumulate excess wealth from throughout the US and Europe. Telegraphic communications helped Wall Street raise the investment capital that created the new forms of corporate power that harvested the riches of westward, and later global, expansion.

Telegraphy became immediately useful for the financial markets as it helped spread the scope of participation in investment opportunities. News and gossip about companies and prices were transmitted throughout areas where a rising investment class was emerging. Getting this information allowed investors to make decisions about investing in companies or withdrawing their capital from the financial markets. Telegraphic communications not only assisted financial trading but helped constitute the modern financial trading system.

Three geographic centers of financial activity emerged during the 19th century. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia inherited a trading culture from their Dutch and British immigrants and took advantage of the growing economic wealth in the colonies as well as events in Europe. Philadelphia was the early leader and by the Revolutionary War, the Philadelphia Board of Broker had organized the first American stock exchange. In New York, brokers and traders regularly met under a sycamore tree at what became later 68 Wall Street. In 1792, some 24 of these businessmen signed the Buttonwood Agreement setting up a more formal exchange, although they continued to meet in taverns and coffeehouses to conduct their trade.[1] Boston suffered from the inability to formalize its arrangements, which it did not accomplish until 1834.

Until canals, mining, munitions, railroads, steamships, and the telegraph associated with westward expansion allowed for domestic companies to emerge, financial activity was based on the European powers. American mercantile development was still in its infancy and financial activities were intrinsically bound to Europe. Most trading in the early days of the USA involved government bonds. The Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese all had extensive trading networks throughout the world and those in the American colonies with money to invest kept a close eye on European events.

England’s power was on the rise due to the power of trading networks, its navy, and prominence as an industrial power. London was surpassing Amsterdam as a port city, aided in part by a national market connected by roads as well as artificial and natural waterways. Great Britain was emerging as the world economy’s reigning superpower and despite its problems with the American colonies, the two were strongly linked by commerce, culture and history.

Travel and communication, intrinsically linked at the time, were crucial issues for the development of American financial trading activities. A good example was the news of the 1776 Declaration of Independence signed in Philadelphia that took as long to reach Charleston as it did Paris, some 29 days.[2] Sailing ships were the primary transatlantic mode of communications, but it took a day more to reach Philadelphia than New York. This meant brokers in New York had an extra day to receive and analyze the incoming information. In some situations, they might head out on horseback to the “City of Brotherly Love” and “use their advance information to the disadvantage of the Philadelphians”. A flag-based semaphore system was set up by the Pennsylvania merchants through the state of New Jersey, connecting hilltops from Philadelphia to New York. News and other information could travel from one city to another in as little as ten minutes.[3]

The successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War set the stage for Wall Street, but not without controversy and a fateful decision for the future of the US. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton traded New York’s political leadership, for a the opportunity to solidify its financial dominance. The deal that solidified Wall Street’s financial power was the same one that sent the capitol of the US to the swampy banks of the Potomac River. Hamilton was worried that the debts accumulated by the states for the war effort were not being paid. He feared this would weaken the US’ ability to conduct foreign trade and other countries would not take the new nation seriously. Others, particularly James Madison disagreed, as it required new taxes. Also, states that had paid off their debt resented helping the others. Southern states also feared the growing power of the north. After months of arguing, a deal was struck that sent the federal capitol south to an area near Virginia now known as the District of Columbia. Subsequently, the Treasury issued the $80 million in federal bonds that would be the start of Wall Street’s financial inheritance.[4]

The second funding project that solidified New York’s status as a financial center was a large infrastructure project. The Erie Canal was the largest US public works project in history – until the interstate highway system of 1956. In 1817, the issuance of bonds for the Erie Canal led to the building of the 363-mile artificial river that connected New York City, and thus Europe, to the American heartland. The Erie Canal displaced New Orleans as the intermediating city to the American Midwest and turned Chicago into a financial hub for the West’s bountiful trade in natural resources. It connected New York’s Hudson River to the Great Lakes and solidified Manhattan’s position as the nascent nation’s commercial center.

Chicago grew quickly after 1833 from a fur trading center to a major metropolis providing valuable lumber, wheat, meat and other “commodities” to the rest of the country and Europe. In 1848, the Chicago Board of Trade was formed, the same year telegraph lines connected New York to the “Windy City.” The telegraph may not have been as important for Chicago’s status as an entrepot of nature’s bounty as the grain elevator and the railroad. Still, it provided an important tool for both speculative and arbitrage opportunities and created a degree of regularity for commodity prices throughout the Midwest. Quoting from William Cronon’s award-winning (1991) book, Nature’s Metropolis at length:

    In the wake of the telegraph, news of western harvests brought instant shifts in New York markets, while news of European wars or grain shortages just as rapidly changed prices in Chicago. Local events–a drought say, or an early frost–ceased to be so important in setting prices for grain or other crops. If local circumstances forced up prices at one place, the telegraph allowed knowledgeable buyers to go elsewhere, driving local prices back down. As markets became more efficient, their prices discounted local conditions and converged with regional, national, and even international price levels. The wider the telegraph’s net became, the more it unified previously isolated economies. The result was a new market geography that had less to do with the soils or climate of a given locality than with the prices and information flows of the economy as a whole.[5]

At first, messages from the East Coast had to be routed through Detroit and could take some 18 hours to arrive. But by the Civil War, some 50,000 miles of telegraph wire had been constructed throughout the country, and efficiency increased dramatically. In any case, even the communications capability of early telegraph system was a major improvement over the speed of boats and horses. By the late 1850s, The Chicago Board of Trade had become one of the most important commodity markets in the world because of the new communications technologies.

These events meant New York was quickly becoming the center of American commercial activity. Legislative events drove many Philadelphia banking interests to the Big Apple, especially the Pennsylvania decision to outlaw private banking. In 1817, the New York Stock & Exchange Board was established with a listing of 30 stocks, a new constitution, and new rules for trading. In honor of the famous Tontine Coffee House’s “Board Room” where members regularly met, the term “Board” was included in the new stock exchange’s name. The opening of the Erie Canal, which connected the Hudson River to the Great Lakes solidified Manhattan’s position as the nascent nation’s commercial center. Investment banking companies such as Prime, Ward, & King and August Belmont & Company (which represented the House of Rothschild, the world’s largest banking interest) were set up to channel European capital into the New World.[6]

In 1842, the New York Stock & Exchange Board moved into the Merchants Exchange at the intersection of Wall Street and Williams Street. A huge hall, lined with red canopies, it sheltered the daily crowd of indigenous brokers with their strange system of hand signals and the ever-present hum of gossip and negotiations. Trading was conducted in two daily sessions and promptly ended by 3pm. At the end of each session the “authentic news of the stock speculators” was announced. In the mid-1840s, the telegraph was first utilized to transmit information from the stock market to investors and newspapers around the country. In 1845, the Magnetic Telegraph Company was formed and lines were soon being built connecting New York to Boston, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and points further west.[7] Forty words could be sent for dollar and reports containing prices and news but also rumors and innuendoes were well received around the country.

The telegraph accelerated and diffused the U.S. financial system while also centralizing its coordination in New York City. As the young country expanded westward, the telegraph followed to spur investment and coordinate the flow of resources east. The Erie Canal created a vital logistics link from Chicago to New York, helping each become important financial centers and distribution points for the flow natural resources from the American West. The telegraph also helped facilitate capital coming in from Europe, which was crucial for the development of a railroad network throughout the country. As each of these developments occurred, Wall Street continued to strengthen its position as the world’s emergent entrepot and financial cluster. It also was a major driver of information technology, which was proving to be an integral part of the US financial system.[8]


[1] Information on the emergence of stock markets in the US from In the Market: The Illustrated History of the Financial Markets. pp. 114-115.
[2] Ferdinand Braudel. Civilization and Capitalism. Volume 3: The Perspective of the World. p. 390.
[3] Semaphore system in the US between New York and Philadelphia from In the Market. p. 115.
[4] Already the tensions between the northern and southern states were starting to emerge. They crystallized in a debate between two war heroes, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton who together made the fateful decision to move the capital to Washington DC in exchange for the federal government taking on debt of the Revolutionary War.
[5] From Nature’s Metropolis.
[6] Rise of the New York stock exchange from In the Market. pp.122-125.
[7] Standage, T. (1998) The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. NY: Berkley Books. pp. 25-55.
[8] Standage, T. (1998) The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. NY: Berkley Books. pp. 25-55.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii during the 1990s.

Thirty-Five Activities Media Degrees Should Anticipate in Digital Work Environments

Posted on | December 28, 2014 | No Comments

I have been working on some projects looking at curriculum that combine media and business. Below is a list of activities that are prevalent in work environments organized around digital technologies.

1) Managing creative work and digital innovation
2) Assessing digital threats and opportunities
3) Understanding global media and cultural trends
4) Marketing content and producing multiple revenue streams
5) Managing digital labs and facilities
6) Ensuring intellectual property rights and obtaining permissions
7) Producing, capturing, digitizing, archiving and distributing digital content
8) Encrypting and securing digital content
9) Preparing digital content for local markets
10) Working with diverse in-house and third party partners/vendors to construct working media-related applications
11) Planning and designing digital work flows and collaborating networks
12) Monitoring and evaluating network performance and content delivery networks
13) Developing metrics for key performance, strategic, and management requirements
14) Develop continuity plans in case of security, personnel, equipment or environmental failures
15) Recruiting, managing and evaluating other key personnel
16) Evaluating and implementing various e-payment solutions for both B2B and B2C operations
17) Working with senior management and Board of Directors to establish current and long range goals, objectives, plans and policies
18) Working with established creativity suppliers such as stars, independent producers, and agents
19) Discerning how complex international legal environments influence intellectual property rights, consumer rights, privacy, and a various types of cybercrimes
20) Coordinating with data centers for hosting and storage needs
21) Manage remote projects and collaborate with colleagues and third party vendors via mediated conferencing
22) Researching and applying best practices within cultural/media industries
23) Understanding how different countries specify, regulate, and audit security systems of network and information systems
24) Use data mining techniques for capturing and utilizing unstructured data
25) Utilize project management skills and monitoring technologies such as Excel spreadsheets and methodologies such as SDLC waterfall, RAD, JAD, and Agile/Scrum
26) Licensing and obtaining legal rights to merchandise and characters
27) Understand the dynamics of the digital content lifecycle
28) Assessing competitive advantages and barriers to entry
29) Implement and monitor social media campaigns
30) Anticipate the influence of macroeconomic events such as business cycles, inflation, as well as changes in interest rates and exchange rates on an organization’s sustainability
31) Developing geo-location and geo-fencing applications
32) Understanding what the Adobe products can create
33) Conduct usability studies on user interfaces
34) Shoot and edit a 30 second ad on a smart phone
35) Understand how users read website and mobile phone apps



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii during the 1990s.

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